Spring football has begun and will be in full swing across the country soon. This leads to a look at the top 10 players returning at each position, continuing today with the safeties.
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info for 2022 series
1. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Arguably the most versatile defensive back in the country, Johnson plays a ton in the slot as well as at a more traditional free safety position. But no matter where he lines up he’s dominant. He’s got a great frame at 6-foot-3, and he is one of the best tacklers at the position.
2. Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame
The Northwestern transfer was the best in the country in 2020, when he had six interceptions in only eight games. He’ll replace Kyle Hamilton in the Fighting Irish’s defensive backfield, where he’ll be expected to shine as the next in a long line of great safeties in South Bend.
3. Jordan Battle, Alabama
Battle was the No. 2 safety recruit and No. 37 overall in the 2019 class, and he’s been a strong player for Alabama since he got to campus. Last year, he earned the second-highest rating among all FBS safeties per PFF, so it was a bit of a surprise that he decided to come back for his senior season.
4. Tykee Smith, Georgia
After transferring from West Virginia before the start of last season, Smith had to sit the season out due to injury. However, back in 2020, he was arguably the best safety in the country playing for the Mountaineers. Now fully healthy entering 2022, he should once again be one of the best in the nation.
5. Andrew Mukuba, Clemson
One of the best true freshmen in the country at any position last year, Mukuba stepped right in for Clemson and was an impact player. He was equally effective against the run and the pass, and he should only get better after having a full offseason of strength and conditioning program under his belt.
6. Jalen Catalon, Arkansas
Another guy who struggled with injuries in 2021 but was fantastic in 2020, Catalon should be the anchor of an Arkansas defense that should once again be well above average. Two seasons ago, he had 99 tackles, three picks (including a pick six), and the second-highest PFF grade among all SEC safeties.
7. Isheem Young, Ole Miss
Young patrolled center field for Iowa State over the past two seasons at a very high level. He’s going to be key to Ole Miss‘ defense this year, as he’s a playmaker who has forced eight turnovers in the last two years.
8. Calen Bullock, USC
Another true freshman who shined in 2021, he’s got huge upside for the Trojans. The former Rivals150 prospect has great instincts, a long frame and should be the top safety in the Pac-12 in 2022.
9. Malachi Moore, Alabama
The 2020 Rivals250 member had some ups and downs in 2021, but he showed in his true freshman season when the Tide won the title that he can be a versatile piece. Like Johnson, he plays a lot in the slot as well as further back from the line of scrimmage and is equally adept at both.
10. Christopher Smith, Georgia
Smith and Lewis Cine partnered to form one of the country’s top safety duos in 2021, helping lead the Dawgs to their national title run. Smith proved to be among the most reliable players in the nation.