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SI99: Examining the Top DB Commitment Groups in the Class of 2021

With the SI99 rankings and SI All-American candidate lists public, SIAA digs into Power 5 programs putting together the top defensive back groups in the class of 2021.

With the inaugural SI99 prospect rankings and SI All-American candidate lists public, SIAA digs into Power 5 programs putting together the defensive back groups in the class of 2021.

The ideal criteria includes programs with three or more verbally committed prospects we have projected at cornerback, nickel or safety to this point in the cycle.

Excluding the programs with two or less defensive backs on board, this list represents the best combination of high-end depth on current commitment lists (as of September 3).

Florida: Jason Marshall, Corey Collier, Donovan McMillon, Jordan Young, Dakota Mitchell

DB Commits: 5

SI99 Commits: 2

If the Gators want to claim they have the best incoming DB class in the country, not many would argue against them. It starts with Jason Marshall, our No. 1 CB and No. 14 overall prospect. The big corner will allow defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to continue mixing his pressure packages up front while simultaneously allowing his back end to play fast and free in man concepts. Marshall will be able to rely on inside help from Corey Collier, the No. 5 safety and No. 77 overall prospect on the SI99. Dakota Mitchell is our No. 8 Nickel prospect due to his versatility and toughness, that could also lead to him seeing snaps in the seams. Jordan Young has a chance to blossom into a solid cover man in Gainesville, while it would not be shocking to see Donovan McMillon grow into an off-ball linebacker due to his skillset in the box.

Ohio State: Jordan Hancock, Jakailin Johnson, Jaylen Johnson, Denzel BurkeAndre Turrentine, Jantzen Dunn

DB Commits: 6

SI99 Commits: 2

Led by a pair of SI99 members, Ohio State’s DB class should see the high caliber of play on the back end continue for years to come. Jordan Hancock is the No. 1 Nickel on our board, and is among the best covermen in the country. His length, versatility, coverage instincts and catch-point production are among his elite traits. Jakailin Johnson is the No. 6 CB prospect due to his man-coverage skills, where he excels in squat alignments. Denzel Burke was recruited to play cornerback, and while he has good tape as a receiver, his quick feet and lower-half coordination are ideal corner traits. However, perhaps the most intriguing player in this group is safety Jaylen Johnson. He can work in the boundary or to the field, while also possessing box-skills to walk down and either challenge 2 and 3 in coverage or play the run in alleys. Jantzen Dunn is an athletic safety who can eat grass in chunks with range, while Andre Turrentine should provide depth in the secondary in Columbus.

Notre Dame: Chance Tucker, Ryan Barnes, Philip Riley, Justin Walters

DB Commits: 4

SI99 Commits: 0

The Irish have four players in the secondary locked in as of now. While none are inside our SI99, the quartet does project to contribute and produce in South Bend. The theme of the group is size and length as all four are at least 6-feet. Ryan Barnes is a long DB who can work as a boundary CB or play in the seams, while Chance Tucker has solid ball skills that translate over from his background as a receiver. Philip Riley has cover skills that could be suited for a Nickel role for defensive coordinator Clark Lea in sub packages. Justin Walters is a big safety who can grass as a strider on the backend, with potential to work in big nickel packages and dime personnel.

Miami: James Williams, Malik Curtis, Kamren Kinchens, Tim Burns, Jr.

DB Commits: 4

SI99 Commits: 1

While this group only features one SI99 prospect, it maintains as a quality haul for Miami head coach Manny Diaz. Of course, No. 1 safety and No. 19 overall prospect James Williams is the big name of the marquee. While he may desire to begin his career at CB, he has monster-back traits to be deployed as a versatile chess piece in a myriad of roles and positions to factor on all 3 levels of the defense. Kamren Kinchens may not wow many with his testing numbers, but he’s among the most instinctive and headiest defensive players in the country. He projects as an apex-safety who can align the backend appropriately with effective on-field communication. Malik Curtis has cover traits that, if developed, could lead him to becoming a solid find for the ‘Canes. Tim Burns, Jr. will need to continue adding mass and strength to his frame, but he has proven to be disruptive at catch points in coverage, which cannot be overlooked.

Texas: Billy Bowman, Ishmael Ibraheem, JD Coffey, Jamier Johnson

DB Commits: 4

SI99 Commits: 2

Armed with a pair of SI99 Members, Texas could have 3 on this list before it's all said and done. The more we watch S J.D. Coffey, our No. 7 safety, the stronger we feel about his chances to develop into a dynamic seam-player in Austin. Some evaluators may worry about Billy Bowman’s height at 5-foot-10 and his lack of extensive snaps at one position, but we certainly do not. Our eyes and evaluation instincts lead us to project him as a dynamic Nickel, where he is the No. 2 prospect at the position and No. 60 in the SI99. Ishmael Ibraheem has ideal length to play in the boundary in the Big 12, plus he excels in off-coverage alignments. Jamier Johnson also shouldn’t be discounted, as he was in play to earn a nod in our top-10 Nickel rankings.

Minnesota: Steven Ortiz, Jr., Avante Dickerson, Justin Walley, Darius Green

DB Commits: 4

SI99 Commits: 2

The Gophers don’t always see themselves on recruiting lists as such, yet they fully deserve to be during this 2021 cycle with an impressive DB haul. The quartet is led by a pair of SI99 Members and top-5 Nickel prospects, Steven Ortiz, Jr. (No. 3) and Avante Dickerson (No. 5). Possessing ideal Nickel traits, the pair will allow Minnesota to be exotic in its alignments and concepts to be disruptive in coverage as well as against the run on the edges. Ortiz works with ideal confidence for a defensive back, while Dickerson has good movement skills that could also see him work as a field corner. Safety Justin Walley displays quality ball-location skills at the snap on tape, and challenges the run from depth at a high rate. CB Justin Walley has traits that projects as a fit in a Cover-4 heavy scheme, a concept that the Gophers frequently play. 

Alabama: Kaine Williams, Kadarius Calloway, Khyree Jackson, Devonta Smith

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DB Commits: 4

SI99 Commits: 0

The Nick Saban defensive back length game is alive and well with the current haul headed to Tuscaloosa. Versatility is also at play here with Kaine Williams and Kadarius Calloway, do-it-all prospects with safety, nickel and potentially off-ball linebacker upside depending on physical development. Junior college star Khyree Jackson could be plug-and-play ready despite an immense frame on the outside. He's capable of stepping into a boundary role with elite quickness and ball skills with the ability to support the run and/or re-route from a physicality standpoint. Devonta Smith, while needing to fill out his frame, offers classic Saban traits at the cornerback spot with length, awareness and ball skills having flipped from Ohio State. 

Auburn: Ahmari Harvey, Phillip O’Brien, Tar’varish Dawson, Kamal Hadden

DB Commits: 4

SI99 Commits: 1

We're bullish on SI99 member Ahmari Harvey, a safety with some of the best instincts and ball skills in America, evidenced by nine interceptions over the last two years. His skill set could place him inside at the nickel spot or elsewhere in a sub package, but his range and efficiency over the top is too good to compromise underneath in volume. Phillip O'Bien is a bigger corner with a competitive nature and safety floor down the line. Kamal Hadden could be expected to contribute immediately out of the junior college ranks as a quicker-than-fast field corner or nickel with success at the catch point to his name. Tar'Varish Dawson has two-way ability but his frame makes us think a Nickel type spot is the floor for his game at this point. 

Florida State: Omarion Cooper, Hunter Washington, Kevin Knowles

DB Commits: 3

SI99 Commits: 0

Although the Seminole haul is currently cornerback heavy, with traditional and nickel projections throughout, the group features a top 10 cornerback in Omarion Cooper, one under consideration in Hunter Washington and a polished nickel type in Kevin Knowles. Cooper is ultra competitive, both at the line and at the catch point, playing with a sharp combination of confidence and aggression while on the island. Washington is a solid corner prospect whom we feel could work well to the field at the next level with scrappy and tough traits. Knowles may be the fastest of the bunch and the most technically sound, with a frame and physicality that could work inside and out. 

DB Hauls on SIAA's Radar:

LSU: Nathaniel Wiggins, Khari Gee

Georgia: David Daniel, Javon Bullard, De’Jahn Warren

USC: Prophett Brown, Calen Bullock, Xamarion Gordon

Tennessee: Damarius McGhee, Edwin White, Jay Jones, De’Shawn Rucker

Boston College: Clinton Burton, Jr., Jalon Williams, Jalen Cheek, Shawn Gates

John Garcia, Jr. contributed to this feature

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