Post-spring position check: Top Big Ten defensive backfields
With spring practices finished, schools are focusing on offseason work before fall camp kicks off. Some positions are in better shape than others for certain schools. Let’s take a look at the seven schools in the best shape in the defensive backfield.
1. Penn State. Yes, S Malik Golden is gone. And the status of stud junior CB John Reid for 2017 is iffy after he sustained a knee injury in the spring. But there still is a lot to like. Senior S Marcus Allen is a bellwether in the backend with junior Nick Scott also at safety. With Reid out, PSU still has a veteran corner in senior Grant Haley. Senior Christian Campbell figures to start with Reid out. True freshman Lamont Wade turned heads this spring after enrolling. He may be a future star.
2. Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes lost three first-round picks from this unit in CBs Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore along with S Malik Hooker. Still, there is lots of talent. Junior Denzel Ward is a savvy corner, and keep an eye on sophomore JC transfer Kendall Sheffield and sophomore Damon Arnette. Stud true freshman Jeffrey Okudah could earn a starting corner spot. Senior Damon Webb is back to start again at a safety slot. Senior Erick Smith and sophomore Jordan Fuller are other options at safety along with redshirt freshman Jahsen Wint.
3. Nebraska. This will be a good unit, maybe the best for the new 3-4 defense. Sophomore Lamar Jackson and senior Chris Jones are the corners. Senior Josh Kalu is a top safety along with junior Aaron Williams. Sophomore Eric Lee is the nickel and junior Antonio Reed is the dime. Senior Kieron Williams bring depth.
4. Northwestern. Senior S Godwin Igwebuike considered turning pro but opted to return to Evanston. He may be the top player on the team. Fellow senior Kyle Queiro is another veteran safety. Junior Montre Hartage and junior Keith Watkins will be top corners along with senior Marcus McShepard.
5. Michigan. Lots of top talent was lost, including CB Jourdan Lewis, FS Delano Hill, CB Channing Stribling and SS Dymonte Thomas. But this unit has the talent to develop into a good secondary. Sophomore Lavert Hill could be the next star cornerback. Sophomores David Long and Keith Washington also are in the running to start at corner. Junior Tyree Kinnel is a leader at free safety. The staff loves its options at strong safety with sophomore Josh Metellus and freshman J’Marick Woods.
6. Wisconsin. The team will miss CB Sojourn Shelton and S Leo Musso, but talent looms. At cornerback, Wisconsin has senior Derrick Tindal and junior Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson, who sat out last year. Senior D’Cota Dixon and senior Natrell Jamerson are the safeties. Jamerson was the nickel corner last season before moving to safety. Depth is solid.
7. Indiana. This is one of the more underrated defensive backfields in the league, as all the key players are back. Senior Rashard Fant is a savvy corner who is the NCAA’s active leader and No. 1 all-time at IU in pass break-ups (44) and passes defended (48). And sophomore A’Shon Riggins is a developing talent for a corner spot that also has junior Tyler Green and senior Ben Bach. There are nice options at safety in junior Jonathan Crawford, senior Tony Fields and senior Chase Dutra.