The regional portion of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour is over, wrapping up in Chicago and totaling 15 events around the country. Rivals.com breaks down the best of the best at each position with a look at the defensive side of the ball this week, as well as the athletes. Led by Jalen Tabor, who dominated at the Richmond RCS, here's the list of defensive backs.
(Note: The following list does not necessarily reflect future changes in prospect rankings; it is based only on performances at regional Rivals Camp Series events. Many other factors and events will be taken into account before updated rankings are revealed the week of May 20. This list is for the class of 2014 only. Underclassmen will be listed separately.)
RIVALS CAMP SERIES TOP DEFENSIVE BACKS
1. DB Jalen Tabor, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
It's hard to say enough good things about Tabor. At the Richmond RCS event, Tabor may have only let up one completion. He was aggressive in press coverage and didn't let receivers get any separation. In off coverage, Tabor showed great patience and was very explosive when driving on the pass, anticipating very well and intercepting more than a few passes.
Pickett was exceptionally good at the RCS Los Angeles event. He worked hard in drills, showed great footwork, has outstanding size and did not get beaten once in one-on-ones. We also liked that the four-star prospect jumped to the front of the line whenever possible and wanted to go against the top receivers. Pickett was the top CB in Los Angeles and there was no doubt about it.
Parrish stole the show at the RCS Atlanta stop, winning the defensive skill MVP against a very deep pool of talent. He spent most of his junior year playing safety, but he thrived as a corner at the camp, recording multiple interceptions and pass breakups. Since his showing at the camp, a pretty good recruiting battle for his services has developed between Georgia Tech and Georgia.
Blanding could have been higher on this list if he had taken more reps at the Richmond RCS. A minor injury shortened his day, but Blanding still had time to show why he is a five-star and the top-ranked safety prospect in the country. The Virginia Cavaliers can look forward to having one of the best safeties to come out of high school in recent years. Blanding's size, speed, athleticism and instincts make it nearly impossible for a receiver to beat him.
Wilson snagged defensive skill MVP honors with a stellar showing at the RCS Miami. The Rivals250 cornerback has great reach and length to excel in man-to-man coverage. He had a nice pass break-up in one-on-ones, showing great recovery speed while in trail technique to make a play on the ball. We like his ability in press coverage because of his size and jamming power when striking receivers off the line of scrimmage.
The knock on Roberts has been his size and while he is on the small side, he showed he would take on anyone while being very physical. He showed great confidence on the day with his fancy footwork, his physicality off the line, and his elite speed to make up for mistakes. Roberts entered the RCS Houston as a hot prospect looking hard at Alabama, Texas A&M and Texas. He recently committed to the Longhorns this past April.
Adams has had better days than he had at the RCS Dallas, but he was still right there in the mix for defensive skill MVP honors. He took on anyone who was up for the challenge, and got the best of top wide receiver KD Cannon a few times. He took a few lumps here and there, but overall, he showed the athletic ability and the skill to play all over the secondary. Adams continues to be one of the most valued prospects in the country and is keeping his options open.
It was an unexpected defensive skill MVP win for Saxton in a deep group of defensive backs at the Cincinnati RCS. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound cornerback beat out higher-rated prospects for the title after a performance in which he got his hands on nearly every one-on-one repetition he defended. It capped off a week that also saw him commit to the Duke Blue Devils.
When it comes to safety prospects, Dylan Sumner-Gardner is one of the best in the country. At the RCS Dallas event, Sumner-Gardner was comfortable in one-on-ones while showing off his footwork, change of direction, and explosion. He committed to Texas A&M in early March.
A Rivals100 prospect, Webb showed up and had a solid performance at the Cincinnati RCS. Webb did not come away with as many "wow" plays as the MVP, Alonzo Saxton, but he was in the hip pocket of receivers throughout the day. The Ohio State commit also possesses good size for the position at 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds.
From what we saw on tape, we liked Hampton's ability as a hard-hitting, back-end defender, so we wanted to see how he would fair in coverage at the RCS Birmingham. Hampton was able to flip his hips and stay in the hip pocket of his man downfield. He has great range and constantly finished plays by trying to knock the ball to the ground.
The discussion on whether the 5-foot-11, 196-pound West could potentially play cornerback in college continued after his showing at the Cincinnati RCS. West is naturally a free safety, but his coverage skills compare favorably with Division I cornerback prospects. His stock was high coming into Cincinnati, and he has added six offers since the camp.
After adding 20 pounds to his frame since the end of last season, Willis has transformed from a safety into a linebacker. That is where he lined up at the Pittsburgh RCS when he took home defensive skill MVP honors. Now at 6-foot and 209 pounds, Willis still maintains his defensive back coverage skills, but now has the size to battle in the front seven.
Payne is a pure cover corner who will be in the hip pocket of a receiver, regardless of the route. A Tennessee commit, Payne was very strong and physical in press coverage and showed good leaping ability, athleticism and competitiveness at the Richmond RCS. The only thing that could hold Payne back is his height. He is only 5-foot-9, which could be very difficult for Payne to overcome in the SEC.
Dawson is aggressive in the short area and against intermediate routes. He has the build of a safety, but the instincts of a corner. We saw him make a nice interception and a couple of pass breakups down in Orlando at the RCS. At times, Dawson got challenged vertically and will need to show better top-end speed to be left on an island in man coverage.
Checking in as the top defensive back performer at the Pittsburgh RCS, the 6-foot, 181-pound Smith cruised through position drills. He earned high praise from the defensive back coaches and was impressive in dropping down into a cornerback role during one-on-ones. The Rivals250 prospect is well into double-digit offer territory, but he is still far from a decision.
Cason set a new precedent by attending three Rivals Camp Series events -- Atlanta, Cincinnati and Chicago -- and finishing among the top defensive performers at each event. At 6-foot and 181 pounds, Cason is a big cornerback who can be physical, but also has the agility and speed to cover down the field. He has several MAC offers, but continues to wait on his first BCS offer.
Safeties usually have a hard time in the one-on-one camp setting, but Hester more than held his own at the Newark RCS. At 6-foot, 201 pounds, Hester has clearly been spending time at the gym because he was a lot bigger than he was last season. As a safety, Hester did not have the change of direction speed of a cornerback, but he was very explosive when breaking on the ball and rarely let a receiver get behind him.
We knew a camp setting was not going to feature Ballew's best traits, but we were surprised at how well he did fare at the Cincinnati RCS. Maybe most impressive was how physically imposing the four-star safety looked, measuring in at 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds. A Louisville commit, Ballew does not have the natural fluidity to cover man-to-man, but he still seems to always be around the football.
Smith is likely a safety at the next level, but he showed he's more than comfortable lining up at cornerback after an excellent performance during one-on-ones at RCS Atlanta. He knows how to play the ball well, and knows how to maintain leverage in coverage down the field. Smith committed to Vanderbilt back in March, but Tennessee hasn't stopped recruiting him up to this point. It could set up for an interesting in-state recruiting battle down the stretch.
Before Tucker was reeling in numerous offers during the spring evaluation period, he was earning a top performer nod at the RCS Atlanta. He's still slight, but he knows how to play the cornerback position well. Once he adds some muscle to his frame, Tucker has the potential to be a lock down defender. He currently has offers from Florida, Ohio State, Tennessee and several other schools, but insists he's keeping things open for now.
Austin was another one of the standout defenders at the RCS Atlanta stop, showing great coverage skills during one-on-ones. He's a savvy player who knows how to use a wide receiver's momentum against them, as well as undercut routes on a consistent basis. Austin has several early offers, with his most notable being courtesy of South Carolina.
Hunt has grown into the linebacker spot, but he played defensive back at the RCS camp stop in Phoenix. The fact that he was outstanding there says something. Hunt has retained his quickness, despite adding significant size and strength. He could shine in a hybrid role at college. Despite being thick, Hunt has great range and the speed and instincts to cover the middle of the field.
24. DB Al Harris, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
The son of former NFL defensive back Al Harris Sr. is as feisty as they come. Harris Jr. recorded a pair of interceptions during the one-on-one period at the South Florida stop of the RCS tour in Miami. We liked his physicality in press, but he will need to be careful of his hands while the ball is in the air. Overall, he has the tools to be a good cover guy along with a solid pedigree to boot.
Roberts was one of the best-looking corners we saw in person at the RCS. In Birmingham, the three-star defender turned in an outstanding performance from the secondary. He collected a couple of interceptions while jumping an out route and undercutting a pass. When he wasn't picking off the ball, Roberts was deflecting passes and making life tough for the receivers.
Alexander really wanted to make it to the RCS Houston, but he was unable to attend due to track. He did, however, make it to the RCS Birmingham, where he quickly made his presence felt. Alexander showed his lockdown cover abilities and was able to stick step-for-step with most receivers at the event. The offers continue to roll in for Alexander, who now has somewhere around 30 offers and remains open.
27. DB Zach Muniz, St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Brothers College High
Muniz doesn't wow anyone in warmups, as he possesses just average size. Then people see him play. His wingspan is surprising for a player of his stature. He's rangy and has enough speed to erase any mistakes he makes in coverage. He was the defensive skill MVP of the RCS stop in St. Louis for a reason as he locked down every defender he faced. Muniz defeated No. 1-ranked wide receiver Allen Lazard on two separate occasions.
At the Richmond RCS, Allen's big, long frame made it very difficult for receivers to get open. Allen, a recent Penn State commit, was very physical at the line in press coverage and looked good in his back pedal. He doesn't have a ton of speed or explosiveness, so he could see some time at linebacker if he fills out his frame.
Springs is an athletic freak who tests off the charts. There were questions about his footwork and his hips, with most projecting him as a safety. However, at the RCS Houston event, Springs showed improved footwork and cover skills, which got the attention of college coaches from coast-to-coast. He says he has an idea about his schools, but he is keeping his options open at this point.
Peart wasn't a big name going into the Newark RCS, but he really made a name for himself. The 5-foot-10, 172-pound Peart has very good length and he used that to his advantage, bringing in one of the day's most impressive interceptions. He had very good speed to go along with that length, which made it very difficult for receivers to get open.
Tucker is a very athletic and competitive defensive back who could play safety or cornerback. He is a very smooth runner and is very explosive when breaking on the ball. He made sure to get multiple reps against the top wide receivers at the Newark RCS. Some of Tucker's offers are for the offensive side of the ball, and he clearly has the athletic ability to see time there.
Taylor was the main reason Rivals100 wide receiver Allen Lazard finished second in the offensive skill MVP voting at the St. Louis RCS. Lazard had few problems with any other defensive backs on the day, but Taylor broke up each pass in their three head-to-head meetings. That's pretty impressive considering the 5-foot-10, 181-pound Missouri commit is a safety prospect.
Manning never gives up an inch. He is great with his hands at the line of scrimmage and then never bites on any double moves by wide receivers. The Rancho Cucamonga recruit didn't get a huge opportunity last season because his team's defensive backfield was loaded, but Manning can play at a high level and he proved it at the RCS Los Angeles.
Lewis came into the RCS Atlanta stop under the radar, but he made himself known during one-on-ones. He did a nice job at one of the hardest aspects for a defensive back at camp events, defending quick slants over the middle. Lewis committed early to Vanderbilt and the Commodores might have found a nice prospect before many of their SEC rivals.
Much like his twin brother Lawrence, Austin turned in an excellent showing at RCS Atlanta. He won the favor of the camp's coaches by listening and taking instruction and then using it in successive drills. He still needs to be a little more opportunistic when balls come his way in terms of interceptions, but he's very good at batting balls down. South Carolina is his most significant offer to date.
Green showed his coverage skills at RCS Atlanta, despite being slight of build compared to some of his offensive counterparts. He has good length, which helps him when the ball is in the air, as well as good closing speed. He has offers from several programs, with Tennessee, South Carolina and Clemson among his early favorites.
Watts-Jackson went into the Chicago RCS with only a small sampling of colleges showing him attention. However, the Orchard Lake St. Mary's product outperformed several more heavily recruited prospects at the event. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Watts-Jackson has good size for the position and showed tremendous ball skills. Eastern Michigan and Idaho have offered, but he could be setting up for a big summer.
Although Carr measured in at 5-foot-10 and 168 pounds, he plays longer than that and had his hands on passes all day long at the St. Louis RCS. Carr showed a great break on the football and strong coverage instincts. His only offers coming into the event were from North Dakota, South Dakota and South Dakota State.
Simpson gets overshadowed by his four-star defensive back teammates Erick Smith and Marshon Lattimore, but the 5-foot-10, 170-pound prospect started to carve out his own attention at the Pittsburgh RCS. Simpson used his long arms and rangy coverage skills to get his hands on passes throughout the day, grabbing several interceptions in the process.
Woodard is undersized for his position, but it doesn't seem to hurt him in one-on-one coverage. He's always in the hip pocket of receivers and he's very active with his hands, causing problems once the ball is thrown. He showed that once again at the RCS Los Angeles.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound James is a little undersized for the cornerback position, but he makes up for it with outstanding straight-line speed. Wide receivers at the St. Louis RCS were not running by him, but he struggled in the physical aspects of the position. The downstate Illinois prospect is currently looking at five BCS offers.
Beggs is an aggressive, tough, hard-nosed safety who would do anything to make a play. He's not the most athletic player ever, but he makes up for it with hard work and smarts. That's why he made so many plays all day at the RCS Los Angeles.