College Football 2011 Predictions: Top 10 Defenders in the Country
This short list of defenders will certainly cause a debate. With so many great defenders out there, it's hard to narrow it down to a list of 10, but this is my attempt to do just that.
As the old saying goes, "Defense Wins Championships," and these ten defenders will certainly help their teams in the quest to win the crystal ball.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 defenders in the country.
10. Jared Crick: Defensive Tackle/Nebraska
Jared Crick is following in the foot-steps of Ndamukung Suh, and that path leads straight to greatness. Crick is a very large tackle at 6'6", 285, but his play is very disruptive. The past two seasons Crick has had 70 tackles in each season and nine-plus sacks in each year.
Crick chose wisely in staying for his senior season because Suh had plenty of success in his senior year and there's no reason why Crick can't have the same.
Crick could end up being a top-10 pick in next years NFL draft is he stays healthy and produces on the field. Judging by his track record, he should match his past two seasons and then some.
9. Brandon Jenkins: Defensive End/Florida State
Brandon Jenkins had a huge coming out party last year. He had 56 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He's one of the reasons why critics are raving about this revamped Florida State defense.
Jenkins is already projected to be a high draft pick in next years NFL draft, but he's projected to switch over to be an outside linebacker. He will still be on the line this year, however and should have another monster year in Mark Stoops defensive scheme.
With the departure of Da'Quan Bowers, Jenkins returns as the top defensive end in the country, arguably that is. Expect Jenkins to have another great season and expect him to be one of the best defenders in the country.
8. Dont'a Hightower: Linebacker/Alabama
If Dont'a Hightower isn't the best linebacker in the country, he sure is the biggest. At 6'4", 260 he's a force in the middle of Alabama's defense.
Hightower was experiencing some setbacks last year after coming off of a knee injury in 2009, but at this point going into the 2011 season, he is 100 percent healthy, which should make SEC offenses worry.
Hightower had 70 tackles last season, but expect that total to increase this season now that he's made a full recovery.
Hightower could end up having the same success as his former teammate and current Oakland Raider, Rolando McClain.
7. Cliff Harris: Cornerback/Oregon
Cliff Harris enters the 2011 season as one of the best, if not the best, cornerback in the country. He had a fantastic year last season and should have an even better year this season.
Harris had 30 tackles and six interceptions last year. His interception against Tennessee for a 76 yard touchdown had to have been one of the best defensive plays of the year.
Oregon is now officially in the spotlight from their recent success and with that success comes plenty of media attention, which Harris will surely benefit from.
6. Travis Lewis: Linebacker/Oklahoma
Honestly, I don't know how this guys doesn't get more attention. Travis Lewis has been extremely consistent in his three years as a starter at Oklahoma. He's a tackling machine. He's had just one season under 100 tackles, and he came one shy of that with 99 tackles in 2009.
Lewis is the leader of the Oklahoma defense and the team as a whole is the favor to win the National Title this year, thus giving Lewis more exposure that he deserves.
Lewis is going to get his 100 tackles this year and he'll make plenty of big defensive plays for the Sooners, which is precisely why he is on this list.
5. Quinton Coples: Defensive End/North Carolina
Quinton Coples, at a potential standpoint, might just be the best player in the country. He has great size at 6'6, 275. He's athletic and disruptive, but more than anything, he showed up when his teammates were ruled ineligible.
Coples played all of last year without Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn and all he did was collect 59 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Imagine what he would have done with Austin and Quinn.
Coples will now be the target of double teams, but with his size and athletic ability, he should be able to overpower nearly every offensive lineman that he will go up against.
Coples already has NFL scouts drooling over his size and stature and with success on the field this season, he will be a high pick in next years draft.
4. Jayron Hosley: Cornerback/Virginia Tech
Jayron Hosley will do his best Patrick Peterson impression this year as being the best cornerback in the country. Last year in his first full year as a starter, he had 39 tackles and nine interceptions, and he didn't play against East Carolina, so those stats could have been better.
Hosley is the top defensive back in the country. He's still a little small at 5'11", 170, but his coverage ability is spectacular.
Hosley might not match nine interceptions this season, but he's sure to shut down plenty of receivers.
3. Mark Barron: Safety/Alabama
Alabama is going to have the best defense in the country, and I'm sure that statement alone will stir up a disagreement, but either way, Mark Barron is the leader of that defense.
Barron is so much more than just a safety though. At 6'2", 210 he has the bulk to run up in run support and he's athletic enough to cover as well. Last season he had 77 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions.
Barron returned for his senior season after flirting with the NFL and the idea was probably smart because we was projected as a late first rounder.
With another year of success and consistency, Barron could end up being a high pick in next years draft.
2. Vontaze Burfict: Linebacker/Arizona State
Vontaze Burfict was one of the top prospects coming out of high school three years ago, now as a junior to be he is one of the scariest defenders in the country. He may not rack up tackles, but he packs a punch and punishes whoever he hits.
Burfict has shown some signs of immaturity the past two seasons with personal foul calls, but now the coaching staff at Arizona State say that he's grown up and turned a new leaf.
He's still going to be a viscous hitter, but he's going to control his temper which can only mean he will be a more productive player.
Last season, Burfict had 89 tackles. This year in his third season as a starter, that number should increase and Burfict will be on of the best defenders in the country.
1. Luke Kuechly: Linebacker/Boston College
Many will disagree with Kuechly being the best defender in the country, but look at the numbers. He had 183 tackles last year, along with 1.5 sacks and three interceptions. The year before that he had 142 tackles, one sack and an interception for a touchdown.
Kuechly is a tackling machine. He's the best tackler in the country and while he may need to bulk up a little more for the NFL, he's perfect for the college game.
Kuechly tops this list for the simple fact that he's involved in everything defensively when Boston College's defense takes the field, and that won't change this year.
Kuechly might just have over 200 tackles this season, and that's a statistic that the NFL simply can't ignore.
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