Connect with us

SEC News

Top 5 SEC cornerbacks heading into 2016

Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 29) against LSU in 2015: Cedric Mason- Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Nick Saban, Will Muschamp, Kirby Smart, Derek Mason and Mark Stoops all served as defensive backs in college, prior to securing head coaching jobs in the Southeastern Conference.

Coaches expect three things when recruiting cornerbacks: strong tackling, ability to frustrate wide receivers and solid ball skills to create turnovers. It returns experience to every position on defense; however, the cornerback spot may appear as the one with the most depth for the SEC.

Listed below is a breakdown, outlining the top five cornerbacks returning to the league in 2016.

5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Sophomore- Alabama Crimson Tide 

He came in as a determined freshman, but now Fitzpatrick will become one of Alabama’s leaders on defense in 2016. The Old Bridge, N.J. native pushed both Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey in the summer of 2015, to earn a starting role at star in the Crimson Tide’s nickel package.

Fitzpatrick saw action in all 15 games, totaling 45 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, 11 pass breakups, a blocked punt, two interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. He became the first defender in school history to record two touchdowns off interceptions, when Fitzpatrick victimized Texas A&M’s quarterback Kyle Allen at newly-renovated Kyle Field on Oct. 17, 2015.

Minkah Fitzpatrick's Pick 6 Against Texas A&M

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore was named a Freshman All-American (Sporting News) and earned a spot on the Freshman All-SEC team. He is expected to be more of a shutdown corner in the fall. Having Eddie Jackson, Ronnie Harrison and Humphrey with him should help.

4. Tony Bridges, Senior- Mississippi Rebels 

Bridges was a four-star prospect when the Rebels landing him in 2015 from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He helped the program notch two 8-2 seasons in 2013 and 2014.

The Hattiesburg, Mississippi native would record 61 tackles, 11 pass breakups, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a defensive touchdown in 18 games as a junior college athlete.

Bridges held his own in the secondary last season, on a defense that had the likes of Mike Hilton, Trae Elston, C.J. Johnson, Tony Conner, Robert Nkemdiche, Channing Ward and others.

He collected 36 tackles, two tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, three interceptions and a defensive touchdown in 13 games. Ole Miss had a number of players to depart to the 2016 NFL Draft.

Coach Hugh Freeze and company will look to Bridges for guidance in the defensive backfield.

3. Tre’Davious White, Senior- LSU Tigers 

Coach Les Miles has a track record of recruiting exceptional play in the secondary. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills are just a few names to come out of his regime.

Tre'Davious White "Unfinished Business" 2015 Junior Season Highlights LSU

White has an opportunity to be the next in line. Despite not forcing an interception, he finished fifth on the team in tackles (44) last season. White would add 1.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and a punt return touchdown to his stat sheet. Cornerbacks for LSU are trained to stop the run as well as be physical in the pass game. White carries both traits, as he chimes in with 132 tackles, seven tackles for loss, a sack, 20 pass breakups, four interceptions and a forced fumble in 37 games.

According to a 2017 NFL mock draft from Walter Football, White is projected to be a first-round pick in next year’s event. A solid outing this fall should guarantee him the placement.

2. Cameron Sutton, Senior- Tennessee Volunteers 

Tennessee fans are excited for the 2016 season, and Sutton is one of the reasons. The Volunteers are expected to win the SEC East, but it will need a strong effort on defense to close out games.

Cameron Sutton || Tennessee Highlights

Sutton finished his junior year with 28 tackles, three tackles for loss, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception in 13 games. He helped Tennessee achieve a 9-4 mark, while limiting opponents to an average of 210.4 passing yards a game. Sutton earned first team All-American honors (Sporting News) and second team All-American honors from the Football Writers Association.

He stands with 104 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, a sack, 26 pass breakups, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown in 38 career games.

1. Jalen Tabor, Junior- Florida Gators 

Tabor played alongside one of the best cover corners in the nation last season, Vernon Hargreaves, III. He amassed 40 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, 14 pass breakups (team-high), four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns in 13 games. Tabor helped the Gators earn 10 wins, which culminated in an SEC East crown and an appearance in the 2015 SEC title game.

Jalen Tabor || "Superman" || Florida Highlights

Tabor and Florida limited opponents to 182.1 passing yards/game. He was named first team All-SEC by coaches, the Associated Press,, Athlon Sports and others. Sporting News named him second team All-American.Tabor has tallied 71 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, 22 pass breakups, five interceptions, a forced fumble and two defensive touchdowns in 25 career games.

He, along with Marcus Maye and Quincy Wilson, will captain Florida’s secondary next season.

Players that missed the cut, but will be huge in 2016

Carlton Davis, III, Sophomore- Auburn Tigers

  • 56 tackles, sixth on team
  • Eight pass breakups, third on team
  • Three interceptions, led team
  • May miss season opener vs. Clemson (off-field issue)

Malkom Parrish, Junior- Georgia Bulldogs

  • 59 tackles
  • 7.5 tackles for loss
  • Two pass breakups
  • Two interceptions
  • 24 career games

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

More in SEC News