It has always been known that championships in football are often won along the line of scrimmage. Controlling things in the trenches can propel a team to greater heights, and that is especially true in the SEC. However, with the new age of fast-paced spread offenses, the backline of defense is becoming more and more important. The safety position is key to that, because of the versatility needed to excel in that area. Players have to be able to play in space, cover receivers, and provide support against the run. Here is a look at the top safeties in the SEC heading into the 2021 season.
Top Safeties in the SEC for 2021
Yusuf Corker – Kentucky Wildcats
The Georgia native finished the season strong with interceptions in each of the last two games of 2020. He was named All-SEC 2nd team by both PFF and Phil Steele as a junior. Corker is mostly known for his physicality, with over 70 tackles in each of the last two seasons. This senior and captain of the Wildcats defense has been a staple of Mark Stoops‘ secondary the past few seasons. He tied the school’s single-game record for solo tackles with 16, including a sack, in a contest at Missouri.
A.J. Finley – Ole Miss Rebels
Lane Kiffin‘s defense left a lot to be desired in his first season in charge in Oxford. Finley was the one player who stood out even on a disappointing unit. The junior was third on the team in tackles and led them with his three interceptions and seven pass break-ups. At 6-foot-2-inches and 200 lbs he has great size at the position, and has proven to be adept at both the physicality and ball-hawking needed at safety. He will be leaned on to be a leader on a defense that must improve in 2021.
Jordan Battle – Alabama Crimson Tide
One could argue that half of the top safeties in the SEC will suit up for the Crimson Tide this fall. There is never a shortage of talent in the secondary for this program. Battle and Daniel Wright make up the best tandem of safeties in the nation. The former should emerge as a star for Alabama this season. He had just one interception in 2020, but he made the most of it. He turned the one interception he had into a 45-yard pick-six against Kentucky. The former four-star prospect has developed into the leader of a very talented Alabama defensive backfield.
Tykee Smith – Georgia Bulldogs
The former West Virginia Mountaineer is looked at as one of the best transfers on the defensive side of the ball this off-season. The Bulldogs’ secondary lost a lot from a season ago, so the pick-up of Smith was huge for Kirby Smart. The Pennsylvania native could see time at both safety and slot corner, and he has the skill to excel at both. Smith allowed just 110 yards on 38 targets in the pass Big 12 in 2020. He was on various All-American teams last fall. Smith was one of the top safeties in the country a season ago, and will now step up to the challenges the SEC provides. Now he will be an important part of rebuilding the Georgia secondary.
Jalen Catalon – Arkansas Razorbacks
The Texas native exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2020. He seemed to be all over the field for the Razorbacks, racking up tackles, interceptions, and forcing fumbles. His efforts earned him All-SEC selections by both the media and the coaches. Catalon had 99 tackles as a freshman, to go along with his three interceptions and two forced fumbles. This kid has a knack for being around the ball at all times. He returned one of his picks 35 yards for a touchdown against Ole Miss. Catalon was the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in a win over Tennessee.