The college football season is approaching. There is always debate about ranking the best players in the sport. Here are the top 25 college football safeties heading into the 2022 season.
Note: While projection of what a player can be taken into account, most rankings are from what has been seen on the field so far. These are not NFL Draft rankings, but rather focus on the best players in college football.
25 Anthony CookTexas Longhorns
Texas didn’t have a great season in 2021, but Cook played well. He had defended 47 total tackles and three passes. While the offense is getting a lot of hype for the Longhorns, Cook could really help the defense improve in 2022.
24 Brandon HillPittsburgh Panthers
Hill impressed during the 2021 season with 71 total tackles, two interceptions and five passes defended. He helped Pitt make a New Year’s Six Bowl last season and is one of the better players on the defense this season.
23 Daniel ScottCalifornia Golden Bears
Scott is entering his fifth season with the program and has shown improvement each year. He had 82 tackles and three interceptions last season. Cal may not be expecting to be one of the better teams in the Pac-12, but Scott is a good safety.
22 Yes’Von HicksCincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats made the College Football Playoff with Hicks being a key part of their talented secondary. He had 56 total tackles with two interceptions in 2021. With some of their players now headed to the NFL, Hicks will take on more of a leadership role in 2022.
21 Quindell JohnsonMemphis Tigers
After registering 81 tackles in 2020, Johnson upped that number to 104 in 2021. He also totaled 11 passes defended and one interception. Johnson is the best player on Memphis and could have the Tigers competing in the AAC.
20 Cole BishopUtah Utes
Bishop is a unique safety who had nine tackles for loss in 2021. He also had 54 tackles and five passes defended as the Utes made the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl didn’t go as planned for Utah’s secondary, but there is a lot of potential for good play in 2022.
19 Kenny Logan Jr., Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas only won two games in 2021, but Logan was a good player for them. He had 110 total tackles, one interception and six passes defended. Kansas may not be ready to compete in 2022, but Logan is a player to watch.
18 Jiayir BrownPenn State Nittany Lions
Brown had a fantastic 2021 where he was able to show off his ball skills. He had defended six interceptions and five passes. It was his only season of major production at Penn State so far, so this year he needs to show it wasn’t a fluke.
17 Ronny HickmanOhio State Buckeyes
Ohio State struggled defensively in 2021, although Hickman wasn’t the reason. He racked up 99 total tackles and two interceptions. Jim Knowles takes over the defense, which should improve things and make Hickman better.
16 Kris Abrams-DraineMissouri Tigers
Missouri has an uphill battle in the SEC. Abrams-Draine is their best defensive player after notching three interceptions and seven passes defended in 2021. If there is one Tiger to watch in 2022 it is Abrams-Draine.
15 Isheem YoungOle Miss Rebels
Young transfers from Iowa State to Ole Miss this season. He had 55 total tackles, two interceptions and two passes defended in 2021 for the Cyclones. He will be part of a good pair of safeties for Ole Miss as they try to improve their defense.
14 Brian BranchAlabama Crimson Tide
Alabama has two guys switching at safety, which will make up the next two names on this list. Branch had defended 55 tackles and nine passes. The fact that they can rotate safeties speaks to the Crimson Tide’s depth.
13. Malachi MooreAlabama Crimson Tide
Moore is the second player in a row and splits snaps with Branch. He had a bigger 2020 season than 2021, as he registered 44 total tackles, six passes defended and three interceptions that season. Both he and Branch have talent and will see time in 2022.
12. AJ FinleyOle Miss Rebels
Finley had 90 tackles, three interceptions and four passes defended in 2021. Being joined by Young could actually help Finley play better, as Ole Miss will be solid at the backend. The Rebels’ offense should be good under Lane Kiffin, but if the defense can do better in 2022, it’s a real game changer for the program.
11. Xavier HendersonMichigan State Spartans
In 2021, Henderson had one of the craziest interceptions fans will see against Youngstown State. He also played well throughout the season with 96 total tackles and two passes defended. Michigan State needs their secondary to play better and some of that onus is on Henderson as the leader of the unit.
10 Tanner IngleNC State Wolfpack
Ingle is one of many talented NC State players heading into the 2022 season, as he showed what he is capable of with 82 total tackles, one interception and four passes defended.
9. ChrisSmithGeorgia Bulldogs
Smith was at the back end of the Georgia defense last season. He helped the team win the National Championship with three interceptions and four passes defended. With so many players leaving this offseason, Smith’s role will increase.
8th. Andrew MukubaClemson Tigers
Clemson’s defense has talent at all levels and Mukuba cleans up a lot of plays. He had 47 total tackles and six passes defended in 2021. In 2022, his stats will likely increase, but most notably, he will be one of the better players on one of the best defenses in the country.
7. Demani RichardsonTexas A&M Aggies
Richardson is one of the most accomplished safeties in college football for his career. He has 172 total tackles, two interceptions and six passes defended in his career. The Aggies have recruited well and are hoping that players like Richardson can power them to the next level.
6. Jamie RobinsonFlorida State Seminoles
Florida State is far from what they used to be in terms of quality players. Robinson is the best player on the roster after totaling 84 tackles, four interceptions and five passes defended last season. He started his career at South Carolina, but has really grown in his time at Florida State.
5. Tyke SmithGeorgia Bulldogs
Smith was part of the National Championship team for Georgia, but was limited due to injury. He had a good season in 2020 with West Virginia, as he had 61 total tackles, two interceptions and five passes defended. If he can regain that form, Georgia will have some of the best safeties in the country.
4. Antonio JohnsonTexas A&M Aggies
Johnson may be one of the more versatile defensive backs in college football and uses his 6-foot-3 frame well. In 2021, he had 79 total tackles, one pass defended and five passes defended. Johnson and Richardson are both great players for the Aggies and should help the Aggies win plenty of football games in 2022.
3. Jalen CatalonArkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas had a great season last year and Catalon could’ve gone to the pros, but now both the player and team are vying for more. In six games played during the 2021 season, Catalon had 46 total tackles, two interceptions and four passes defended. The Razorbacks have a tough schedule, but have a roster that can win a lot as well.
2. Jordan BattleAlabama Crimson Tide
Battle has received playing time over the last three seasons for Alabama. With 181 total tackles, five interceptions and eight passes defended in his career, the defense can look to battle for leadership. With him, and much more talent back in 2022, Alabama can win it all.
1. Brandon JosephNotre Dame Fighting Irish
Joseph broke onto the scene in 2020 with six interceptions and two passes defended as Northwestern went to the Big Ten Championship. In 2021, he had 79 total tackles, three interceptions and four passes defended for the Wildcats. He now joins Notre Dame where he will help fill a huge void at the safety position left by Kyle Hamiltoneven if they play the position differently.
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