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Giving Credit to College Football's Most Athletic, Intelligent and Unique Defenders

Today’s view of top defenders will help define top players from major college programs and two from schools that will surprise people.

There are many ways to define big-time defensive players. Many individuals will utilize statistics as the only way to discuss their talent, but in truth, it’s about the combination of physical and mental attributes that create the best college football defenders.

Many of these young men will be in the NFL Draft come 2022 or 2023, so get to know them now before you see them play on Sundays.

Note: There’s no particular order to the following list, and due to length the list was held to just seven players.

Richard Jibunor, Troy, Redshirt Sophomore

Vitals: 6’3”, 232 pounds

Position: Outside Linebacker/Defensive End

Statistics: Through six games, this native of Nigeria has accumulated 21 tackles, eight tackles for loss, eight sacks, two interceptions, and forced a fumble. This is a young man that can play in space or simply come off the edge and ruin an otherwise fantastic passing play.

Versatile edge defenders like Jibunor change a game with a single play, or sometimes, several plays. The reason would be all-around talent. The versatility Jibunor possesses such as his speed, the natural bend off the edge, his long arms to take on blockers, all of those aspects help to create an incredible advantage regardless of his assignment during any one play.

Jibunor is actually part of a one-two punch with a teammate playing the same position.

Javon Solomon, Troy, Redshirt Freshman

Vitals: 6’2”, 246 pounds

Position: Outside Linebacker/Defensive End

Recorded 35 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry.

When combining Jibunor and Solomon, it’s hard to imagine a better combination in college football. Playing for Troy may not get them much attention, but both are on pace to be drafted at some point because of their talent and the premium position they play.

Solomon would be another defender that's long, creates problems for offenses when he's in space, and attacks the ball carrier whether it would be a running back, wide receiver, tight end or quarterback.

If one finds the time, make sure to check out Troy. This defense has two great athletes playing on the edge with Jibunor and Solomon.

Riley Moss, Iowa, Senior

Vitals: 6’1”, 194 pounds

Position: Safety

Statistics: Leads the nation with four interceptions, as well as returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns. Moss also registered 23 tackles, two tackles for loss and three pass breakups.

Moss identifies with Iowa as the consummate teammate. He does his job well during almost every play. When a quarterback makes a mistake, Moss steps in for the interception. His two pick-sixes this year are a great example of Moss knowing when and where to be. Great football player.

Jordan Davis, Georgia, Senior

Blocking Georgia nose guard Jordan Davis one-on-one proves to be quite the task.

Blocking Georgia nose guard Jordan Davis one-on-one proves to be quite the task.

Vitals: 6’6”, 360 pounds

Position: Nose Guard

Statistics: Despite being constantly double teamed due to his height, girth, and natural strength, Davis consistently fights through double teams to be disruptive. He’s recorded 18 tackles, three tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks this season.

The most amazing part of what Davis does on the football field would be his ability to use lateral quickness. That’s right. A player that’s subjectively north of the 340 pounds he’s “listed” at by the Georgia Athletic Department.

Going beyond statistics, Davis is the most physically dominant lineman on either side of the football for 2021. He’s almost unblockable during one-on-one matchups, and he’s a prime reason why Georgia’s run defense allows just 64.3 yards per game, and the pass defense allows only 142.9 yards passing per game.

Without question, Georgia proved it possesses the nation’s best overall defense, and Davis is the kingpin of the group.

Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati, Junior

Vitals: 6’3”, 200 pounds

Position: Cornerback

The long arms of Gardner represent exactly what the NFL scouts clamor for. He’s also a heady player that will wait until the last moment before bailing out of press coverage, disguising his intentions during a play to make the quarterback believe he’s playing off a wide receiver, only to suddenly change direction and jump a route that otherwise looked like an easy completion.

Gardner’s combination of mental and physical skills are arguably the best from this entire list. He’s a future NFL player and one of college football’s best overall players.

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Because teams stay away from Gardner, he probably does not rack up the statistics that other cornerbacks might. Gardner has 15 tackles, one-half a tackle for loss, two interceptions, and two pass breakups this season.

Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame, Junior

Kyle Hamilton Safety Notre Dame

The Notre Dame defensive coaching staff often blitzes Kyle Hamilton with excellent results, as shown here versus Purdue.

Vitals: 6’4”, 220 pounds

Position: Safety

Hamilton already accumulated 32 tackles, two tackles for loss, and four pass break ups despite teams attempting to stay away from him. This dynamic athlete finds the football. The Irish defensive coaching staff utilize Hamilton as a blitzer, in zone coverage, in man coverage, and as a player that roams the middle of the field to take away deep passes.

One of college football’s most impactful players, Hamilton showed his true speed during a play against Florida State.

The football was thrown deep down the right sideline, but Hamilton began the play on the opposite hash. His speed allowed for him to track the football all the way across the field and keep a foot inbounds for an interception nobody could have possibly projected.

Notre Dame’s secondary is a challenge to go against with Hamilton manning the safety position. He’s projected to be a top five pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.

Will Anderson, Alabama, Sophomore

Vitals: 6’4”, 243 pounds

Position: Outside Linebacker

45 tackles, 15 tackles for loss which leads the nation, seven sacks, four quarterback hurries, and one pass broken up. Those are the statistics that make Anderson one of the nation’s best players regardless of position. He’s adept as a pass rusher for sure, but Anderson provides the unique ability to stop the run despite being a true edge defender.

That’s rare.

After an All-SEC freshman season, Anderson already matched his 2020 sack total through seven games of the 2021 season. The first step off the line of scrimmage for Anderson proved to be difficult to counter by offensive tackles. Anderson’s speed rush provided plenty of opportunities for sacks, and he’s also developed additional pass rushing maneuvers. Anderson will likely be a top 10 pick in the spring of the 2023 NFL Draft.

For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!

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