Rounding out our series highlighting the top players in each position group Iowa will face in 2017, it’s time to take a look at the defensive backs. This was by far the most difficult list of the series to assemble and order, mostly due to the number of high-caliber players the Hawkeyes will face.
Given the lack of experience and actual bodies Iowa will be lining up at the receiver position in 2017, calling this an area of concern is a fairly large understatement.
Spoiler Alert: Safeties roll deep on the 2017 Hawkeye slate.
5. Andrew Wingard, Safety, Wyoming
Wingard was voted as a First-Team Freshman All-American by the FWAA in 2015. He followed up that season with a First-Team All-WAC campaign in 2016. Heading into his junior season, Wingard is widely regarded as one of the top safeties in the country do to his ability to cover the middle of the field and help his front seven shut down the run. He logged 130 tackles in 2016 — good enough to lead the nation in the category.
4. D’Cota Dixon, Safety, Wisconsin
Dixon will be the leader of what should be yet another elite Wisconsin defense. He’s the perfect blend of ball-hawk and tackling marching that you want at the position. Few can match his closing speed, and the end result is a lot of balls hitting the ground in the Badger secondary or landing in his hands. He hauled in four interceptions in 2016.
3. Chris Jones, Cornerback, Nebraska
Jones is your prototypical NFL-sized shutdown corner. Some thought he could have gone pro after 2016, but he returned for his senior campaign and is projected by most outlets as a First-Team All-Big Ten selection. He picked off three passes a season ago, taking one to the house. He also had nine passed defended. If new Husker defensive coordinator and former Hawkeye Bob Diaco can put extra pressure on opposing quarterbacks via the 3-4 defense, you could very well see Jones’ numbers improve in both categories.
2. Godwin Igwebuike, Safety, Northwestern
Few players in the history of college football have been as productive at the safety position as Igwebuike has been during his tenure at Northwestern. The three-year starter has logged 246 tackles, 5 interceptions and 15 passes defended in his career. He’s Northwestern’s defensive quarterback, and the type of player who can will his team to success. You could argue that no defensive player means more to his team than he means to Northwestern.
1. Marcus Allen, Safety, Penn State
Allen is an absolute hammer and one of the few safeties I’ve ever seen take over a game. He’s been a starter for Penn State for the better part of three years, topping the double-digit mark in tackles seven times during that span. No performance was more impressive than the one he turned in last season against Minnesota -- an overtime win for the Nittany Lions where he logged 22 tackles and arguably kept Penn State in the Big Ten title hunt. He’ll be one of the first safeties off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft, but first he’ll terrorize the Big Ten for another season.
Don’t Sleep On:
Damon Webb, Safety, Ohio State
He’s the only returning starter in a Buckeye secondary that had three NFL Draft picks playing in it during 2016.
Derrick Tindal, Cornerback, Wisconsin
What he lacks in size, he makes up for in coverage skills, swarming the receivers he’s assigned to and swatting away nearly every play thrown his way.