CFB Future 100: Top 18 Defensive Back Recruits in Class of 2017

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2016

CFB Future 100: Top 18 Defensive Back Recruits in Class of 2017

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    Bleacher Report

    After a thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2017. Here we present the Top Defensive Backs.

    Other Positions: 

    Lockdown defenders in this day and age of pass-happy spread offenses are as important as ever. College coaches are always looking for cornerbacks whom they feel comfortable with on an island against the nation's top receivers. Coaches also are looking for safeties who can not only patrol the secondary but also be equally effective in one-on-one coverage.

    The 2017 class has its share of stud defensive backs, and what makes recruiting so interesting for this cycle is that only four of those athletes own a 5-star rating. And of those four, one—Jacksonville, Florida, cornerback Shaun Wade—is already committed to Ohio State. The competition for landing an elite defender in the secondary will be tough among the nation's FBS schools.

    Here's our breakdown of the top-ranked 2017 prospects at the defensive back position. Cornerbacks were assessed on speed, ball skills, run support and overall coverage ability. Safeties were assessed on ball skills, tackling, run support and pass coverage.

     

    All prospects are scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon SaylesPlayers are ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.

18. 4-Star S Paris Ford

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    Height/Weight: 6'1", 180 lbs

    High School: Steel Valley High School; Pittsburgh

    247Sports Ranking: No. 6 S, No. 98 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    As a standout two-way player for Seton-LaSalle High School last year, Paris Ford transferred to Steel Valley in January. Notre Dame and Ohio State are two schools heavily recruiting him, but Pittsburgh is hoping to keep him close to family. He committed to Pitt in October.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Ford is one of those athletes who makes playing his position look easy. He loves to make the crushing hit on run plays (24/25 run support), and he seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Ford has great speed and a good stride when he runs, making him a candidate to also see a few plays on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver if a college coach chooses to use him that way (19/20 ball skills). He's a competitive athlete who uses his leaping ability to his advantage when the ball is in the air.

17. 4-Star S Derrick Tucker

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 194 lbs

    High School: Manvel High School; Manvel, Texas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 5 S, No. 93 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Teams in the Lone Star State are hungry to land the commitment of Derrick Tucker, whose offer list continues to grow. Texas, TCU and Houston have offered Tucker, but Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Utah, Missouri and other programs are looking to add a solid out-of-state pledge.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    There's a lot to like about Tucker. He covers well enough to be a big cornerback (23/25 pass coverage), but he is versatile as a safety, meaning he can play in the box or on an island covering one-on-one situations. Tucker can even line up as an outside linebacker and showcase his lateral movement (28/30 tackling) and ability to defend tight ends on passing downs. His speed is good, but he has solid closing speed if he's ever beaten on a route.

16. 4-Star CB William Poole III

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 182 lbs

    High School: Hapeville Charter High School; Atlanta

    247Sports Ranking: No. 12 CB, No. 92 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    The recruiting process has been good to William Poole III, who has nearly 40 reported offers. As the home-state program, Georgia is the team to watch, but schools such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida State will do their part in trying to land him in time for national signing day.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Poole plays the cornerback position with good speed and quickness (20/20 speed). He has fine hands and is a threat to score after recording an interception. With his size, Poole is a solid press cornerback, someone who makes it difficult for receivers to get off the line of scrimmage (38/40 coverage). Because of his athleticism, he also could be used in a special teams capacity as either a punt returner or kickoff returner.

15. 4-Star CB Marcus Williamson

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    Height/Weight: 5'10", 178 lbs

    High School: Westerville South High School; Westerville, Ohio

    247Sports Ranking: No. 11 CB, No. 85 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Ohio State scored its fourth commitment of the 2017 class with in-state talent Marcus Williamson, a speedy cornerback with a dozen reported offers. Schools such as LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan and Tennessee will do their best to try to get Williamson out of the state.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Williamson brings tons of speed (20/20 speed) and athleticism to the football field. He has great burst and can be very dangerous after an interception or even as a special teams returner (19/20 ball skills). He has a nose for the football and is someone who isn't afraid to get dirty with a hard hit in the trenches. In passing situations, Williamson has great leaping ability, which allows him to be competitive against taller wide receivers. He has a high ceiling and could get even better with college coaching tutelage.

14. 4-Star CB Chevin Calloway

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    Height/Weight: 5'10", 180 lbs

    High School: Bishop Dunne High School; Dallas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 10 CB, No. 83 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Chevin Calloway has more than 20 reported offers stretching far west and going into Big Ten country. Notre Dame is a school to keep an eye on, but Baylor is looking to keep him close to home. Oklahoma also is a team to watch early.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Calloway has the combination of speed (20/20 speed), power, football savvy and competitiveness that makes him a fan favorite and a favorite of the college coaches who recruit him. He's a shutdown cornerback who also loves to make the big hit. His ability to fly from sideline to sideline (19/20 run support) makes him a wanted athlete, but what aren't talked about as much are his leadership and overall ability to make adjustments for the good of the team.

13. 4-Star CB Deon Jones

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    Height/Weight: 6'1", 180 lbs

    High School: Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, D.C.

    247Sports Ranking: No. 9 CB, No. 78 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Clemson and Auburn are two schools believed to be front-runners for Deon Jones, who is nearing 30 reported offers. The recruiting process is far from over for Jones, who has heavyweight offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Miami and several other programs.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Jones is a tall cornerback with good hands and great recovery speed (20/20 speed). He's a defender who keeps wide receivers in front of him with the help of his length and physical play. His aggressiveness makes him a prime candidate for recording interceptions when the ball is in the air (38/40 coverage). Because of his size, Jones can also play safety at the next level. He displays awareness and showcases his versatility in zone packages.

12. 4-Star CB Deommodore Lenoir

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 175 lbs

    High School: Salesian High School; Los Angeles

    247Sports Ranking: No. 8 CB, No. 73 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    It says a lot when a West Coast athlete such as Deommodore Lenoir is attracting schools as far east as Boston College and Syracuse. Lenoir is a heavily recruited athlete who has schools such as UCLA, Michigan, Washington, Nebraska and Arizona State very interested early in his process.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Lenoir is an athlete who plays each snap with a superb motor and high level of energy. He has good range as a cornerback and is highly competitive against a wide receiver when the ball is in the air (38/40 coverage). Lenoir also loves to tackle, something college coaches can appreciate. Shifty and elusive, his offensive highlights are as impressive as his defensive highlights (18/20 ball skills). He can be a running back or slot receiver at the next level.

11. 4-Star S Todd Harris

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 180 lbs

    High School: Plaquemine High School; Plaquemine, Louisiana

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 S, No. 57 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    LSU is one of the best in the nation at recruiting its own state, and the Tigers are looking to keep that brand by landing a stud safety in Todd Harris. The battle for Harris appears to be SEC-heavy, as LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia and Arkansas are among the potential landing spots.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Athletic and dangerous, Harris has breakaway speed and can be used all over the secondary, in addition to the offensive side of the ball and special teams. Harris seems to be around every play, and he doesn't mind delivering the big hit on run plays (24/25 run support). He has good leaping ability, which plays a huge role in passing situations (24/25 pass coverage). He's someone who has great lateral movement and a knack for creating turnovers. Look for Harris to be a defensive catalyst with the help of his length as well.

10. 4-Star S Cyrus Fagan

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 170 lbs

    High School: Mainland High School; Daytona Beach, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 S, No. 56 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    The race for Cyrus Fagan seems to be a battle between the ACC and SEC. Florida State is the school most talked about, but Florida also is a potential landing spot, as are Tennessee and Georgia. Fagan is nearing 30 reported offers.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Fagan is an athlete who can be used at either the safety or cornerback spot in college. As a cornerback, he plays solid press coverage (24/25 pass coverage) and uses his hand strength and pad level to make it tough for receivers to get out of their blocks. As a safety, he sees the field well and is always around the ball. He has great hands and makes plays on a ball in the air (19/20 ball skills). Fagan is a good athlete overall, and he should compete for playing time upon arrival at college.

9. 4-Star CB Jamyest Williams

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    Height/Weight: 5'9", 170 lbs

    High School: Archer High School; Lawrenceville, Georgia

    247Sports Ranking: No. 7 CB, No. 50 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Jamyest Williams has been a popular recruit for some time, as he has shown he can play a number of positions effectively. He's being recruited by more than 40 schools all over the nation, including Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State and others.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Williams is the quintessential do-it-all athlete. He is one of the fastest players in the 2017 class (20/20 speed), and he plays with a high motor. Williams can play several positions on the field, and even though he's listed as a cornerback, he is equally dangerous when he's on the offensive side of the ball (19/20 ball skills). As a cornerback, Williams reads the field very well and plays with good instincts. He can be a solid coverage defender when isolated in passing situations, as he has good recovery speed.

8. 4-Star CB Thomas Graham

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    Height/Weight: 5'11", 170 lbs

    High School: Rancho Cucamonga High School; Rancho Cucamonga, California

    247Sports Ranking: No. 6 CB, No. 41 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Recruited by several teams in the Pac-12, Thomas Graham is a player USC and UCLA will be fighting over. Staying in the Southern California area is an option, but he also has programs such as Washington, Cal, Oklahoma and Louisville heavily recruiting him.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Graham is an athlete who can play a few different positions at the next level. He's listed as a cornerback but could go to college as a safety or even see time on offense as a wide receiver. It's his athleticism that makes him an intriguing player and his versatility that makes college coaches want to trust him on offense, defense and special teams (19/20 ball skills). When Graham has the ball in his hands, he shows a second gear that will frustrate opponents (20/20 speed).

7. 4-Star CB Lamont Wade

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    Height/Weight: 5'10", 185 lbs

    High School: Clairton High School; Clairton, Pennsylvania

    247Sports Ranking: No. 5 CB, No. 40 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    In-state schools Penn State and Pitt are hoping to keep Lamont Wade close to home, but schools such as Ohio State, Michigan and West Virginia are major players in his recruitment. Expect Wade to take his time with the process, one that includes 20 offers.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    As a defensive back, Wade is the quintessential ball hawk. As an athlete, he is someone with quick feet and great hands. He is always looking for the interception as a cornerback (38/40 coverage). He also loves to deliver the big hit. Because of his high football IQ, a team can choose to use him sparingly on offense, and he'll serve as a solid route-runner and blocker as a slot receiver (19/20 ball skills). Wade is a strong, smart athlete who has the ability to create plays at a number of positions.

6. 4-Star CB Stanford Samuels III

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 175 lbs

    High School: Flanagan High School; Hollywood, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 CB, No. 33 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Florida State is believed to be the leader for Stanford Samuels III, but with more than 40 offers on the table, look for Samuels to take his time and make a carefully considered decision. Georgia, South Carolina and Michigan are schools to watch, but Florida State is in heavy pursuit.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    The first thing you notice about Samuels is his physical nature. His aggressive play and overall tenacity oftentimes lead to jarring hits that belong on his highlight tape (18/20 run support). Although he hits like a safety or linebacker, his coverage skills quickly remind coaches he's a pure cornerback. He is comfortable on an island and uses his length to make plays in the air. He has the measurables of a solid cornerback and can be a big-time playmaker at the next level (19/20 ball skills).

5. 5-Star S Richard LeCounte III

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    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 174 lbs

    High School: Liberty County High School (Riceboro, Georgia)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 S, No. 27 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status

    The first commitment of the Kirby Smart era at Georgia came from 5-star athlete Richard LeCounte III. LeCounte committed to the Bulldogs over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Ohio State, among others. According to Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, LeCounte envisions himself lining up at either corner or free safety in Athens.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    LeCounte is an explosive player with great ball instincts and freakish athleticism. He can be a dynamic weapon on offense, but his game and aggressive mentality appears ideally suited for defense. With his range in coverage and physicality as a tackler, he could make his name at safety. He has tremendous ball skills (19/20 ball skills), and he's able to cover a ton of ground as a center fielder type in the secondary. He also plays with the physicality of a linebacker despite weighing just 174 pounds.

4. 5-Star CB Shaun Wade

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 185 lbs

    High School: Trinity Christian Academy; Jacksonville, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 CB, No. 12 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Ohio State scored a big win on Jan. 12, 2015, when Shaun Wade committed. Other schools are still actively pursuing him, but it appears as though the Buckeyes have a rock-solid commitment from one of the nation's elite athletes.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    One of the most noticeable things about Wade is his length. He is a long cornerback who uses that length to break up passes against wide receivers of all sizes (39/40 coverage). He has great speed (20/20 speed) and uses his quickness off the snap to aid in disrupting plays. Because of his size, college coaches may try using Wade as a safety, but if he stays at cornerback, expect him to be an athletic defender who will look to record multiple interceptions throughout his career.

3. 5-Star CB Deangelo Gibbs

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 204 lbs

    High School: Grayson High School; Loganville, Georgia

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 CB, No. 11 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    As part of a family loaded with star athletes, Deangelo Gibbs is expected to be the next big thing. Gibbs has more than 30 reported offers, and schools such as Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama and Ohio State are a few to keep an eye on as he continues his process.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Gibbs is expected to play cornerback at the next level, but he's talented and versatile enough to play safety, wide receiver and, if called, Wildcat quarterback (ball skills 19/20). He is a cornerback built like a safety, and he has a great nose for the football. Gibbs' football IQ comes naturally; two of his uncles—Jake Reed and Dale Carter—each played in the NFL for more than a decade. Gibbs' size and strength are assets in one-on-one situations against smaller wide receivers (coverage 39/40).

2. 5-Star S Jeffrey Okudah

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    Height/Weight: 6'1 ½", 194 lbs

    High School: South Grand Prairie High School; Grand Prairie, Texas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 S, No. 8 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 97/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Versatile defensive back Jeffrey Okudah announced his top 10 in January, and the probability of his playing college ball outside the state of Texas is very high. Okudah has more than 30 reported offers, but schools such as Stanford, Ohio State and Alabama are believed to be front-runners. 

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    He's listed as a safety, but Okudah is talented enough to play cornerback and outside linebacker if necessary (20/20 ball skills). He has excellent hips, which makes him a great coverage back (24/25 pass coverage). His tenacity and aggressiveness make him instantly attractive to college coaches. He can be just as much a hard hitter on the field as he can be a blanketing cover safety. Okudah has done a good job of polishing his skills and will challenge for playing time as a college freshman.

1. 5-Star CB Darnay Holmes

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    Height/Weight: 5'10", 190 lbs

    High School: Calabasas High School; Calabasas, California

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 CB, No. 7 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 97/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    The recruitment of Darnay Holmes becomes more of a story each day. Holmes now has more than 20 reported offers and is expected to score several more this spring. Ohio State, UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Nebraska are among the schools Holmes said are in the running to ultimately land him.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Holmes is a playmaker coaches can feel confident putting on an island and allowing to go one-on-one against any high school wide receiver (39/40 coverage). He displays his athleticism when the ball is in the air and he's leaping for a potential interception. He has quick feet and great recovery speed (20/20 speed), which keeps him in multiple passing plays. In running situations, Holmes displays solid tackling skills and isn't afraid to go head-to-head against bigger running backs.