Who will be the premier Group of Five and Independent safeties in college football in 2017?
There are plenty of hard-hitting, versatile safeties out of the Group of Five conferences and the Independents in 2017. But the American Athletic Conference will be particularly notable, both for its depth and breadth of quality centerfielders. But who has the league’s best safety duo, a compelling debate topic that’ll spill over to the start of the season? Temple out of the East Division features Sean Chandler and underrated junior Delvon Randall. However, the West’s Houston will counter with Garrett Davis and Khalil Williams, who, like Randall, has yet to receive the notoriety to match his potential.
Top Returning Group Of Five And Independent Safeties
10. Kris Weatherspoon, Troy
9. Asauni Rufus, Nevada
8. Khalil Williams, Houston
7. Delvon Randall, Temple
6. Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
5. Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii
As a junior in 2016, Henderson left no doubts that he was all the way back from the knee injury that shelved him for most of his third season at Hawaii. The Sacramento native, with an extra 10 pounds on his 6-0 frame, was everywhere for the Warriors, compiling 90 stops, 10.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, three picks, seven pass breakups and a blocked kick. Henderson loves to hit, and he covers ground with all of the speed and acceleration of a cornerback.
4. Garrett Davis, Houston
Davis was named to the All-AAC Second team in his debut in the Cougar starting lineup. As a junior, he plans to further build on his breakout campaign. He sticks as if he’s considerably bigger than his listed size, 6-1 and 200 pounds. And along with senior Khalil Williams, Davis formed one of the country’s sneaky-good safety tandems in 2016 by making 65 tackles, seven stops for minus yards, three sacks and five pass breakups.
3. Javon Hagan, Ohio
Based on the early returns, a lot of Sunshine State programs missed on Hagan two years ago. The Jacksonville, Fla. product solidified free safety for the Bobcats as a redshirt freshman, flashing the physicality and the want-to of a young player with something to prove. Despite the lack of experience, he rose to the All-MAC Second Team with 53 stops, three picks for 120 yards and eight pass breakups. Plus, the 6-0, 211-pound Hagan forced a league-high six fumbles, testament to his playmaking ability.
2. Sean Chandler, Temple
Chandler endured a rough upbringing, which helped mold him into the mature, hard-working student-athlete he is today. He also advertised his versatility a season ago, earning a spot on the All-AAC Second Team in his first year after making the switch from cornerback to free safety. Chandler, who chipped in with 51 tackles and a pair of interceptions as a junior, has maintained the coverage skills of a corner while also improving his overall physicality and ability to support the run.
1. Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
Wingard is a free safety in Laramie. However, for Craig Bohl and the Cowboys, he’s like having another linebacker on the field. Wingard has been a two-year tackling machine for Wyoming, making at least 120 stops in 2015 and 2016. In his debut, he became the first player in school history to amass more than 100 tackles in a season. And as a sophomore, he raised the bar higher with 131 stops, 7.5 behind the line, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Wingard plays the game at the kind of frenetic pace that becomes contagious to his teammates.