Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama (NCAA): Jones is probably a better kick returner than cornerback, which says a lot about his electrifying return ability since he is a starter for arguably the best defense in college football. In the Crimson Tide’s 38-0 waxing of Michigan State in the national championship playoff semifinal, Jones helped keep the Spartans scoreless with a second-quarter interception deep in ‘Bama territory. Then the senior CB/KR got into the end zone himself with a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Shiloh Keo, FS, Broncos (NFL): Old, injured and discarded, QB Peyton Manning coming off the bench to lead Denver to a 27-20 victory over San Diego that clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC was something out of a Hollywood script. But that feel-good story wouldn’t have happened if Keo — a Hollywood-worthy underdog in his own right who was unemployed just a few weeks ago — hadn’t gotten an interception late in the fourth quarter to set up the Broncos’ go-ahead score.
Eric Cuffee, CB, Team Highlight (High School): Team Highlight pitched a 27-0 shutout against Team Armour in the Under Armour All-America Game. While five-star DE Rashan Gary was the defensive MVP with three sacks, the standout in the secondary was Cuffee, who made a highlight-reel interception by tip-toeing the sideline while wrestling the ball away from Florida-bound WR Joshua Hammond at the same time. Cuffe, a senior at Waco (Texas) High School, has not yet committed to a college but is reportedly deciding between the likes of Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M.
William Jackson III, CB, Houston (NCAA): The Cougars managed to fly under a lot of radars despite a 12-1 record going into bowl season and legitimate stars on both sides of the ball like QB Greg Ward Jr. and CB William Jackson III. For those who were still sleeping, Jackson put his name on the map in Houston’s 38-24 victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl with 10 tackles, two pass breakups and two interceptions.
Ron Parker, SS, Chiefs (NFL): It would be a reach to suggest that it was a serendipitous tribute to Charles Woodson in his final NFL game, but Parker displayed an all-over-the-field versatility in Kansas City’s 23-17 win over Oakland on Sunday that was reminiscent of Woodson. Parker had six tackles, one sack, one interception (in the end zone) and one pass breakup.
Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford (NCAA): Christian McCaffrey struck first with a 75-yard TD reception, and QB Kevin Hogan ran for another score a bit later, but it wasn’t until Meeks’ 66-yard pick-six that the Rose Bowl really started to look like a rout. The freshman gave the Cardinal a three-touchdown lead in the first quarter, and Stanford went on to a 45-16 victory over Iowa.