College football’s awards season will culminate with Saturday’s presentation of the Heisman Trophy which, as usual, will go to a quarterback (Clemson’s Deshaun Watson) or a running back (Alabama’s Derrick Henry; Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey).
In the days leading up to that ceremony, however, defensive backs across the country are getting their share of accolades.
Iowa junior cornerback Desmond King claimed the biggest prize, winning the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. King recorded 67 tackles, 12 pass breakups and eight interceptions this season for the Hawkeyes, who were undefeated before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. Iowa will play Stanford in the Rose Bowl. King beat out Thorpe finalists Jeremy Cash (Duke) and Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida).
USA Today and Sports Illustrated released its All-America teams this week.
King and Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) are first-team cornerbacks, and Cash a first-team safety, for both publications. USA Today picked Marcus Maye (Florida) for the other safety position, while SI picked Vonn Bell (Ohio State).
Kansas State cornerback Morgan Burns was USA Today’s kick-return specialist for its first team, while Tennessee CB Evan Berry was SI’s first-team kick returner.
The USA Today second team All-America secondary includes Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey, San Diego State safety Damontae Kazee and Virginia safety Quin Blanding.
The SI second team All-America secondary consists of Hargreaves and Ramsey at cornerback, and Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) and Jayron Kearse (Clemson) at safety.
Maryland cornerback Will Likely is the kick returner for each publication’s All-America second team.
SI’s honorable mention defensive backs include Blanding, Kazee, Maye, Sanchez, Jamal Adams (LSU), Mackensie Alexander (Clemson), Trae Elston (Ole Miss), Eddie Jackson (Alabama), Derwin James (Florida State), Karl Joseph (West Virginia), Derrick Kindred (TCU), Shawun Lurry (Northern Illinois), Adrian McDonald (Houston), Kevin Peterson (Oklahoma State), Jordan Simone (Arizona State), Jalen Tabor (Florida), Darian Thompson (Boise State), Nick VanHoose (Northwestern) and Tre’Davious White (LSU).
Burns, Alabama corner Cyrus Jones and Duke safety DeVon Edwards received SI honorable mentions as kick returners.
The USA Today Freshman All-America team DBs are USC cornerback Iman Marshall, Arizona State cornerback Kareem Orr, Florida State safety Derwin James and Pittsburgh safety Jordan Whitehead.