2021 Big 12 Football Position Rankings | Defensive Backs

It’s that time again! As we try to navigate through the next few weeks that lead up to the start of the college football season we’ll continue looking through the various Big 12 position rankings and discussing which teams have advantages and which teams have a lot of work to do.

This time around the Heartland Sports writers give their take on the defensive backs 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 below 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 Defensive Back Rankings
1. Oklahoma State37
2. Iowa State31
3. TCU27
4. Texas26
5. Oklahoma 24
6. Baylor22
7. West Virginia21
8. Kansas State19
9. Texas Tech8
10. Kansas4

Unanimity – We agreed across the board on the final two teams in the ranking with Texas Tech and Kansas coming in at the bottom of the list.

Almost Agreed – We weren’t really close on any one team with the defensive back rankings. No team received more that two similar placement votes.

All Over The Place – West Virginia is definitely the team that we were all over the place with. The Mountaineers received a first place vote, and eighth place vote, and two seventh place votes.

Individual Thoughts And Rankings


1. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys are a clear choice for number one when you consider everyone they are returning. Kolby Harrell-Peel and Tre Sterling are a couple of the best secondary defenders in the country. It will be difficult to beat Oklahoma State through the air this year. 

2. Texas | The Longhorns lost Chris Brown to the NFL, but they still return the most experienced secondary in the Big 12. There are a combined 43 starts between D’Shawn Jamison, B.J. Foster, and Josh Thompson. The experience alone makes them one of the top secondaries in the conference. 

3. Oklahoma | The Sooners have been making huge strides in the secondary over the past few seasons. This year, I think they will be the real deal. Woodi Washington, Delarrin Turner-Yell, and Pat Fields are just a few of the names to be excited about. 

4. Iowa State 

5. Kansas State 

6. TCU 

7. West Virginia 

8. Baylor 

9. Texas Tech | Texas Tech will be pretty short handed in the secondary. Adrian Frye will be the go to guy, but unfortunately he can’t cover the entire field. 

10. Kansas | The Jayhawks are in a similar situation as Texas Tech, but worse. They have very little returning experience. Kenny Logan might bring a few things to the table to be excited about, but one man isn’t enough to cut it. 


1. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys had one of the better pass defenses in the Big 12 last season, which isn’t necessarily saying all that much. Still, Oklahoma State has a ridiculously experienced unit between Tre Sterling, Kolby Harvell-Peel, and Jarrick Bernard-Converse, all seniors who have started for at least the last two seasons.

2. Baylor | The Bears bring back nearly every starter in the secondary from last season, and they should be another bright spot for the defense this year. Jalen Pitre was an All-Big 12 First Team pick in 2020, and the Bears will need his leadership again this year.

3. Texas | The Longhorns struggled at defending the pass last year, but D’Shawn Jamison was an All-Big 12 First Team selection, and he’s back along with Josh Thompson, who started all 10 games for Texas in 2020. B.J. Foster will also be back in a starting role, so Texas has a lot of experience to set the standard.

4. TCU

5. Oklahoma

6. Iowa State

7. West Virginia

8. Kansas State

9. Texas Tech | The Red Raiders have been known over the years for their air raid offense, not their ability to stop the passing game on defense. Last year they were mediocre at best at stopping their opponents’ passing game, and this year’s squad features a lot of new faces, specifically a handful of graduate transfers, so I wouldn’t bank on them putting fear in the hearts of opposing QBs.

10. Kansas | The Jayhawks were surprisingly successful last season in defending the air game, but don’t expect that to last for long. Kansas has two freshmen in starting roles in the secondary, and that’s the tale of the tape for them: they lack experience. Who knows, they could end up surprising everyone, but I wouldn’t count on it.


1. Iowa State | Anchored by Greg Eisworth, the defender draws much of the attention. However, Isheem Young proved to be a worthy player in the secondary himself despite lacking the experience of the aforementioned player. Sure, ISU struggled against big play quarterbacks at times. But it’s hard to deny the depth on the roster in Ames at the position. Plus it should take a much needed leap forward from last year to this year. Health is the only lingering concern…

2. Oklahoma State |  Possessing stars like Kolby Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling in the secondary, OSU has an experienced group on the back end of the defense. With four of the top five defensive backs returning for another season, the program has a unit to rely on in the future. It’s because of experience and star power that the Cowboys take a seat in the top three.

3. TCU | With the ability to mirror any receiver in the conference, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is set to take center stage on this defense. Additionally, Noah Daniels appears primed to play a major role this upcoming season. Now with T.J. Carter transferring in at safety, this group is stacked. Combined with the prowess of Gary Patterson, this unit should be one of the best in the league moving forward despite losing two top players in the secondary.

4. Oklahoma

5. Texas

6. Baylor

7. Kansas State

8. West Virginia

9. Texas Tech | Looking to add plug-and-play types, the program took on a handful of transfers in the secondary. Matt Wells may be in the hot seat but he’s hoping the group from across the country will mesh well enough to be viable. It is a possibility but I don’t have the highest of hopes here…

10. Kansas | Installing a new schematic, the team was set back by the announcement of Karon Prunty entering the transfer portal. Now full of players with experience at the safety position, KU must figure out the corners in a 4-3 defensive move. It’s a tall task to ask of anyone and will land them at the bottom of the pile.


1. West Virginia | Hear me out here before you click off the page. The Mountaineers have four guys who could legitimately land on the All-Conference team. Led by Alonzo Addae, who has already been drafted in the CFL, West Virginia will boast a really stout, and deep, secondary. Nicktroy Fortune, Kerry Martin Jr., and Sean Mahone all speak to the WVU depth. 

2. Iowa State | I don’t think the Cyclones are as good on the back end of their defense as they are up front but they’re still really solid. Tayvonn Kyle was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season after starting just five games, Isheem Young was the Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2020 and Greg Eisworth is a three-time First Team All-Big 12 selection. 

3. Oklahoma State | Tre Sterling and Kolby Harvell-Peel could be the best safety duo in the conference and Jarrick Bernard-Converse is expected to take a big step forward after making 11 starts in last season and tying for a team-high seven pass breakups. 

4. TCU 

5. Kansas State 

6. Baylor 

7. Oklahoma 

8. Texas 

9. Texas Tech | There’s talent in Lubbock with Duke transfer Marquis Waters but there are also a lot of question marks around him. 

10. Kansas | This is the last time I get to rank the Jayhawks last in our preseason position rankings.  

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