August 27, 2009

Preseason safety power rankings

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We continue our preseason power rankings at each position with safeties.

You can check out our post-spring practice power rankings here. We will update the power rankings each week during the regular season and release the final rankings for the season after the BCS title game.

The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.


1. SS Eric Berry, Tennessee (5-11/203, Jr.)
: He might not have prototypical size, but so what? He's a prototypical playmaker. He has 12 interceptions in his two seasons and is 15 yards away from breaking Terrell Buckley's NCAA record for career interception-return yards. Berry also had 72 tackles last season.

2. FS Taylor Mays, USC (6-3/230, Sr.)
: Mays might be the most physically gifted player in the nation, with linebacker size but cornerback speed. He is heading into his fourth season as a starter. He had nine pass breakups but no picks last season, and if there's a knock on him, it's that he doesn't produce enough big plays.

3. SS Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (6-1/211, Jr.)
: Burnett emerged as a star last season for the Yellow Jackets, tying for the NCAA lead with seven interceptions. He also led Tech with 93 tackles and had seven tackles for loss.

4. SS Kurt Coleman, Ohio State (5-11/187, Sr.)
: He's heading into his third season as a starter. Coleman is solid in run support, as evidenced by his 78 tackles last season. He also had four interceptions and five pass breakups.

5. SS Darrell Stuckey, Kansas (6-1/205, Sr.)
: The Jayhawks' pass defense closely resembled a sieve last season, but it certainly wasn't Stuckey's fault. He's active and always seems to be around the ball. He had 98 tackles, five interceptions, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles last season.

6. SS Ahmad Black, Florida (5-9/185, Jr.)
: Going into the 2008 season, strong safety was a huge concern for Florida because Black was a converted cornerback who hadn't played much. Now, strong safety is a position of strength after Black - who has great instincts - burst onto the scene by trying for the national lead with seven interceptions.

7. FS Nate Allen, USF (6-2/206, Sr.)
: Allen has good size and can really run. He is heading into his third season as the starter and should be a big-play guy in new coordinator Joe Tresey's aggressive scheme.

8. FS T.J. Ward, Oregon (5-11/201, Sr.)
: Ward was a first-time starter last season but led the Ducks with 101 tackles. Ward, who began his career as a walk-on, also had an interception and eight pass breakups.

9. FS Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech (6-4/217, Sr.)
: He has great size and can run. He had a slightly disappointing 2008 season, but he has too much talent not to bounce back and have a big '09 season.

10. SS Josh Pinkard, USC (6-1/215, Sr.)
: Pinkard has battled numerous injuries and has been awarded a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. He was a starting cornerback last season and moved to safety this season. Given his coverage skills, if he can remain healthy, he and Mays could form the best safety tandem in the nation.

11. FS Van Eskridge, East Carolina (6-0/195, Sr.)
: He's a physical presence at free safety. He had four picks and three pass breakups for the Pirates last season, when he was third on the team with 97 tackles.

12. FS Brendan Smith, Northwestern (6-1/210, Sr.)
: He and Brad Phillips form an underrated safety duo. Smith had 82 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups last season.

13. FS Anderson Russell, Ohio State (6-0/205, Sr.)
: Russell and Coleman give the Buckeyes a solid tandem. Russell has good size and speed, and he is a solid tackler. While he had two picks last season, he dropped a few other would-be interceptions.

14. FS Jordan Lake, Baylor (6-1/215, Sr.)
: The hard-hitting Lake is heading into his third season as the starter. He had 97 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles last season.

15. S Barry Church, Toledo (6-2/219, Sr.)
: The Rockets have had some pitiful defenses lately, but don't blame Church, who has been active and productive out of a 4-2-5 set. He has made 36 starts in a row and made 93 tackles last season. He is a three-time All-MAC first-team selection.

16. FS Deunta Williams, North Carolina (6-2/205, Jr.)
: Williams has good size and is heading into his third season as a starter. He had 65 tackles, three picks and three pass breakups last season.

17. SS Earl Thomas, Texas (5-10/197, Soph.)
: Thomas struggled some with consistency as a redshirt freshman last season, but he has the physical tools to become a star. He had 11 pass breakups last season.

18. SS Dorian Porch, Virginia Tech (5-11/209, Sr.)
: Porch is part of the best safety duo in the ACC. He's physical and packs a punch. He had a pick and four pass breakups last season.

19. SS Kyle McCarthy, Notre Dame (6-1/210, Sr.)
: He set a school record for tackles by a defensive back with 110 last season, when he added two interceptions. He had four games with double-digit tackles.

20. SS Marcus Ezeff, California (5-11/219, Sr.)
: He is part of an underrated Cal secondary. Last season was his first as a full-time starter. He's a physical player who had 66 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups last season.

(Rankings by staffers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.)

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