ACC Football: Top 5 Defensive Backs for 2015

5. Mackensie Alexander, Corner – Clemson

The highly-touted Floridian was the fourth best recruit in the nation according to ESPN, and after a redshirt season in 2013 brought on by a preseason injury, Alexander made a significant impact on the field for the Tigers in 2014. On paper — or a computer screen — his stats don’t wow you up front but he was on the field a great deal for such a young player which tells you how much the coaches value his ability. He participated in 766 snaps over 13 games (all starts) during which he amassed 22 tackles, two tackles for loss, six pass breakups and one recovered fumble. He will continue to be an important part of Clemson’s defense this season with an even more active role.

4. Quin Blanding, Safety – Virginia

Blanding started every game and led all freshmen nationally with 123 total tackles in his first season in Charlottesville. He added three interceptions to tie for the team lead and managed 79 tackles on running plays alone, showing his ability to play near the line when needed. He’ll be asked to do even more as he’ll be expected to step in lead on defense, filling the role of Anthony Harris as the guy calling the shots in the secondary. He’s a strong tackler who doesn’t attempt to just land hard hits but finishes plays fundamentally. Next summer he may well be on top of this list, but his placement at four is a testament to the depth in exceptional ACC defensive backs.

3. Jeremy Cash, Safety – Duke

Cash will be a key to what should be a very solid Duke defensive unit. He’s quick to the ball and tackles well, balancing an aggressive nature with the intelligence to call the shots in the Blue Devil secondary. As sick as you might be of hearing it about Blue Devil athletes, but he’s a real student too with a degree in psychology. He’s pursuing a masters in liberal studies, with a focus on political science. Still, he manages to be a terror to opposing offenses amassing 232 total tackles in his two seasons at Duke. He’s all over the secondary and plays well at the line too with 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2014.

2. Jalen Ramsey, Corner – Florida State

Ramsey is another great talent with coverage ability who isn’t afraid to lay the wood when a big hit needs to be made over the middle. He was named to the All-ACC First Team as well as a number of All-American teams in 2014. He finished fourth on the team with 79 total tackles and second in tackles for loss (9.5). He led the Seminoles with 12 pass breakups (good for second best in the ACC) and also intercepted two passes. Ramsey has also been a valuable contributor to the FSU track and field program earning three-time All-ACC honors and this season he qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary meet in the long jump.

1. Kendall Fuller, Corner – Virginia Tech

Everyone knows by now that Fuller is the latest in a line of impressive brothers who have starred at various points throughout the years at Virginia Tech. Kendall may just be the best of them, with the potential to be the highest drafted of the family. Kendall has been named to just about every preseason award list heading into his highly anticipated junior season. His body control and fluid moves in coverage may make him the best pure cover corner in the country. Fuller finished 2014 with 54 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks, two interceptions, 15 pass breakups and a forced fumble. He did that playing most of the season with a fractured wrist.

It’s a strong group of defensive backs this season in the ACC without question and there’s lots of depth to this group, but Fuller stands out as a particularly impressive talent who is well-rounded and likely the next in a long line of Hokie defensive backs to have success in the NFL. Jalen Ramsey is right on his level and really, if you had to start a secondary with any of these kids, you’d be off to a terrific start.

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