Whether it is making a touchdown-saving tackle or swatting down a threatening pass downfield, defensive backs are the lifeline for any defense.
The corps of DBs in the Pac-12 is definitely no exception, and these ball hawks are more than capable of changing the makeup of any game in a heartbeat.
Let’s take a peek at which defensive backs rank at the top of the Pac-12 for next season.
Senior strong safety Tony Dye rocked any ball that came his way last season, finishing second amongst DB’s in the Pac-10 with 96 tackles, tacking on 10 passes defended to boot. Dye is a wrecking ball in UCLA’s secondary and will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
It can be hard to get press time when you are riding alongside the best DB in the Pac-12 Conference (Cliff Harris).
However, Oregon free safety John Boyett made a decent-sized splash of his own in 2010. Boyett tied for second in the Pac-10 with five interceptions, and he added 14 passes defended. The Ducks' duo in the secondary will without a doubt produce another year of havoc in the Pac-12.
Strong safety Nate Fellner exploded onto the scene for Washington last season, collecting five interceptions, 13 passes defended and 79 tackles. The 6’1”, 201-pound junior will be the most important part of Washington’s growing secondary.
With his ability to deceive the QB downfield, don’t be surprised if Fellner increases his interception total in 2011.
Delano Howell emerged as a solid strong safety for the Cardinal, grabbing five picks last season during the Stanford defense's rapid revival. Howell is an everlasting threat in the Cardinal secondary and will undoubtedly pluck a few balls from the skies this season.
As the leader of the group, Howell will need to kick his game up a notch in order to help maintain this defense’s recent progress.
There are ball hawks, and then there are ball eagles. Oregon’s Cliff Harris definitely falls into the latter category. Harris led the Pac-10 last year with 17 broken-up passes and six interceptions. His apparent omnipresence on the field makes the Ducks secondary one of the scariest to throw into.
Keep track of the Pac-12 at The Pacific Dozen: A Pac-12 Football Blog.