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Defensive Back U: Getting Defensive

Which MAC school claims the best secondary?

In our penultimate Positional U battle, we focus on defensive backs.

If you missed any of the other position battles, you can find them here: QB U, RB U, WR U, O-Line U, D-line U, LB U.

This week our six voters ranked our top three MAC schools in terms of defensive back production over the past 20 years. Each first place vote is worth 3 points, second place is worth 2 points, and a third place vote is worth one point. The team with the most points is crowned DB U.

So who do we have as DB U?

The Northern Illinois Huskies!

NIU claims the top spot with three first place votes and 12 total points, edging out the Central Michigan Chippewas, who received 10 points. The Western Michigan Broncos were a distant third with five points.

Northern Illinois’ Defensive Backs

The Huskies have had some big names come through over the past two decades, including a first round draft pick back in 2014. Here’s just a few of the corners and safetys that made a name for themselves during their time in DeKalb.

  • Vince Thompson* (1999-2002): 122 tackles (83 solo), 24 passes defended, 15 interceptions, seven TFL, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three touchdowns
  • Randee Drew* (2000-2003): 148 tackles (73 solo), 36 passes defended, 14 interceptions, five TFL, three forced fumbles, one touchdown
  • Jimmie Ward (2010-2013): 318 tackles (189 solo), 14 passes defended, 11 interceptions, six TFL, three forced fumbles, two sacks, a fumble recovery, one touchdown
  • Duchane Durante (2011-2014): 236 tackles (142 solo), 12 passes defended, 11 interceptions, six TFL, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one touchdown, .5 sack
  • Marlon Moore (2012-2015): 277 tackles (175 solo), 20 passes defended, six TFL, six interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries
  • Paris Logan (2012-2015): 173 tackles (123 solo), 33 passes defended (t-3rd in MAC history), five interceptions, three TFL, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery
  • Shawun Lurry (2014-2017): 117 tackles (84 solo), 33 passes defended (t-3rd in MAC history), 14 interceptions, 435 interception return yards (MAC record, 4th most in FBS history), two touchdowns

* = couldn’t find complete stats from prior to 2001

Dave: The Huskies have had a ton of talent in their secondary, including one of my all-time favorite players, Randee Drew. Recently with Jimmie Ward and Shawun Lurry they’ve solidified their spot at the top. Western is second with players like Zamort, Phillips, and Celiscar.

Steve: A MAC defensive back landing a spot on an All-American team is an extraordinary feat. Northern Illinois had not one, but two players attain that honor in a four-year span. Jimmie Ward accumulated 94 tackles and seven interceptions in 2013 and Shawun Lurry led the entire FBS with nine picks and 273 interception return yards in 2016 to secure All-American recognition by various selectors. For a third prominent name in the NIU secondary, cornerback Rashaan Melvin has also carved out a solid NFL career for himself after locking down receivers in the MAC in the early 2010s.

The second place spot goes to Central Michigan, which had two cornerbacks selected in the same year as recently as the 2019 NFL Draft — Sean Murphy-Bunting and Xavier Crawford. The Chippewas have also been proficient at producing safeties when considering the likes of NFL staples Jahleel Addae and Kavon Frazier. For the final honor, I’ll hand it to Akron for its 2000s cornerback dominance. Dwight Smith was a consensus All-American in 2000 with 10 interceptions and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. Smith had 15 interceptions as a Zip, which is the same number fourth round draft pick Reggie Corner corralled in his time at Akron. In terms of recent success, cornerback Alvin Davis led the FBS in pick sixes and finished third in interception return yards in 2018.

James: It was difficult once again to have to choose between NIU and CMU for this category, but NIU most certainly gets the edge for defensive backs just based on how high their college ceilings were—which is a departure from my usual method up to this point. But when you look at the numbers and the performacne of the Huskies in that time, it’s undeniable. Jimmie Ward, a first-round selection for the 49ers, has been a pivotal starter for a defense which has consistently one of the best in the NFL, and was a shutdown corner at NIU alongside Duchane Durante (both of whom I saw decimate MAC teams in my time as a student.) The group only gets deeper with all-American Shawun Lurry and the ever-dependable Paris Logan. Homer bias aside, CMU has a pretty fair class of defensive backs, with Josh Gordy, Avery Cunningham, Xavier Crawford, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jahleel Addae and Kavon Frazier all having recent success in the NFL after graduation. They’ve always had very dependable talent at the corners, even if the team performance and potential ceiling hasn’t been quite as high as NIU’s.

Zach: CMU gets points for Addae, I put them at 1 because he’s the most recent high level DB (at the NFL level) that I can think of from the conference

Jordan: For my money, NIU is the top choice as DBU thanks to the exploits of Jimmie Ward and Shawun Lurry. CMU is a close second because, although they’ve had some good production from guys like Kavon Frazier and Sean Murphy-Bunting, they didn’t have the prolific seasons that the top-end NIU DBs have had. WMU is in the same boat as CMU, with Louis Delmas and Phillips.

Sam: LSU may have a challenge to DBU (jk...calm down LSU fans), although Ball State has had some impressive Defensive Backs come out. Blaine Bishop is top of the tier. He’s a Ball State HOF member, with multiple All-Pro and Pro-Bowl Appearances, and has been a Super Bowl participant as well, who gets some bonus points for being from my hometown Indianapolis, Indiana. Sean Baker had 18 picks to set the record for Interceptions for Ball State, He also traveled around the NFL for four seasons. Also I like to mention the current tandem of Phillips and Amechi Uzodinma ii. They are a dominant duo who not only helped Ball State lead the MAC in interceptions last year, they also combined for 24 pass deflections. They should be in my opinion be given a chance to be on an NFL Roster in the future.

Vote now and tell us if we got it right.


Which school is Special Teams U in the MAC?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    (9 votes)
  • 3%
    Ball State
    (11 votes)
  • 1%
    Bowling Green
    (5 votes)
  • 3%
    (12 votes)
  • 34%
    Central Michigan
    (117 votes)
  • 2%
    Eastern Michigan
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Kent State
    (6 votes)
  • 7%
    (25 votes)
  • 19%
    Northern Illinois
    (68 votes)
  • 7%
    (27 votes)
  • 7%
    (26 votes)
  • 7%
    Western Michigan
    (27 votes)
343 votes total Vote Now