We continue our breakdown of the nation's best players at each position with a look at cornerbacks.
If you want to see good cornerback play this fall, head South. The ACC has four of the nation's top 13 corners and the SEC four of the top 15. There's a Conference USA player among the top 12, as well.
"Best" doesn't necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most talent. Instead, it's a mix of what the player has accomplished and how we think the player will do this season. But production does trump potential.
We will look at a position a day until Monday, when we rank all 120 of the nation's quarterbacks. Thursday, we will look at safeties. Here are the cornerback rankings.
20. LEON McFADDEN, SAN DIEGO STATE THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/185, Jr.; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
THE BUZZ: In his first full season as a starter in 2010, McFadden finished with two picks, 12 pass breakups and 55 tackles. He led the Mountain West in pass breakups. McFadden also had seven tackles for loss and can be an effective blitzer.
19. SHELDON PRICE, UCLA THE PARTICULARS: 6-2/180, Jr.; La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat
THE BUZZ: Price's sophomore season was limited by injury, but he still finished with seven pass breakups. He's also proven to be a sure tackler (48 stops as a freshman) when teams target his side of the field. He has excellent size and can run, and coaches expect a breakout season this fall.
18. BLIDI WREH-WILSON, CONNECTICUT THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/192, Jr.; Edinboro (Pa.) General McLane
THE BUZZ: Wreh-Wilson has been the primary example of Connecticut's improving secondary over the past two seasons. He started and had a somewhat bumpy ride as a redshirt freshman in 2009. Last season, though, he was one of the best corners in the Big East and had four interceptions (returning two for touchdowns), five pass breakups and 57 tackles.
17. ANTHONY WRIGHT, AIR FORCE THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/200, Sr.; Cleveland Maple Heights
THE BUZZ: Wright's production slipped a bit last season (two interceptions), but after he intercepted seven passes as a sophomore, opposing quarterbacks often avoided his side of the field. Air Force was 10th in the country in pass efficiency defense last season, and Wright was a big reason. He has 10 career picks, tied for second-most among active players.
16. DEMONTRE HURST, OKLAHOMA THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/181, Jr.; Lancaster (Texas) High
THE BUZZ: In his first season as a starter, the Sooners had one of the best pass defenses in the Big 12. Only Nebraska held opposing quarterbacks to a lower efficiency rating. Hurst finished the season with one interception and 11 pass breakups, and added 50 tackles, four tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
15. STEPHON GILMORE, SOUTH CAROLINA THE PARTICULARS: 6-1/188, Jr.; Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe
THE BUZZ: The moment Gilmore stepped on campus, he was a starter. Look for him to assume more of a leadership role this fall. He led the Gamecocks with 76 tackles and also had three interceptions, two pass breakups, three sacks and a forced fumble.
14. D'ANTON LYNN, PENN STATE THE PARTICULARS: 6-1/208, Sr.; Celina (Texas) High
THE BUZZ: After earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two season, Lynn is ready to stake his claim as one of the Big Ten's top corners. He has started 26 career games, tying for the team lead in interceptions last season with three. Lynn -- whose dad, Anthony, won two Super Bowl rings as a running back with the Denver Broncos -- is an instinctive athlete who rarely is out of position and is equally adept in coverage as he is in run support.
13. GREG REID, FLORIDA STATE THE PARTICULARS: 5-8/186, Jr.; Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes County
THE BUZZ: Reid transitioned from being a nickel back in 2009 to a starter in 2010 and became a star at the boundary corner spot. He forms an excellent cornerback tandem with Xavier Rhodes. Reid had three interceptions, 14 pass breakups and three forced fumbles last season.
12. JOSH ROBINSON, UCF THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/192, Jr.; Plantation (Fla.) High
THE BUZZ: He was an all-state cornerback in high school in the Fort Lauderdale area and is heading into his third season as a starter. A strong and fast cover man, Robinson earned first-team All-C-USA honors in 2010. He notched 59 tackles, picked off two passes and recorded a team-high 13 pass breakups last season. He has eight picks and 21 pass breakups in his career.
11. MORRIS CLAIBORNE, LSU THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/185, Jr.; Shreveport (La.) Fair Park
THE BUZZ: LSU lost star CB Patrick Peterson to the NFL a year early, but Claiborne should make sure the Tigers don't miss Peterson all that much. Last season, Claiborne led the team in interceptions (five) and added six pass breakups. He possesses a solid combination of speed and shutdown skills.
10. DRE KIRKPATRICK, ALABAMA THE PARTICULARS: 6-3/192, Jr.; Gadsden (Ala.) Gadsden City
THE BUZZ: After a sometimes-rough freshman season, Kirkpatrick last season started to flash the talent that made him a five-star recruit. He had 53 tackles, three picks, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble in 2010. He has great size and good speed, and Alabama coaches expect him to be a shutdown-type corner. Kirkpatrick, who had 17 interceptions in his three-year prep career, is one of four returning starters in the Tide's secondary.
9. CASEY HAYWARD, VANDERBILT THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/185, Sr.; Perry (Ga.) High
THE BUZZ: Hayward is heading into his third season as a starter and is coming off his best season. He had 70 tackles, six interceptions, 11 pass breakups and a forced fumble last season; he was tied for fifth in the nation in interceptions, and the 11 breakups led the SEC. In his career, he has eight picks and 21 pass breakups.
8. SHAUN PRATER, IOWA THE PARTICULARS: 5-11/180, Sr.; Omaha (Neb.) Central
THE BUZZ: He was a consensus All-Big Ten selection last fall after ranking second in the conference in interceptions (four) and seventh in pass breakups (six). A quick and physical player who contemplated turning pro, Prater excels in man coverage as well as zone schemes. He will form a strong cornerback tandem with Micah Hyde, providing leadership on a defense that returns just three starters.
7. XAVIER RHODES, FLORIDA STATE THE PARTICULARS: 6-2/205, Soph.; Miami Norland
THE BUZZ: Rhodes' emergence in the secondary helped Florida State's defense improve as much as just about any unit in the nation last season. Rhodes, who has excellent size and good speed, had four interceptions, 12 pass breakups and two sacks as a redshirt freshman last season to earn ACC defensive rookie of the year honors. Rhodes led all freshmen nationally in pass breakups and also was solid in run support.
6. CLIFF HARRIS, OREGON THE PARTICULARS: 5-11/165, Jr.; Fresno (Calif.) Edison
THE BUZZ: Harris' status for the opener is in limbo because of an indefinite suspension. He had six interceptions last season, which led the Pac-10, including two against Stanford's Andrew Luck and one each against USC's Matt Barkley and Auburn's Cam Newton. Harris, who has excellent speed and good ball skills, also had 17 pass breakups.
5. CORYELL JUDIE, TEXAS A&M THE PARTICULARS: 5-11/188, Sr.; Fort Scott (Kan.) CC, preceded by Marlin (Texas) High
THE BUZZ: Athletic cornerbacks with the ability to cover man-to-man are vital to A&M's trademark blitzing defense. But that had been an area of concern for almost a decade until Judie stepped in last season. He became A&M's first all-conference cornerback since Sammy Davis in 2002 while grabbing four interceptions and breaking up eight passes. His role as a lockdown corner also was a contributing factor in A&M posting 30 sacks.
4. KEITH TANDY, WEST VIRGINIA THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/198, Sr.; Hopkinsville (Ky.) Christian County
THE BUZZ: Brandon Hogan entered last season with more fanfare among the West Virginia cornerbacks, but Tandy was better. He might be the top returning defensive player in the Big East this season. Tandy finished the 2010 season with six interceptions and 11 pass breakups for a unit that led the league in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and sacks. He was a highly productive passing quarterback in high school.
3. ALFONZO DENNARD, NEBRASKA THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/205, Sr.; Rochelle (Ga.) Wilcox County
THE BUZZ: Look for him finally to get his due with the departure of Prince Amukamara. The premier cornerback in the Big Ten, Dennard is a dynamic combination of quickness and leaping ability, which makes him an exceptional cover man. The Huskers also need Dennard to be a leader, as the secondary lost five seniors. Dennard had four interceptions and seven pass breakups last season, and he has 15 breakups in the past two seasons.
2. CHASE MINNIFIELD, VIRGINIA THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/185, Sr.; Lexington (Ky.) Henry Clay
THE BUZZ: Minnifield is named after Chase Manhattan Bank, and he's certainly a money player for Virginia. His two interceptions sparked the Cavs to an upset of Miami last season. Minnifield finished 2010 with six picks to continue a family tradition of ball-hawking defensive backs: He is the son of Frank Minnifield, a former Pro Bowl corner with the Cleveland Browns. Minnifield has 10 picks, 10 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries in his career.
1. JAYRON HOSLEY, VIRGINIA TECH THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/170, Jr.; Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic
THE BUZZ: Hosley is the latest in a long line of outstanding Virginia Tech cornerbacks. Hosley led the nation with nine interceptions last season, and he picked off three passes to help Virginia Tech rally in a 41-30 victory over NC State. Hosley had a two-interception game in a 26-10 triumph over North Carolina. He added 39 tackles and eight pass breakups last season.
Rankings and player capsules compiled by Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.