Building the Perfect College Football Defense in 2020
As modern offenses spread the field both vertically and horizontally, the foundation of a top-tier college football defense no longer must be a stacked front seven.
Defensive linemen and linebackers are still game-changing players, but lockdown coverage only creates opportunities for the front six or seven to disrupt the quarterback.
After organizing the perfect college offense for the 2020 season, B/R has repeated the exercise on defense. And it starts with a rock-solid secondary.
Unfortunately, we cannot have six Isaiah Simmons clones on the roster. As the ultra-versatile Clemson star heads to the NFL, college football will move into 2020 with an eye-popping group of elite talent. We'll have Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables run this star-packed defense.
The defense includes 12 players to account for different personnel groups, allowing for 4-3, nickel and dime looks.
DE: Quincy Roche, Miami
A transfer from Temple, Roche is headed to Miami after winning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019. He collected 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, both of which ranked top-10 nationally. Roche has amassed 39.5 TFL and 26 sacks in three seasons.
DT: Marvin Wilson, Florida State
Wilson surprised much of the college and NFL draft communities when he decided to return for his senior season. Over the last two years, he's emerged as a powerful run-stopper with pass-rushing upside. In 2019, he posted 44 tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss.
DT: Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
Onwuzurike broke into the rotation as a freshman and has played a key role in the last two seasons. Most effective against the run, he's notched 79 takedowns with 12.5 tackles for loss since 2018.
Edge: Chris Rumph II, Duke
Neither Wilson nor Onwuzurike are double-team shredders, so Rumph's explosiveness is an ideal complement. He demands extra attention off the edge, yet Rumph will also wander around the defensive front to keep blockers guessing. He gathered 13.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks and 48 total pressures last season, per Pro Football Focus.
LB: Micah Parsons, Penn State
Parsons is a definite piece of an ideal defense anyway, but his exceptional athleticism is a necessary asset in this unit. Wilson and Onwuzurike aren't very explosive, so Parsons' downhill ability would solidify the front seven. In 2019, he racked up 109 tackles with 14 behind the line of scrimmage and forced four fumbles.
LB: Dylan Moses, Alabama
After missing the 2019 season because of a torn ACL, Moses will return to direct the Alabama defense. He provides a unique combination of physical size (6'3", 235 lbs) and athletic skills, and it shows in his aggressive play style. As a first-year starter in 2018, Moses collected 86 tackles with 10 for loss and 3.5 sacks.
LB/S: Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, Florida State
In modern football, a hybrid defender can be a tremendous weapon. Listed at 6'1" and 223 pounds, Lars-Woodbey is a converted safety who's proved to be a reliable tackler. He managed four appearances before a season-ending left leg injury in 2019 but has 77 tackles and nine pass breakups in 16 career games.
CB: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Already ticketed as a potential top-five pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Stingley earned first-team AP All-America honors as a true freshman. Beyond a nightmare game against Alabama, Stingley consistently locked down his assignments with 15 pass breakups and six interceptions.
CB: Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The son of an NFL All-Pro corner, Surtain has started to build his own legacy at Alabama. He tallied seven pass breakups and an interception as a true freshman and then gathered eight PBUs, two interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2019.
NB: Jevon Holland, Oregon
Oregon could have a top-five defense nationally in 2020, and Holland is a big reason why. He tallied 66 tackles and four interceptions last season. More specifically, while defending the slot in 2019, he ceded a 58.9 passer rating and didn't allow a touchdown in 348 coverage snaps, per PFF.
S: Trevon Moehrig, TCU
While he's not a well-known player nationally, Moehrig deserves a lot more attention than he receives. In 2019, the TCU safety developed into a well-rounded playmaker. He notched 62 tackles, broke up 11 passes, had four interceptions and forced two fumbles.
S: Dwayne Johnson Jr., San Diego State
Considering the elite coverage skills elsewhere in the secondary, a reliable pass defender and run-stopper is a quality final piece to this defense. Last season, Johnson posted 92 tackles while breaking up five passes and grabbing an interception.