College News & Analysis

College Football: Ranking all 127 FBS secondaries through CFB Week 14

Before the 2020 college football season began, PFF ranked every single secondary in the country as a part of the 2020 PFF College Magazine, which is available to PFF College subscribers and will be done again in 2021. Now it’s time to give an update!

Below, you will find every single FBS secondary ranked from No. 1 to No. 127 (three FBS schools are not playing this fall due to COVID-19 concerns). Please note that these rankings have nothing to do with the NFL potential on the roster; they are also not solely based on 2020 PFF grade or 100% indicative of future play. Several factors went into these rankings, including the level of competition and every defensive back’s grading profile.

Enjoy!

1. ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide’s coverage unit had a minor blip a few games into the season against Ole Miss. They allowed 48 points and surrendered the second-highest EPA per pass play average in a single game since 2016. Everyone was ready to call the secondary their Achilles heel and what would prevent them from claiming the 2020-21 College Football Playoff, but they have since proved that belief wrong. Alabama has allowed the lowest successful pass rate in the Power 5 since that next game in Week 7.

Though there were two players in the secondary that did not struggle in that game against Ole Miss and, quite frankly, haven’t struggled in a game this year: Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe. Those two man the outside starting spots for Bama, and among 163 FBS corners to log at least 150 coverage snaps on the outside, they rank third and sixth in yards per coverage snap allowed. That’s what we call stingy. Surtain is actually the most valuable defensive player in the entire FBS.

True freshman slot corner Malachi Moore did struggle in the first few games of the season, but he has since turned the corner following that Ole Miss game when he posted a season-low 42.1 PFF grade. After Week 6, Moore ranks first in the entire FBS in slot coverage grade.

2. CINCINNATI

Ahmad Gardner has been nothing but elite since he first stepped foot on the field for Cincy as a three-star true freshman in 2019. In his two seasons for the Bearcats, Gardner has combined for 20 combined pass breakups and interceptions en route to a 34.6 passer rating allowed. The opposing quarterback would have a better passer rating throwing the ball away every play. He isn’t going to allow much separation in man coverage and is quite easily the best player the undefeated Bearcats have.

3. OKLAHOMA STATE

The Big 12 stereotype has always been extremely low-level coverage play. But for the 2020 Oklahoma State Cowboys that has been far from the case. Safety Tre Sterling has been uber-productive for the Pokes just like he was in 2019 with an 82.1 coverage grade and the most passing stops among Power 5 safeties (11).

Though the big reason why Oklahoma State’s secondary has gone from good to great has been the emergence of outside corners Rodarius Williams and Jarrick Bernard-Converse. Williams — a fifth-year senior who has started for Oklahoma State since 2017 — has been the definition of “shutdown corner.” He has allowed just 10 catches in nine starts and ranks third in the FBS in forced incompletion percentage at 38%.

4. NORTHWESTERN

Surprised is an understatement with this Northwestern secondary. They have had multiple breakout players that have helped them allow the second-fewest EPA per pass play in the FBS at -0.3. Last year, they were tied for 49th in that metric at -0.04. Greg Newsome and AJ Hampton have been the biggest improvers, as they each had sub-60.0 coverage grades in 2019 and now both sit above 80.0 this season. Hampton has shared time on the outside for the Wildcats, but it might be best to keep him on the field as much as possible. He has earned an 87.6 coverage grade on 95 coverage snaps this season with his longest catch allowed being just seven yards. Meanwhile, Newsome has made twice as many plays on the ball (10) as first downs allowed (five).

5. WEST VIRGINIA

Yes, West Virginia got smoked last week to Iowa State. It was by far their worst performance of the season in pass defense. Though we can’t fall victim to recency bias and ignore what they did as a group in their previous eight games because they have been nothing but great in 2020 outside of their outing against the Cyclones. Even with their secondary recording a 60.7 coverage grade last week, the Mountaineers still rank first in the FBS in coverage grade.

Tykee Smith, who serves as the spear in WVU’s defense, has led this group and locked down the slot. The most yards he has allowed in a single game in nine starts is just 27. Smith is third in the FBS in slot coverage grade and has allowed the second-fewest yards per target at the position (3.2).

6. WASHINGTON

Washington returned the best slot corner and one of the 10 best outside corners in the FBS from the 2019 season — Elijah Molden and Trent McDuffie — and those two haven’t skipped a beat in four games this year. The Huskies began their season back in Week 11. Since then, Molden ranks second among FBS slot corners in coverage grade, and McDuffie ranks eighth among FBS outside corners in coverage grade.

7. CLEMSON 

Clemson’s coverage unit has been up-and-down this season, but the group overall has been a little better than expected given the losses they had from last year’s squad. They have had two breakout corners in particular that have helped them produce at a top-10 level when on the field: Derion Kendrick and Andrew Booth Jr.

Kendrick was the starter opposite A.J. Terrell in 2019 and was fine considering it was his first year playing the position. He came to Clemson as a wide receiver and produced a 66.6 coverage grade as a corner last year. This year, though, he has raised that mark to 78.4 and has allowed just seven catches in seven games.

8. LOUISIANA

The backbone of the Ragin’ Cajuns' success this season has been the performance of their secondary. They rank seventh in the FBS in passing efficiency against at -0.24 EPA per pass allowed. The ball production has been off the charts and has led them to an FBS-best 57.6 passer rating allowed. Safety Bralen Trahan has been more responsible than anyone on the team for that production with four interceptions and seven pass breakups. That playmaking has led Trahan to the second-highest coverage grade among FBS safeties (89.6).

9. TCU

Safety Ar’Darius Washington has been a bit of a downer this season for the Horned Frogs. He ranked No. 1 among all FBS safeties in PFF grade at 91.7 as a redshirt freshman in 2019, but this year has been a poor performer with a 79.2 PFF grade. Trevon Moehrig, however, has been just as good as he was in 2019. He ranked right behind Washington in PFF grade last year and has remained a standout performer in coverage. Moehrig has an 82.6 coverage grade this season and allowed the fourth-fewest yards per target in the slot at 3.4.

TCU has also had a big-time breakout with cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. The sophomore played just 99 snaps in his freshman season in 2019 and was called on to be a starter this year following the departure of Jeff Gladney. He struggled massively in the 2020 opener (45.4 coverage grade) but has been on fire since. After that game, Hodges-Tomlinson has the second-highest coverage grade in the FBS at 89.5. He has allowed just 12 catches on 40 targets with 13 pass breakups in that span, too.

Tiawan Mullen earned All-Big Ten honorable mention as a true freshman last season.Credit: Imagn

10. INDIANA

The ball production has been bananas from this Indiana secondary. Their corners and safeties lead the FBS in interceptions since they began their season in Week 8 with 13 and have the fifth-most forced incompletions among Power 5 schools in that span with 22. That has helped them earn the 13th-best coverage grade in the FBS since then. Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack has had this secondary play one of the more diverse sets of coverages (one of just 22 FBS schools that hasn’t played one coverage more than 25% of the time), and it’s clearly paying off.

Cornerback Tiawan Mullen has been building off a strong true freshman campaign with under 40 yards allowed in all seven of his starts in 2020. He has also improved over his last four starts, as he is one of the 10 highest-graded corners since Week 11. Along with Mullen, IU has had one of the top-performing free safeties in the country with Jamar Johnson. His coverage grade when playing deep safety is the best in the Power 5.

11. APP STATE

Perhaps the most underappreciated cornerback in the entire country belongs to App State. Shemar Jean-Charles has not just been the best defensive back in the Group of 5, but he’s been one of the best in the entire country and more than deserving of being in the Thorpe Award conversation. Jean-Charles has broken up more passes than anyone in college football at 16. That’s more than his total catches allowed for the season. His timing at the catch point is routinely on point and is a big reason why he is second in the FBS in yards per coverage snap allowed on the outside at 0.39.

12. SAN DIEGO STATE

The FBS-leader in successful pass rate allowed this season is none other than the San Diego State Aztecs. Standout coverage play is all safety Tariq Thompson has ever known in his college career. He earned coverage grades above 80.0 in each of his three years as a starter prior to 2020 and has continued that this season. Thompson has an 80.3 coverage grade in seven games this season and has been a force in the slot. Dwayne Johnson Jr. has taken a bit of a step back after posting an 89.0 coverage grade in his first season as a starter in 2019, but he has still been great for the Aztecs. Johnson has allowed just 37 yards in coverage en route to a 75.3 coverage grade.

13. NOTRE DAME

To no one’s surprise, true sophomore Kyle Hamilton has been the top player in this secondary in 2020. He may not have any interceptions, but he has made numerous impactful plays in coverage for the Irish. With his explosiveness, size and eyes in coverage, Hamilton has broken up four passes and leads the FBS in passing stops when playing free safety.

14. GEORGIA

When it came time to face Alabama and Florida, Georgia’s coverage unit got fried. In those two games, the Bulldogs recorded a 40.4 coverage grade and allowed a successful play on 57.5% of passes. In all other games, their coverage grade is 91.6 and their successful pass play allowed rate is 38.8%. Cornerback Tyson Campbell was one of the players that struggled in those two games, but he has been great outside of them. He allowed more than 200 yards against Bama and Florida but under 100 in all of the other games combined.

15. IOWA STATE

The Cyclones have been a heck of a lot better than expected at outside corner in 2020. Anthony Johnson and Tayvonn Kyle have led Iowa State to the No. 2 ranking in outside coverage grade behind only the Crimson Tide. Interestingly enough though, Kyle’s starting spot has gone to Datrone Young in recent weeks. Considering Kyle is the team’s highest-graded defensive back in coverage (83.8) and Young is a couple of weeks removed from one of the worst coverage performances this team has seen this season (36.5 coverage grade and 144 yards allowed to Texas), it may be best to keep Kyle on the field.

16. WESTERN KENTUCKY

The safety tandem of Antwon Kincade and Devon Key have anchored this secondary. Their collective play is a big reason why WKU is among the top-five Group of 5 teams here. Those two have led the Hilltoppers to the No. 5 ranking in safety coverage grade this season. The improvement from Trae Meadows has also bolstered this unit significantly. Meadows struggled in his first four games of the season, but he has been red hot over his last seven. Meadows is fifth in coverage grade since Week 7 with just 21 yards allowed on 147 coverage snaps.

17. WAKE FOREST

Expectations were extremely low for Wake’s secondary this season and after they opened up the season against Clemson, it seemed like those expectations were well warranted. But the group has since defied the odds and looked a lot better when they don’t have to face Trevor Lawrence. Following that game, Wake Forest ranks sixth in the FBS in coverage grade. Cornerbacks Ja’Sir Taylor and Caelen Carson have shockingly been the big reasons for that. And I say shockingly due to Taylor earning coverage grades below 62.0 in his first three years and Carson being a three-star true freshman.

18. LIBERTY

The Flames have surprised at virtually every position group this season, including all over the secondary. Liberty went from ranking 98th in passing efficiency against in 2019 to 10th in 2020. Safety Javon Scruggs has been this group’s highest-graded defensive back in coverage and is also one of the most improved players on the defensive side of the ball from a grading standpoint. He posted a 68.2 coverage grade in his first season as a starter in 2019 and has raised that to 77.3 in 2020.

19. OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma’s secondary has turned the corner as of late. Their last three games in particular have been their best of the season (minus their opener against FCS school Missouri State), as they have been the third-highest-graded coverage unit over that span. On top of that, they made nearly as many plays on the ball (15) as first downs allowed (17). Granted, the quarterbacks they faced in that span aren’t all that great, but it's impressive nonetheless.

20. TROY

Troy hasn’t had any defensive back play at an elite-level and carry the load, but they haven’t had any poor performers either. They have gotten solid play across the board from their secondary that has combined to rank seventh in the FBS in coverage grade.

21. MARSHALL

The offenses Marshall has faced have been one of the easiest slates in college football, but the Thundering Herd’s secondary is doing exactly what they should be: not allowing big plays. Marshall leads the entire FBS in explosive pass play (15-plus yards) rate allowed at 7.3%.

22. FAU

FAU lost their top three cornerbacks from last year’s squad and haven’t skipped a beat. Outside cornerbacks Zyon Gilbert and Romain Mungin have been trustworthy for the Owls and aren’t allowing very many big plays this season. Combined they have allowed just a 43% catch rate, 58.0 passer rating and not a single touchdown.

Dec 27, 2019; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Myles Jones (10) reacts after breaking up a pass intended for Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Jordan McCray (12) in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

23. TEXAS A&M

Like Georgia, Texas A&M’s secondary got picked apart by both Alabama and Florida, but the group has fared well against everyone else. Even with those two poor outings against the Crimson Tide and Gators, the Aggies still rank third in the SEC in coverage grade. Cornerback Myles Jones, in particular, struggled badly against Alabama with 142 yards allowed, but in his other seven games, he has been great. Removing that game against Bama, Jones has earned an 84.5 coverage grade and has allowed fewer yards in seven games than he did that one day against the Crimson Tide.

24. IOWA

It wasn’t even known whether we would see Jack Koerner this season after he was involved in a serious boating accident over the summer, but he has started every game for Iowa this year and been a key contributor. The free safety has made three interceptions and forced three incompletions this season en route to a 72.0 coverage grade. Meanwhile, his teammate Riley Moss has broken out in his first season starting on the outside for Iowa with a 76.4 coverage grade that ranks sixth in the Big Ten.

25. KENTUCKY

Cornerback Brandin Echols looks like a completely different player in 2020 compared to 2019. His coverage grade has gone from 82.3 to 62.4, his catch rate allowed has dipped from 47% to 80% and his total pass breakups are down from 11 to zero. The good news is that the rest of the group has been decent for Kentucky, especially safety Yusuf Corker. His 74.8 coverage grade ranks third among SEC safeties.

26. SYRACUSE

Had they gotten a full season out of Andre Cisco and Trill Williams, the Orange would probably be higher than this. They have had cornerbacks Ifeatu Melifonwu and Garrett Williams for the whole season, though, and those two have prevented their defense from being a complete liability — as opposed to their offense. Melifonwu and Williams each have coverage grades above 70.0, helping Syracuse’s outside corner group earn the seventh-highest grade in the FBS.

27. USC

Cornerback Olaijah Griffin and safety Talanoa Hufanga have each taken their play to the next level in 2020 and are the two most responsible for USC’s No. 27 ranking. Griffin has allowed just 71 yards on 161 coverage snaps while intercepting a pass and breaking up two others. That has led him to a 27.4 passer rating allowed and a 79.8 coverage grade for the season. As for Hufanga, he opened up the 2020 season with a bad outing but has since turned things around. After giving up 75 yards and a touchdown in coverage in his first outing, Tufanga has allowed just 26 yards and zero touchdowns with three interceptions and a pass breakup en route to an FBS-high 90.3 coverage grade.

28. UAB

From slot corner Dy’jonn Turner to cornerback Brontae Harris to safety Damon Miller, this secondary has been among the best in the Group of Five. Turner was one of the top slot defenders of 2019 with an 84.8 coverage grade and he followed that up by limiting big plays in 2020. He has allowed just 3.4 yards per target in the slot this season, the fourth-best mark in the FBS. Miller, meanwhile, has been a surprise. The 2019 two-star recruit played just five snaps as a freshman, but he took on a starting role in Year 2 and thrived. He has earned the sixth-best coverage grade among Group of Five safeties this year (82.9).

29. WISCONSIN

Despite just four games under its belts, Wisconsin’s secondary has put the clamps on almost every offense it has faced, generating a 38% successful pass play rate allowed (tied for 12th in the FBS). Their defensive backs have allowed just a 46.8% catch rate in coverage, which ranks second in the FBS.

30. COASTAL CAROLINA

D’Jordan Strong came to Coastal Carolina this year as a JUCO transfer and has significantly bolstered the unit. He has earned an 81.1 coverage unit in his first season in the FBS ranks while allowing just nine first downs in 10 games. Meanwhile, he has intercepted five passes and forced another six incompletions — with one of those being a huge fourth-down stop against BYU last week.

31. TULSA

Tulsa off-ball linebacker Zaven Collins — who leads the FBS at his position with a 93.5 coverage grade — has played a big part in his team’s defensive success, but so have the safeties. In fact, Tulsa’s safety room ranks 15th in the FBS in coverage grade.

32. BYU

Troy Warner — the younger brother of current San Francisco 49er and former BYU Cougar Fred Warner — has had a late-career breakout season in 2020. The fifth-year senior’s 78.2 coverage grade in 2020 is more than 10 grading points higher than his previous best. He, among many other contributors, has helped BYU allow the 28th-best successful pass play rate in the FBS (40.9%).

33. ARKANSAS

Jalen Catalon, a 2019 four-star recruit, has emerged in 2020 in his first year as a starter for the Razorbacks. He has a 78.4 coverage grade this season along with three interceptions, five forced incompletions and seven passing stops.

34. MICHIGAN STATE

Cornerback Shakur Brown hasn’t just been Michigan State’s biggest breakout player — he’s been one of the biggest breakouts in the entire country. Brown took over a starting job for the first time of his collegiate career toward the tail-end of 2019, but he recorded just a 62.6 coverage grade. This year, he is the third-highest graded corner in the FBS in coverage (86.2). Whether playing in the slot or on the outside, Brown has been a playmaker. — his five interceptions and four forced incompletions can attest.

35. PITTSBURGH

Cornerback Marquis Williams has been a breakout player in Pittsburgh’s secondary this season. After playing just 45 snaps in his first two years on campus, Williams carved out a significant role and has recorded a 76.8 coverage thus far in 2020. Considering how much press coverage he is tasked with playing, that is quite the impressive feat for the 5-foot-8 corner. Williams has allowed just six of 21 targets to be caught in single coverage, making nine plays on the ball on those plays.

36. GEORGIA STATE

Georgia State has had a significant amount of unexpected ball production that has helped them rank 30th in the FBS in coverage grade. Their defensive backs have snagged eight interceptions and rank 17th in the FBS in forced incompletion rate.

37. OHIO STATE

Despite Ohio State losing Jeffrey Okudah, Damon Arnette and Jordan Fuller, expectations were high for the team’s secondary. The unit is young and inexperienced, but the next men up have flashed some decent play on limited samples and boast the recruiting pedigree to continue to be among the best in college football. They haven’t been bad, but they also haven’t been as good as we initially had hoped for.

Shaun Wade has been up-and-down after his transition from the slot to the outside. In two of his five games played, Wade gave up over 100 yards in coverage. He did notch a nice pick-six against Indiana, but allowing 1.57 yards per coverage snap on the outside — the 17th-worst mark in the FBS — isn’t going to cut it. He and Sevyn Banks still have led the Buckeyes to rank 28th in PFF grade among all FBS teams’ outside corner rooms, but they have done so in a boom-or-bust fashion.

38. MIAMI (FL)

Bubba Bolden, a 2017 four-star recruit and a former USC Trojan, has finally seen substantial action in 2020 after playing just 154 since high school. And he owns the title of Miami’s highest-graded defensive back in coverage this season (70.5). Bolden is coming off a career day against Duke that got the attention of PFF Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner. He recorded an 84.2 coverage grade last week against the Blue Devils with four passing stops.

39. ARMY

Army has gotten tremendous play out of its defensive backs from slot coverage. The group ranks 15th in the FBS in slot coverage grade, helping them rank 37th in overall coverage grade.

Nov 21, 2020; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; Southern Miss Golden Eagles wide receiver Demarcus Jones (0) is tackled by UTSA Roadrunners linebacker Jamal Ligon (88) and safety Rashad Wisdom (0) in the second quarter at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

40. UTSA

Rashad Wisdom was the Roadrunners’ highest-graded defensive back in 2019 while playing predominantly in the slot, and he has maintained that status in 2020 as a safety. Wisdom has four interceptions on the season and leads FBS safeties in total passing stops, with 16.

41. OHIO

Ohio is one of those teams with only three games played, so this is still largely a projection. They have, however, been great in those three games with -0.29 expected points added allowed per pass play. That mark would rank third in the FBS, but remember, take that with a grain of salt due to a small sample size and a lack of formidable competition.

42. EAST CAROLINA

ECU’s best unit about this season has undoubtedly been its secondary. Led by Ja’Quan McMillian, who earned an 80.6 coverage grade in 2020, the Pirates rank third as a team in the FBS in outside coverage grade.

43. CALIFORNIA

Josh Drayden has perhaps been the most impressive defensive back for Cal in 2020. The fifth-year senior had been a key rotational piece throughout his first four years, but this season, he has been impressive as a slot corner. Drayden has recorded a 73.6 coverage grade in 2020, allowing a 28.1 passer rating on 20 targets in coverage. Camryn Bynum has been decent with a 71.9 PFF grade, and Elijah Hicks has transitioned from corner to safety well with an interception, a pass breakup and just three catches allowed.

Meanwhile, Chigozie Anusiem has been less than stellar in taking over Hicks’ cornerback job. He was great on a small sample in 2019 with seven forced incompletions on 24 targets, but that’s been far from the case in 2020. This year, Anusiem has allowed 11 catches on 13 targets for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

44. NEVADA

Cornerback Berdale Robins has been one of the biggest breakout players in the Mountain West Conference this season. Robins started only a few games in his collegiate career prior to being named a starter for 2020 but has made the most of his new role. His 75.0 PFF grade leads all cornerbacks in the conference.

45. PENN STATE

Safety Jaquan Brisker transferred to Penn State prior to last season from JUCO and ended up as the team’s secret superstar. This year, it’s well known that Brisker is one of the top defensive backs in the Big Ten. He is an explosive athlete, earning an 83.4 coverage grade in 2020 that ranks fifth in the Power Five.

46. LOUISVILLE

Marlon Character has started only a handful of Louisville’s 10 games this season, but he has been quite the surprise when on the field. Character’s 81.1 coverage grade this season is the best on the team, and he has made as many plays on the ball as catches allowed (seven each).

47. NEBRASKA

As was expected coming into the season, Jojo Domann is a force in the slot for the Cornhuskers. He ranked third in the Big Ten in 2019 in slot coverage grade and slots in at second this year. Domann has allowed just six first downs in the slot while forcing three incompletions and six passing stops.

48. FRESNO STATE

Cornerbacks Bralyn Lux and Wylan Free have been the top dogs within Fresno State’s unit, leading the team to ranking 25th in the FBS in expected points added allowed per pass play. Those two combined have the same amount of plays made on the ball as first downs allowed (10). It’s not common to see that out of a Group of Five duo.

49. COLORADO

Two key breakouts are the reasons for Colorado ranking at No. 49: Cornerback Mekhi Blackmon and safety Isaiah Lewis. Neither entered the season with significant starting experience, yet both have posted coverage grades above 78.0 while recording five pass breakups in four games.

50. NORTH CAROLINA

Storm Duck was one of the biggest breakout candidates entering the 2020 season. And through two games played, it seemed that prophecy would come true, as he allowed just four catches on 13 targets while recording four pass breakups. However, an injury unfortunately limited him to just those two games. The good news is that the Tar Heels have still been able to allow just a 41.3% successful pass play rate (31st) without Duck.

51. AUBURN

Auburn fields one of the top outside cornerback tandems in the Power Five so far in 2020. Roger McCreary and Nehemiah Pritchett have each earned PFF grades above 75.0, helping the Tigers rank 24th in the FBS in outside coverage grade. That’s nothing new for McCreary, who earned an 81.1 coverage grade in 2019, but it is for Pritchett, who entered the year with just 68 career snaps under his belt.

52. SAN JOSE STATE

Cornerback Nehemiah Shelton was a bit of a roller coaster in 2019 with eight combined pass breakups and interceptions but also 468 yards allowed on 285 coverage snaps. This year, though, he has settled down. Shelton has lowered his yards per coverage snap by over a full yard, with just 102 yards allowed on 196 coverage snaps, while surrendering no touchdowns and breaking up a couple of passes.

53. OREGON

Assuming we had a normal season in 2020, Oregon would easily house one of the best secondaries in college football. But due to COVID-19 concerns, their top two defensive backs — Thomas Graham Jr. and Jevon Holland — opted out of the season. True sophomore cornerback Mykael Wright has led this secondary so far through five games with more forced incompletions (six) than first downs allowed (five).

Deommodore Lenoir’s inconsistency from 2019 has somewhat carried over into 2020, but he has been good overall for the Ducks. Lenoir forced three incompletions and allowed one first down in his first two games, but in his past two games, he has no plays on the ball with five first downs allowed.

54. ARIZONA STATE

Despite the team playing just two games this season due to COVID-19, fifth-year senior Chase Lucas has looked solid. He entered 2020 with three years of starting experience but failed to reach a 70.0 coverage grade in any of those. Against USC and UCLA this year, he has posted a mark of 84.1. Again, take that with a grain of salt, as it has been just two games.

Oct 10, 2020; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack safety Jakeen Harris (6) celebrates with teammates while leaving the field after their game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

55. NC STATE

Led by Jakeen Harris, the Wolfpack have gotten strong play across the board out of their safeties. That group ranks ninth in coverage grade among all FBS safety units. Slot corner Tyler Baker-Williams has been a bit disappointing, though. He went from a 78.1 coverage grade in 2019 to a 55.7 mark this year.

56. BOSTON COLLEGE

Several offenses have tried to beat Boston College with the deep ball, but it hasn’t worked all that well. The Eagles have made nearly twice as many plays on the ball (28) as catches allowed (15) when targeted over 20 yards downfield, helping the team earn the sixth-best coverage grade in the FBS when defending such targets.

57. HAWAII

The Rainbow Warriors are tied for 35th in the FBS in successful pass rate allowed (42.4%), seeing quality play out of JUCO transfer Cameron Lockridge. He has a 79.3 coverage grade in his first season with Hawaii after allowing just six catches on 104 coverage snaps when playing wide corner.

58. HOUSTON

Marcus Jones was one of Troy’s best defensive backs in 2017 and 2018, and that has remained the case with his new team in 2020. Jones’ 82.0 coverage grade with Houston in 2020 is the third-best in the Group of Five.

59. GEORGIA SOUTHERN

Georgia Southern has one of the top coverage safeties in the Group of Five leading its secondary. Kenderick Duncan Jr. was a boom-or-bust player in 2019, but it’s been all boom in 2020. He has intercepted two passes and broken up another three en route to the 10th-best coverage grade among FBS safeties (84.7).

60. UTAH

Departures gutted Utah’s defense this offseason, as nearly the entire secondary made its way to the NFL ranks. However, things haven't been as bad as we expected. The Utes rank 40th in the FBS in EPA allowed per pass play at -0.04, though that should be taken with a grain of salt given that they have only played three games.

61. TOLEDO

Cornerback Samuel Womack and safety Tycen Anderson anchored this unit in 2019, which has remained the case in 2020. Womack has racked up an impressive seven pass breakups in five games. As for Anderson, he has made few mistakes this year en route to a coverage grade of 80.2.

62. VIRGINIA TECH

Virginia Tech was supposed to have one of college football’s best cornerback duos with Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller, but due to COVID-19 and injury, the Hokies were robbed of that. Farley opted-out due to COVID-19 concerns and to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft while Waller has played in just two games this year due to COVID and injury. However, Virginia Tech has seen safety Divine Deablo breakout this year — he has raised his coverage grade from 69.6 last year to 85.4 this season.

63. TENNESSEE

Slot corner Shawn Shamburger was one of Tennessee’s top players from 2019, but he has played in just a few games this season due to unknown reasons. And that’s where the Volunteers have struggled the most, as they rank 121st in the FBS in slot coverage grade.

64. BOISE STATE

Cornerback Jalen Walker might not have made a single play on the ball, but he has been stingy this season. He has allowed just 78 yards across five games and 144 coverage snaps. Overall, Boise State’s outside cornerback room has allowed only a 66.8 passer rating (17th in the FBS) and zero touchdowns on the year.

65. KANSAS STATE

There was some huge concern with how the Wildcats would hold up on the defensive side of the ball given the fact that their two starting cornerbacks early in the season, Ekow Boye-Doe and Justin Gardner, had little to no playing experience on their resume.

However, those two have ended up being the secondary's top performers and are big reasons why Kansas State is 17th in the FBS in outside coverage grade. Minnesota transfer Kiondre Thomas has also been in the mix there, and while he hasn’t been as great as those two, he has still been respectable, allowing under a yard per coverage snap.

66. FLORIDA STATE

Prior to declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft and leaving the team a few weeks ago, Asante Samuel Jr. was performing at a top level. Samuel earned an 82.8 coverage grade this season that ranked seventh in the FBS when he was still with the team (through Week 11). He’s going to be a hot commodity come April 2021.

67. AIR FORCE

It’s been a tale of two (small) halves for Air Force’s secondary this season. They have only played five games, but they have raised their coverage grade from 59.6 in their first three games to 76.0 over their last two. They also went from allowing a 119.3 passer rating to allowing a mark of only 58.7.

68. OREGON STATE

Former JUCO transfer Nahson Wright excelled down the stretch for the Beavers in his first year with the team in 2019 and has continued that hot stretch of play into 2020. Wright was the Pac 12’s third-highest-graded cornerback in his final four games of 2019, and this year is second in the conference in coverage grade at 80.5.

69. BALL STATE

The safety room led by Bryce Crosby has been great for Ball State this season. The Cardinals’ safeties rank 11th among the 127 FBS safety units in coverage grade in 2020. However, cornerbacks Amechi Uzodinma II and Antonio Phillips haven’t been as good as they were a season ago. Those two earned coverage grades of 71.7 and 81.1, respectively, and this year have lowered those marks to 59.4 and 63.8.

Nov 27, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; South Florida Bulls running back Darrian Felix (2) carries the ball against UCF Knights defensive back Derek Gainous (21) during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

70. UCF

Losing Tay Gowan, who opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns and to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft, has hurt this secondary quite a bit. Safety Antwan Collier was expected to lead this group after recording an 85.6 coverage grade in 2019, but he was shockingly bad. Collier recorded a 35.5 coverage grade in five games before getting dismissed from the team after an arrest.

On a more positive note, Derek Gainous has been great stepping into his role and has earned a 79.2 coverage grade this season. He forms a great safety tandem with Richie Grant, who has eight combined pass breakups and interceptions this season.

71. UCLA

Jay Shaw has been one positive for this UCLA secondary. He has raised his PFF grade from 62.7 last year to 71.1 this season and has allowed just a 37.7 passer rating in five starts. Keep in mind that it's still a relatively small sample, though.

72. RICE

Rice is fresh off an upset win over Marshall, and their coverage was a big reason why. They picked off Grant Wells five times (only two by the secondary) and allowed an FBS-best -0.74 EPA per pass play. Their defensive backs recorded a 76.1 coverage grade for that game. In their three games before that, though, things weren’t nearly as hot, with that same group ranking outside the top 100 in coverage grade, at 56.9.

73. TEXAS

Josh Thompson, a 2017 four-star recruit, hardly saw the field in his first three years as a Longhorn but was called on to be a starter at cornerback for the 2020 season.

Thompson got off to a hot start against UTEP with a 91.8 coverage grade and an interception. Since then, though, Thompson has been up and down throughout Big 12 play and has allowed a 101.1 passer rating over the course of the season. D’Shawn Jamison has been a bit more consistent, though still not great. Instead of improving after his first season as a starter in 2019, when he earned a 73.6 coverage grade, Jamison has taken a small step back with a 2020 coverage grade of 67.5.

74. DUKE

Michael Carter II has been quite impressive for the Blue Devils this season, considering he has played a significant role all over the secondary. He has played over 80 snaps in the box, slot and at outside corner and has racked up 10 combined pass breakups and interceptions en route to a 74.2 coverage grade. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Marquis Waters have been a bit disappointing, though. Waters, in particular, has been even more so, as his coverage grade this season sits at 59.9, well below his 2019 (75.9) and 2018 (86.6) seasons.

75. MICHIGAN

Things have been a little better for Michigan after getting peppered by Rocky Lombardi back in Week 9. The Wolverines’ secondary went from dead last in the Big Ten in coverage grade in the first two weeks of the season to fifth since then. There are still some inconsistencies, though, especially at outside corner. Gemon Green is starting at one of the outside spots for the first time in his career and has allowed an impressively low catch rate (39%) with good ball production (eight pass breakups). But when he has allowed a catch, it’s more often than not a huge play. Green has given up 19 catches that on average have resulted in a 15.4-yard gain.

76. MEMPHIS

Expectations were high for TJ Carter and this Memphis secondary, but they have fallen well short of those. Carter has been limited to only five games this season due to injury and has not played up to snuff when on the field. He has allowed 211 yards on 145 coverage snaps en route to a coverage grade of 55.1. In each of the three years prior to 2020, Carter earned coverage grades above 70.0. Granted, it’s a smaller sample with only five games played and we have no clue how much his injury has impacted him, but clearly it hasn’t been great.

77. MISSISSIPPI STATE

Martin Emerson has been a breakout player for Mississippi State this year and is really carrying this unit. He has posted an 83.6 coverage grade this season with under 40 yards allowed in every single game played, even against Alabama. Emerson hasn’t allowed a touchdown while breaking up nine passes.

78. LSU

LSU is like Ohio State in that the Tigers have the talent to easily be top 10 in these rankings, but they just have not played like it in 2020. Their outside cornerbacks, Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks, haven’t been the issue, though. Stingley has seen his 91.7 coverage grade from 2019 take a dip to 71.7 in 2020, but he is allowing fewer big plays in coverage with just 14 catches in seven starts. Ricks, a 2020 five-star, has quite easily been the best true freshman defensive back in the FBS. He has an 82.4 coverage grade on the year and is 17th in the FBS in yards per coverage snap on the outside (0.64).

Even with those two playing fairly well this season, LSU still ranks sixth-to-last in the FBS in passer rating allowed on targets 10-plus yards downfield (125.9). The secondary is also tied for dead last in yards per catch allowed (19.7). Stingley and Ricks clearly haven’t been responsible, but everyone else has — especially Cordale Flott, who has been tasked to man the slot this season.

Flott has taken some reps on the outside this year and looked pretty good. In fact, he has a 74.2 coverage grade when tasked with playing outside corner. But in the slot, Flott has gotten buttered week after week. He has allowed an FBS-worst 13.9 yards per target at the position with 20 catches for 388 yards and six touchdowns. Regardless of who has been playing in the slot, it’s been a liability for LSU. The team actually ranks 127th of the 127 FBS teams in slot coverage grade this season.

79. WYOMING

Wyoming’s top returning defensive back — and really their best player on the entire team — safety Rome Weber decided to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Considering that, Wyoming’s secondary hasn’t been too terribly bad. All four defensive backs with at least 100 coverage snaps have a coverage grade in the 60s. This isn’t spectacular, but it’s not a huge liability, either.

80. BAYLOR

Raleigh Texada has been a true lockdown corner on the outside for Baylor. He has a 78.2 coverage grade for the season and leads the FBS in yards per coverage snap allowed on the outside (0.33). The safeties are really the key reason why Baylor rings in at No. 80. That position group ranks 112th in the FBS in coverage grade.

81. MISSOURI

Mizzou has had to play young, inexperienced players at various places in their secondary. Some have excelled, some have not. Safety Martez Manuel has done a great job in his first starting role for the Tigers with a 72.7 coverage grade. Cornerback Ishmael Burdine has been the exact opposite as a rotational player on the outside with a 48.4 coverage grade and 140.5 passer rating allowed.

82. FIU

FIU’s secondary has no doubt been a bit disappointing this season. Safety Dorian Hall has been great with a 76.9 coverage grade, but he has taken a step back from his 2019 form when he posted a mark of 84.2. The big disappointments have been the Dames brothers, who have each regressed this season. Rishard took his coverage grade from 74.3 last year to 60.3 this year, while Richard has posted a mark of 55.1 that is over 30 grading points lower than his career-best coverage grade back in 2018 (88.6).

83. MARYLAND

The Terps have defended the deep ball fairly well this season but have struggled on short and intermediate targets. They rank first in the Big Ten in coverage grade defending targets over 20 yards downfield with just five catches allowed on 18 targets. Still, that makes up a small chunk of their total targets — and on non-deep ball targets they drop all the way down to second-to-last.

84. SOUTH ALABAMA

Safety Keith Gallmon has prevented the Jaguars from ranking any lower than they do here at 84. Wherever he is on the field, Gallmon has been top-notch in coverage, and that has helped him earn the best PFF grade at his position this year (87.6).

85. TULANE

Tulane has gotten tremendous play out of off-ball linebackers Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson. Those two lead the team in coverage grade at 88.9 and 77.4, but remember that we only are looking at the defensive backs. Things haven't been as pretty there. The Green Wave are tied for 114th in coverage grade at outside corner.

Nov 28, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Arizona Wildcats defensive back Christian Roland-Wallace (4) tackles UCLA Bruins wide receiver Kyle Philips (2) during a third-quarter running play at the Rose Bowl. Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

86. ARIZONA

Cornerbacks Christian Roland-Wallace and Lorenzo Burns haven’t shown that they have taken that next step as we had hoped, but they have still been good for Arizona. Burns has no ball production to speak of, but he hasn't allowed any big plays, either — his longest catch allowed in four games was a 10-yard gain. Roland-Wallace had a bad season-opener, allowing 106 yards to USC, but he still has managed a 70.1 coverage grade for the season. Despite those two being good (but not great), Arizona’s defensive backs still barely crack the top 100 in coverage grade.

87. KENT STATE

Elvis Hines has been the top defensive back for the Golden Flashes in 2020. He has allowed just 83 yards and a 34.4 passer rating in coverage manning one of the outside starting spots. The rest of the bunch has been suboptimal. Dean Clark and Montre Miller have played at outside corner along with Hines but have posted poor coverage grades in the low 50s.

88. STANFORD

Having no Paulson Adebo has hurt Stanford’s secondary immensely. The Cardinal has surrendered 0.26 EPA per pass this season, the 12th-worst figure in the FBS. There were some hopes of Kyu Blue Kelly taking a step forward this season after earning a 66.7 coverage grade in his true freshman year in 2019, but the opposite has happened. His coverage grade has been a poor 49.2 in three games, and he has allowed 12 of 15 targets to be caught for 149 yards and a touchdown.

89. SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina had one of college football’s top defensive backs — Jaycee Horn — but he decided to leave the team a few weeks ago to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. With or without him, this set of South Charolina safeties has been concerningly bad. Their safety room has the 12th-worst coverage grade in the entire FBS and has allowed the fifth-worst passer rating when targeted at 141.5.

90. FLORIDA

Florida has a College Football Playoff-worthy offense. But if anything is going to prevent them from knocking off the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game to get the CFP, it’s going to be the secondary.

First and foremost, true sophomore Kaiir Elam has been great. He shined as a reserve in his first collegiate season last year and has carried that into 2020. Elam is tied for sixth in the FBS in total pass breakups (eight) and has allowed the fifth-lowest catch rate among outside corners (36%). Everyone else for the Gators has been underwhelming, especially when covering the slot. Florida has the ninth-worst slot coverage grade in the entire FBS. And the coverage at the other outside spot opposite Elam has been poor. Marco Wilson and Jaydon Hill combined to allow a 130.1 passer rating at that spot.

91. TEXAS STATE

Cornerback Jarron Morris has made some impact plays with four interceptions and six pass breakups, but he has negated that with a whopping eight touchdowns allowed. He has been a boom-or-bust player to say the least, largely due to his size (5-foot-9, 158-pounds). But Texas State's their other defensive backs — Kevin Anderson, Zion Childress and DeJordan Mask — have been more bust. All three have coverage grades in the 50s.

92. SOUTHERN MISS

Southern Miss has had some extremely poor slot coverage this season. Their secondary ranks 103rd in the FBS in slot coverage grade and second-to-last in passer rating allowed to the slot at 142.9.

93. WESTERN MICHIGAN

Western Michigan has players all over the map so far this season. Safeties A.J. Thomas and Bricen Garner have been quality pieces in coverage with grades of 80.7 and 71.2. Safety Harrison Taylor, however, has not been good with a 37.9 coverage grade. When it comes to the outside corner play, that group unfortunately falls in the same category as Taylor by ranking 108th among the 127 FBS teams in outside coverage grade.

94. TEXAS TECH

Yes, Texas Tech has not been good in coverage, but they do have one of the top cornerbacks in the Big 12. Former Penn State Nittany Lion Zech McPhearson played well in his first season as a Red Raider in 2019 with a 74.1 coverage grade and has taken his play to new heights in 2020. There was a blip to start the season against Houston Baptist, as he posted a 38.5 coverage grade that game. That was clearly a concern — because it’s Houston Baptist — but McPhearson hasn’t had a performance like that since. Take that game out of the equation and McPhearson jumps to first in the FBS in coverage grade. His ability to completely eliminate any quick qame and the underneath route tree is a huge asset.

95. NORTH TEXAS

Cam Johnson has been mean in the slot for North Texas this season. He has earned an 80.1 slot coverage grade in 2020, which ranks seventh in the entire FBS. Everyone else, however, has not been good, and that has led the Mean Green to rank 117th in passing efficiency against this year.

96. NAVY

Covering the slot has been a big issue for Navy this season, which ranks 111th in the FBS in slot coverage grade. Cornerback Michael McMorris has been a positive for the Midshipmen, though. Manning an outside starting spot, McMorris has allowed 20 yards or less in all seven of his games played en route to a 75.3 coverage grade.

97. UTEP

UTEP’s secondary has allowed a whopping 128.8 passer rating in coverage this season, the third-worst mark in the FBS. Cornerback Duron Lowe was their top defensive back last season, and that has been no different this year. He has a 71.6 coverage grade in seven starts but has been prone to giving up at least one big play per game. In five of those seven starts, he has allowed at least on catch to result in a 25-yard gain.

98. MINNESOTA

Minnesota truly has disappointed in just about every facet of play this season with the biggest being their secondary. We had high hopes for their outside cornerback duo of Benjamin St-Juste and Coney Durr, but both have lowered their PFF grades from 2019 by over nine grading points. The tandem combined to allow a passer rating of 72.8 in coverage a year ago, but that has spiked this year to 131.0 (St-Juste has missed two games reportedly due to COVID-19). Sophomore Tyler Nubin took over Antoine Winfield Jr.’s role, and the drop-off in play has been steeper than expected. He hasn’t helped matters by recording a lowly 36.4 coverage grade this season with zero plays on the ball.

99. MIDDLE TENNESSEE

Safety Reed Blankenship was expected to lead this lowly unit this season, but his coverage performance has plummeted. He has started since his 2017 freshman campaign and earned coverage grades of 64.7, 73.0 and 77.6. Instead of continuing that trend upward, Blankenship has cut that mark in half in 2020 down to 37.8. The Blue Raiders have gotten strong play out of safety Gregory Grate Jr., who played outside corner in 2019. Grate has been a playmaker out there with four interceptions, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a 77.5 coverage grade.

100. WASHINGTON STATE

The biggest (and really only) positive within the Cougars’ secondary has been the play they've gotten out of JUCO transfer Jaylen Watson. He started at outside corner the first two games of the season and recorded a 72.4 coverage grade with 45 yards allowed and a pass breakup. Watson, however, was unable to play in their most recent contest against USC, and it was quite clear that they missed his absence. Derrick Langford got the starting nod as his replacement and allowed a couple of touchdowns en route to a 50.6 coverage grade.

101. LOUISIANA TECH

Louisiana Tech lost a boatload of key guys from last year’s 2019 10-win team, including their top two defensive backs Amik Robertson and L’Jarius Sneed. Safety Bee Jay Williamson was the only returning defensive back with ample playing time from that group, and he didn’t perform well at all last year (42.1 coverage grade). The Bulldogs needed him to improve, and he has done just that in 2020 by raising his coverage grade to 73.6.

The rest of the secondary, however, hasn’t provided much help, especially the outside corners, who have recorded the 12th-worst unit grade in the FBS.

102. NORTHERN ILLINOIS

Let’s start with the good: Northern Illinois may have found a diamond in the rough with true freshman safety Jordan Hansen. The former two-star recruit had few Division 1 offers in the bank before committing to the Huskies, so expectations were fairly low. Yet through four games, Hansen has been by far the top defensive back on the roster. His run-defense and tackling is a WIP, but we are looking solely at coverage performance, and he has been great there – an 87.0 coverage grade and a couple of picks in four games.

Now for the bad: Their play on the outside has been a borderline liability. Northern Illinois’ outside corners are giving up 11.2 yards per target, the sixth-worst in the FBS.

103. GEORGIA TECH

Entering the year there were some big concerns with Georgia Tech’s coverage unit outside of the safety duo of Juanyeh Thomas and Tariq Carpenter, but those two have surprisingly been the biggest issues. Those two earned coverage grades of 80.8 and 77.4, respectively, last season. This year, the duo have lowered those marks to 58.8 and 47.4.

104. SMU

The Mustangs got off to a hot start against low-level competition like Texas State and SFA, but things have since gone south. They have the eighth-worst coverage grade as a team over their last seven games.

105. ILLINOIS

The Illini have been among college football’s worst when defending the deep ball. In fact, they rank third-to-last in the FBS in deep coverage grade. Nate Hobbs was supposed to be the leader of this group after three strong seasons as a starter (coverage grades between 69.0 and 72.0 in each of those years), but the senior has struggled in 2020. He has allowed 28 of 32 targets to be caught for 341 yards en route to 118.9 passer rating allowed. That 87.5% catch rate allowed is the worst in the FBS among corners with 20 targets in coverage.

106. NEW MEXICO

One of the best players the Lobos have on their team is actually in the secondary. Safety Jerrick Reed II has been decent in his second year at New Mexico after coming over from JUCO with four interceptions, three pass breakups and a 74.1 coverage grade in six starts, but he can’t do it all himself. No other defensive back on the roster has a coverage grade above 60.0. That’s a problem.

107. KANSAS

The safety play has been brutal for the Jayhawks this season. Their unit combined has the sixth-lowest coverage grade in the entire FBS. On a more positive note, cornerbacks Karon Prunty and Elijah Jones have been surprisingly productive with 14 combined pass breakups on the year.

108. COLORADO STATE

Colorado State’s secondary has been the Marshaun Cameron show. The fifth-year senior and former Northern Colorado Bear has a 76.9 coverage grade in four games this season.

Outside of Cameron, things have not been great. Even with Cameron's standout play, the Rams still have the 11th-worst team coverage grade in the FBS.

109. OLE MISS

The Ole Miss offense has been rolling all year long under Lane Kiffin, but the secondary has been getting rolled on. Opposing offenses have recorded a 52% successful pass rate this season against Ole Miss, tying for the eighth-worst in the FBS. It’s not easy facing offenses like Florida and Alabama, but allowing a 75% catch rate — the third-worst rate in the FBS — is unacceptable.

110. USF

USF might be the biggest disappointment on this list. The Bulls returned three defensive backs who had excellent track records playing in their secondary — K.J. Sails, Mike Hampton and Nick Roberts — but all three took a step back. Roberts' coverage grade went from 85.4 in 2019 to 41.8 in 2020. He was a playmaker all over the field last year and constantly blew up plays underneath in the slot. In six games this year, Roberts looked like a completely different player and was far from productive with zero plays on the ball. He actually got benched in USF’s game against Tulsa for unknown reasons and was off the team a few days later.

Nov 21, 2020; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara (12) throws the ball against Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back Avery Young (2) and linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi (3) during the first half at SHI Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

111. RUTGERS

Cornerback Avery Young has been a breakout player for the Scarlet Knights this season. His coverage grade has jumped over 16 grading points from last year to 77.2. Young allowed under 40 yards in coverage in all seven games played and gave up only two explosive plays of 15-plus yards.

The safety play, however, has been extremely bad. Rutgers’ safeties have combined for the second-worst coverage grade in the FBS.

112. BUFFALO

The Bulls have one of the top off-ball linebackers in the Group of 5 with Kadofi Wright (92.0 coverage grade), but we are looking solely at the secondary in this article, where things have not been great for Buffalo. Their outside corners in particular rank sixth-to-last in the FBS in coverage grade.

113. PURDUE

Opposing quarterbacks have found a lot of success targeting the Boilermakers’ outside cornerbacks this season. That group has allowed the ninth-worst passer rating on their targets in coverage in the FBS at 124.8.

114. VIRGINIA

Virginia’s secondary has been pretty underwhelming and boom-or-bust as a whole this season. Their outside cornerbacks in particular have given up far too many big plays. That unit has allowed 12.5 yards per target this season, by far the worst in the Power 5. The Cavaliers’ secondary as a whole ranks fifth-to-last in the FBS in team coverage grade. It doesn’t help matters that their best defensive back — safety Joey Blount — has been limited to only four games this season due to injury.

115. CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Central Michigan has been allowing big plays nonstop this season. On average, their secondary is giving up an FBS-worst 19.7 yards per catch this season. The Chips are also second-to-last in explosive pass rate allowed. That’s just not sustainable.

116. MIAMI (OH.)

Miami has played in only three games this season, but the coverage unit has been abysmal. Cornerback Emmanuel Rugamba and safety Sterling Weatherford, who were the team’s two highest-graded returning defensive backs and by far their best returners on the defensive side of the ball, have been the biggest disappointments. Rugamba recorded a 76.6 coverage grade in 2019, while Weatherford was one of the biggest playmaking safeties in the Group of 5 and earned an 85.2 coverage grade. This year, those two have each seen their coverage grades drop below 50.0.

117. EASTERN MICHIGAN

Eastern Michigan has allowed a successful pass play at the fifth-worst rate in the FBS this season at 53%. They play quarters as much as any team in the entire country, and they have continuously gotten exposed in that coverage this season.

118. UNLV

UNLV has had two young and inexperienced players — Sir Oliver Everett and Nohl Williams — manning their outside corner spots, and it has not gone well to say the least. The Rebels rank 119th in outside coverage grade this season.

119. CHARLOTTE

Safety Ben DeLuca has bounced right back to his normal self this season after missing most of the 2019 season due to injury. The fifth-year senior earned PFF grades of 75.7, 84.7 and 85.0 in his first three seasons playing for the 49ers, and in his return from injury this season he's recorded an 82.4 PFF grade. Outside of DeLuca, however, things go south, as he is the only defensive back with a coverage grade above 60.0.

Oct 31, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Elijah Moore (8) catches a touchdown pass behind coverage from Vanderbilt Commodores cornerback Jaylen Mahoney (23) during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

120. VANDERBILT

There were some hopes Jaylen Mahoney would help bring some life to this poor group in 2020 after shining as a true freshman, but that unfortunately has not been the case for the Commodores. Mahoney earned a 74.0 coverage grade while manning the slot on a part-time basis in 2019, and he has lowered that mark this season to 57.8. Even worse, that’s the highest grade among the four corners with at least 100 coverage snaps. On throws of 10 or more yards downfield, Vandy as a group ranks dead last in catch rate (62.1%), forced incompletion rate (6.9%) and passer rating allowed (140.7).

121. UMASS

The Minutemen’s starting two outside corners — Josh Wallace and Noah Boykin — actually haven’t been terrible this year. They have been arguably their two best players on either side of the ball with nine combined pass breakups and 174 yards allowed in four games en route to PFF grades just above 68.0. Their ranking here at 121 just goes to show how bad the rest of the group has been.

122. UTAH STATE

Starting corner Cam Lampkin has been a key reason for Utah State’s coverage struggles. He has allowed 27 of 35 targets to be caught for 359 yards and four touchdowns in just five games. The group as a whole has lacked playmaking: they have just two interceptions and as a team have the fifth-lowest forced incompletion rate in the FBS.

123. BOWLING GREEN

Bowling Green has lost by four scores in all five of their games this season, and the secondary is among the many reasons why. They are the lone team in the FBS without an interception or dropped interception and have allowed the third-worst passer rating in the FBS this season at 126.6.

124. ARK STATE

Ark State has been routinely picked apart by the opposition’s deep ball this season. They have allowed 17 touchdowns on throws over 20-yards downfield, five more than any other team in the FBS. That’s not due to game volume either – of their 11 games played, they have given up multiple deep passing touchdowns in over half of those games.

125. TEMPLE

Temple has allowed an explosive pass play of 15 or more yards at an FBS-worst rate of 20.7%. In each of their last five games from Weeks 8 through 12, the Owls gave up multiple explosive touchdown passes.

126. AKRON

Outside coverage is the key reason why Akron sits all the way down here. They rank dead last in EPA per target to the outside and have given up the second-worst passer rating on those same plays at 141.4.

127. UL-MONROE

All but one defensive back on the Warhawks’ roster has recorded a coverage grade below 55.0 this season (the lone DB above that is not much better at 63.2). UL-Monroe as a team has a coverage grade of 27.9. Not only is that the worst of the 2020 season, but it’s on pace to be the worst single-season team coverage grade in the PFF College era.

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