The calendar has turned to September which means that the summer months are slipping away and football season is once again upon us. As we work our way through ranking the specific positions will shape the Big 12 landscape in 2020 we have reached the final group. The Heartland Sports writers give their take on the safety groups across the conference, ranking them from first to worst. Then they are asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.
The consensus rankings come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 10 points, second place is 9 points, and they continue in descending order with tenth place equaling 1 point.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Safety Rankings|
|1. Oklahoma State||37|
|3. Iowa State||32|
|6. Kansas State||17|
|7. Texas Tech||13|
|7. West Virginia||13|
Unanimity – Maybe it’s an indictment on Big 12 defenses as a whole but once again we didn’t agree across the board on a single school when ranking the safeties. That has been a trend across our defensive rankings.
Almost Agreed – We were really close with both Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas. Three of us voted the Cowboys as #2 and one had them at #1. That was enough to make the Pokes the consensus #1 team in the rankings.
Three of us also had the Sooners at #5 but they also picked up one vote for #3.
The Longhorns received three votes for #4 but also a first-place vote.
All Over The Place – The bottom of the list was a bit all over the place. Kansas, Baylor, and West Virginia received votes for three different spots near the bottom. The Mountaineers were ranking as high as #6 and as low as #9. Baylor was as high as #7 and as low as #10. The highest Kansas was ranked was #8 but the Jayhawks also received votes for #9 and #10 as well.
Individual Thoughts And Rankings
1. Texas | The Longhorns are the only team in the Big 12 with more than one defensive back named to the pre-season All Big 12 Defensive Team. DShawn Jamison and Caden Sterns combined for 69 tackles, 4 pass deflections, and 3 interceptions last season as sophomores. Now they return as upperclassmen and are poised to lead the Texas secondary.
2. Oklahoma State | Oklahoma State might have the best safety in the conference in Kolby Harvell-Peel. A season ago he recorded 49 tackles and 5 interceptions. He was one of two players in the entire country last season to rank in the top 30 for fumble recoveries and interceptions. As he returns for his junior season, Peel will be the difference maker for the Cowboys defense.
3. TCU | The Horned Frogs have a real star in safety Trevon Moehrig. He was the highest rated safety last year in the Big 12 by pro scouts. He accounted for 4 intercepts and 11 pass deflections in 2019. He poses a real threat to Kolby Harvell-Peel for being the best at the position in the conference.
4. Iowa State
6. Texas Tech
7. Kansas State
9. West Virginia | The Mountaineers suffered a big loss in talent with Kerry Martin Jr. opting out of the 2020 season. He accounted for 38 solo tackles and 5 pass deflections last year. West Virginia will look to Sean Mahone to lead the way in the secondary.
10. Baylor | Baylor simply isn’t returning much talent in 2020 at the safety position. They lost Grayland Arnold to the draft last year, and there isn’t much left in the thin roster for Baylor.
1. TCU Horned Frogs | Undoubtedly, Trevon Moehrig remains the most notable safety in the conference. Racking up 11 passes defended on 30 targets along with four interceptions in 2019, many expect a similar level of play in the upcoming season from the junior. Playing next to Ar’Darius Washington, the duo has the ability to cause havoc. Forcing turnovers fairly consistently on the back end of the defense, the Horned Frogs have experience and technical knowledge of the game at safety. That makes it easy to rank the group at the top of the position rankings.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys | Bursting onto the scene, it’s hard to ignore the talent that is Kolby Harvell-Peel. Shining at the free safety spot, the junior collected five interceptions which ranked third in the league in 2019. Single-handedly, Harvell-Peel demands attention from opposing coordinators. Opting to run with three safeties on the field at the same time, the Cowboys return all their starters (Tre Sterling and Jarrick Bernard) at the position. It bodes well for a group looking to take another step forward in 2020.
3. Iowa State Cyclones | Leaning heavily on Greg Eisworth at safety, the defender allowed a single touchdown throughout the course of the previous season (24 targets). As a consistent player, the senior broke up 10 passes in the same campaign on 11 passes defended. It’s a level of consistency that few others reach in a single year. Replacing two others who split time at the other safety position is the one question mark. However, Matt Campbell has a knack for getting the most out of his young players.
4. Texas Longhorns
5. Oklahoma Sooners
6. Kansas State Wildcats
7. Baylor Bears
8. West Virginia
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders | Losing a player like Douglas Coleman at the position is never an easy replacement. After grabbing eight interceptions, Coleman moved on as an undrafted free agent to the NFL. Needless to say, no other player in the secondary secured an interception in 2019. Getting stops on third down and forcing turnovers are major concerns moving forward.
10. Kansas Jayhawks | Forced to play plenty of young talent, Les Miles is expected to move Kenny Logan Jr to the safety position in the upcoming season. While the defensive back could provide a stabilizing force, it’s hard to see much improvement on the field. This, after all, is a team that has not collected more than three wins in a season since 2009.
1. TCU | The Horned Frogs are stacked at the safety position. Trevon Moehrig was a First Team All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore last season, and he very well could be the best in the nation at his position. Ar’Darius Washington is no slouch, either. Selected as Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year last season, Washington is expected to have another big season.
2. Oklahoma State | Closely behind the Horned Frogs are the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has two powerful playmakers in juniors Kolby Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling. Harvell-Peel was selected as First. Team All-Big 12 last season, and Sterling was an Honorable Mention. Both guys are capable of making plays on the ball, and they will be key leaders for Oklahoma State’s defense this season.
3. Iowa State | The Cyclones have had a solid defense for several years now, and this season will be no different. In the secondary, Iowa State has capable leaders in seniors Greg Eisworth II and Lawrence White IV. Eisworth was First Team All-Big 12 a year ago—his second consecutive year— and White was an Honorable mention. In the last two seasons, they carry 39 starts between the two of them, so expect their experience to be an advantage that many secondaries do not have.
6. West Virginia
7. Kansas State
9. Kansas | Let’s face it, the Jayhawks aren’t that great at very many things. Inexperience is going to hurt them in the secondary, and they weren’t great to begin with.
10. Texas Tech | The Red Raiders were the worst in the Big 12 in pass defense, and they’re not likely to be very good this year. Thomas Leggett and J’Marcus Ingram are seniors, and they both played in almost every game last season, but they’re still not all that experienced.
1. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys are stacked at the safety position with three returning starters, including Kolby Harvell-Peel who will be on multiple watchlists as well as an All Conference selection.
2. Iowa State | Greg Eisworth was a preseason All Conference selection and he’ll have Lawrence White returning in the secondary as well. The Cyclones do need to find a replacement for departed strong safety Braxton Lewis where sophomore DJ Miller looks to take over.
3. Oklahoma | The lack of depth at safety was on full display for the Sooners in the Peach Bowl. In a good news/bad news situation, Oklahoma has the entire cast back with the hope that another year of experience produces better results on the field.
6. Texas Tech
7. Kansas State
8. West Virginia
9. Kansas | Lost seniors Mike Lee and Davon Ferguson from last season. Ricky Thomas can play either safety position but experienced depth is limited.
10. Baylor | The safety cupboard was left empty for the Bears following the 2019 season. Chris Miller and Henry Black graduated and Grayland Arnold departed early for the NFL.
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