The 2023 ACC season prepares for a potentially big year. The conference as a whole is looking for a rebound after missing the College Football Playoff in each of the last two seasons. This season, there are more teams from the ACC in contention for a top spot in the CFP. One big reason is the state of play from some of the top defensive backs in the ACC going into the 2023 season. Several teams this season have elite defensive backs that can help shut down a passing offense in the conference that are going to be seriously considered for the Heisman Trophy. Here are the top defensive backs in the ACC this 2023 season.
ACC’s Top Defensive Backs Returning in 2023
Nate Wiggins (Clemson) – The Potential All-American
Nate Wiggins is one of the youngest defensive backs in the ACC who has serious potential of becoming an All-American player. At 6-2, 185 pounds, Wiggins possesses solid height and size to match up against any outside receiver. His patience and reliable coverage skills allowed him to have a breakout season as a sophomore. This past season, Wiggins accounted for 29 total tackles, 25 solo tackles, 13 pass breakups, and one interception. He has the speed, athleticism, durability, and agility to become a high-valued NFL Draft prospect. This 2023 season could catapult him into one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC with a great season.
Aydan White (NC State) – The Small, but Dangerous Corner
One of the best defensive backs in the ACC that don’t come from a powerhouse program like Clemson, Miami or Florida State is NC State cornerback Aydan White. White is a player who can line up as an outside or slot cornerback depending on the scheme. He has the physicality to play on the outside and the quick movement to play slot corner. His breakout season this past year earned him a first-team All-ACC player. White accounted for 46 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, and nine pass breakups. His speed, recognition, and quick get-off at the snap of the ball make him a reliable man-coverage and zone-coverage cornerback. White is a preseason first-team All-ACC player.
Fentrell Cypress II (Florida State) – The Lockdown Corner
One of the best man-coverage cornerbacks in college football is fifth-year senior cornerback Fentrell Cypress II. He potentially becomes another high-valued cornerback to have played for the Florida State Seminoles after transferring from Virginia. In his breakout season this past year, Cypress accounted for 39 total tackles, 28 solo tackles, 14 pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. He was voted a first-team All-ACC player as a result of his tremendous season. Cypress possesses good size and athleticism to match up with any receiver across the line of scrimmage. He also possesses the ability to mirror his receiver’s movements, change of direction, and speed to lock down the receiver and make a play on the ball. Cypress is a preseason second-team All-American and a first-team All-ACC player by Athlon Sports.
Andrew Mukuba – Safety (Clemson) – The Heat-Seeking Hitter
For two seasons, Clemson safety Andrew Mukuba has been one of the top playmakers on the Tigers’ defense. Mukuba is a player that makes plays on the ball and makes solid hard-hitting tackles. His explosive speed enables him to quickly get to the pass or the ball carrier. In his two seasons with the Tigers, Mukuba has accumulated 101 total tackles, 62 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one interception, 10 pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. His most impactful season was in 2021 when he was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and named to the Third-Team All-ACC. That season, he accounted for 47 total tackles, 30 solo tackles, seven pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. Mukuba is a preseason first-team All-ACC by Athlon Sports. Finally, he is rated #23 as the overall prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft, according to NFL Mock Draft Database.
Kamren Kinchens – Safety (Miami) – The Next Great Hurricane
The Hurricanes have developed elite safeties in college and then go on to play great in the NFL. Miami saw six safeties drafted in the first round, including Sean Taylor and Hall of Famer Ed Reed. In the past two seasons, Kamren Kinchens played like a star player in the secondary. In those two seasons, Kinchens accumulated 103 total tackles, 59 solo tackles, six interceptions, 10 pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. This past season, he accounted for 59 total tackles, 34 solo tackles, six interceptions, and six pass breakups. Kinchens plays with great patience and the ability to read the deep passing routes to make a breakup or interception.
He often plays in a one-high defensive scheme for more room to read the deep passing plays. Finally, Kinchens is an established, hard-hitting open-field tackler despite his great height. Kinchens is a preseason First-Team All-American player by Athlon Sports. He is also a consensus 33rd-best overall prospect by NFL Mock Draft Database.
Photo courtesy: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports