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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Year-end defensive back rankings

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The defensive year-end rankings finish up with the secondary. Despite several standouts at the top, the Big Ten wasn't as strong at the defensive back spots as it has been in past seasons. The league loses three standout cornerbacks but returns promising underclassmen at both corner and safety next fall.

Here's the top 10.

 
  Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
  Malcolm Jenkins looks like a surefire top 10 pick in this April's NFL draft.

1. Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins -- The Thorpe Award winner and All-American might have been the best all-around player I saw in the Big Ten this season. He made more big plays as the year progressed and stood out on special teams as well as in pass coverage. Barring a surprise, Jenkins will be a top 10 pick in April.

2. Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis -- He's a physical freak with hardly any body fat, but Davis sets himself apart in other ways. Unlike some gifted defensive backs, he's not afraid of contact and never shies away from laying out a wide receiver or ball carrier. He had a solid junior season and should be a first-round draft pick.

3. Wisconsin cornerback Allen Langford -- Langford came off ACL surgery to turn in an excellent senior season. Wisconsin's defense struggled at times, but Langford consistently made plays in the secondary. He finished second in the league with 15 pass deflections. 

4. Michigan State safety Otis Wiley -- Wiley returned to his 2006 form and had a blistering start to the fall, recording four interceptions in the first four games. Though injuries slowed his production down the stretch, the consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection tops this year's crop of safeties.

5. Minnesota cornerback Traye Simmons -- One of several playmakers in the Gophers' secondary, Simmons finished the season with four interceptions and a league-leading 18 pass breakups. The junior college transfer made an immediate contribution on a Minnesota defense that started strong but faded fast.

6. Northwestern safety Brad Phillips -- It was criminal that Phillips didn't earn at least second-team All-Big Ten honors after a breakout junior season for the league's most improved defense. He became one of the Big Ten's most ferocious hitters and was always around the ball, finishing with a team-high 109 tackles, two forced fumbles and nine pass deflections.

7. Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey -- Spievey could enter next season as the Big Ten's top cover corner after an excellent sophomore year. He spurred a ball-hawking Hawkeyes secondary with four interceptions (127 return yards) and 10 pass breakups in his first season as a starter.

8. Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman -- Coleman wisely chose to stay at Ohio State for his senior season and will enter next fall as one of the nation's top safeties. He led Ohio State with four interceptions and finished third on the team in tackles with 78.

9. Iowa safety Tyler Sash -- All Sash does is make plays, and he tortured opposing quarterbacks for interceptions and big runbacks. The redshirt freshman tied for the league lead with five interceptions, including two in the Outback Bowl, and finished second on the team with 11 pass deflections.

10. Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto -- The Lions' secondary turned out to be a weakness, but Scirrotto finished his career with a solid senior season. He had two interceptions and seven pass deflections and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches.