2017 Big 12 Preseason Defensive Backs Rankings

We’ve finally hit game week for the 2017 college football season, which also brings us to our final set of position group rankings. Personally, I had Kansas State picked as one of the sleeper teams in the conference this season and our defensive position rankings show the reason why I feel that way. The Wildcats are third in our consensus rankings for the defensive line, first for linebackers, and now they appear at the top of our defensive back rankings.

The points system was based on value of the vote. For example, a first-place vote was worth 10 points, second-place 9, third 8, and so on. Below the rankings is how our staff voted and some of their logic in doing so.

Consensus Preseason DB Rankings
Rank Team Points
 1 TCU 36
 2 Oklahoma 35
 3 Kansas State 27
 4 Oklahoma State 26
 5 Texas 25
 6 West Virginia 20
 7 ISU 17
 8 Kansas 11
 9 Baylor 7
 10 Texas Tech 5


The Horned Frogs are stacked at the defensive back position. They have three guys who can cover just about anybody. The Big 12 is such a pass heavy league,that having this kind of depth is necessary to compete for the title. Niko Small and Nick Orr are quite the safety duo, and will make it hard on QB’s to find anything over the middle this year.

Kansas State already had plenty of depth in the secondary, but the addition of Elijah Walker at the safety position makes them even stronger. Led by D.J. Reed, the Wildcats could be one of the hardest teams to gain yardage through the air.

The Sooners have one of the best defensive backs in the league in All-Big 12 corner Jordan Thomas. Oklahoma may also have another weapon in Parnell Motley who showed off during the Spring game.

Kansas has one of the better safeties in the Big 12 in Mike Lee. However, that’s about all they have. Other than Hasan Defense, the Jayhawks have little to no experience at the corner position. Defense looked good in Spring ball, and will be much needed for Kansas this season.

Texas Tech had one of the worst pass defenses in the country last season. The Red Raiders desperately need Junior-college transfer Vaughnte Dorsey to step up at the safety position. Texas Tech will rely on a lot of young defenders to develop this year.


The Kansas State Wildcats already had a talented and experienced secondary in corners D.J. Reed and Duke Shelly as well safety Kendall Adams. Now they add hard-hitting JUCO transfer Elijah Walker to the mix.

TCU is at least three-deep at the corner position and has a fantastic safety duo in Niko Small and Nick Orr. The rise of Innis Gaines in the spring puts them at three-deep at safety as well, possibly making them the deepest secondary in the conference.

Oklahoma had their own rising star in the spring in corner Parnell Motley. He’ll push Jordan Parker to start across from potential All-American Jordan Thomas.

Baylor lost their best defensive player with the indefinite suspension of Travon Blanchard. Even if he does return during the season, the Bears are extremely shallow in the secondary.

There’s potential that Texas Tech won’t be as bad as everyone expects them to be on defense this season because everyone expects them to be absolutely terribly terrible.


The Wildcats have the most experienced secondary heading into the fall headlined by DJ Reed. However, we’ll have to wait to see just how well this group performs once they step onto the field with a newcomer in the mix. JUCO transfer Elijah Walker continues to find hype surrounding his name but the question remains: how does Walker fit into the defensive scheme with a loaded secondary already? Although the kid began his football career as a senior in high school, Walker has displayed top notch skills and talent. Putting on a few pounds and adding a bit of experience could bring this group to one of the better secondary’s in the nation.

Oklahoma’s Parnell Motley proved to be a tough defender throughout the spring and into the summer. He could easily be the answer the Sooners have been looking for to star alongside Jordan Thomas. Word coming out of camp is that Parnell overtook Jordan Parker. With three solid defenders, OU looked primed to eliminate big plays down the field.

At the bottom of the heap stands Texas Tech who ranked among the worst in college football at defending the pass. Without a true ball-hawk in the mix, it’s tough to predict any major improvements as quarterbacks should be able to throw all over the field. In the Big 12, that’s not an ideal situation.

However, Baylor takes the cake as the worst in the league. Why? Travon Blanchard, a Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist has been suspended indefinitely. It leaves a ton of questions lurking around a program that continues to spiral downward. Coordinator David Gibbs may need to pull people from the stands if no one emerges as a legitimate lockdown defender in the secondary.


Oklahoma is my top choice for defensive backs in the Big 12 and for good reason. Senior Jordan Thomas is one of the best shutdown corners in the conference, and Steven Parker and Jordan Parker are both going to be in contention for All-Big 12 honors. The Sooners have struggled with giving up big pass plays in recent years, but quarterbacks may think twice before trying to pull a fast one on this group.

Texas Christians falls in at a very close number two thanks to senior Nick Orr and junior Niko Small who both finished in the top 20 in the Big 12 in total tackles a season ago. Add in senior Ranthony Texada, and the Horned Frogs could cause problems for opposing pass games.

Kansas State ranks at number three in defensive back talent for me due to Junior DJ Reed, the Big 12’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season. Reed had 75 tackles (28th in the Big 12), 19 passes defended (T-1st in the Big 12), and 3 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The Wildcats also have juniors Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams returning, along with JUCO transfer Elijah Walker, so they should have no issues covering the field from all angles.

Baylor comes in at number nine in the conference due to an unfortunate circumstance. Safety Travon Blanchard, arguably the Bears’ best defensive player, was suspended indefinitely, and now the defense will need somebody to step up and fill that role.

Texas Tech has never been known for its defensive capabilities, and the Red Raiders gave up 315 pass yards per game last season, which ranked 125th in the nation. Tech has no real outstanding defensive backs, so unless some type of miracle occurs and the defense flips a switch, opposing quarterbacks could put up some video game numbers against this group.

Heartland’s 2017 BIG 12 Preseason DB Rankings
Craig Matt Rich Zack
 TCU Kansas State Kansas State  Oklahoma
 Kansas State TCU Oklahoma  TCU
 Oklahoma Oklahoma TCU Kansas State
 Oklahoma State Oklahoma State Texas Oklahoma State
 Texas Texas West Virginia Texas
 West Virginia West Virginia Oklahoma State Iowa State
 Iowa State Iowa State Iowa State West Virginia
 Baylor Kansas Kansas  Kansas
Kansas Baylor Texas Tech  Baylor
Texas Tech Texas Tech Baylor  Texas Tech

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