- David Ubben, College Football
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We'll continue looking at the Big 12's best at positions across the Big 12 today with the guys who serve as the last line of defense: the safeties. It's a pretty strong position across the Big 12, just like pass-rushers. In this league, it has to be. Let's get to it:
Here's what you've missed so far:
1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: Vaccaro is quick, explosive, versatile and has a great feel for the game. That's a fantastic combination for a safety and he patrols near the line of scrimmage for the Longhorns, but has great cover skills, too. The top three safeties in the league are really tight, but for my money, Vaccaro is the top of the list.
2. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma: Jefferson was the biggest piece of Oklahoma's defense this past season, and finished second in the league with 119 tackles. The Sooners' new scheme fed ball carriers his way, but Jefferson was there to make plays all year long. He moved to a more traditional safety spot after spending much of his first two years at nickel back. He's good in coverage, though his straight-line speed isn't eye-popping, and part of that is being a very instinctive player, just like Vaccaro.
3. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State: Zimmerman's got a nose for the ball that's as solid as anybody on the list, and had a great year despite missing the last few games of the regular season with a broken bone in his leg. He picked off passes in four consecutive Big 12 games and finished with 50 tackles.
4. Cody Davis, Texas Tech: Davis has tons of experience and had a great year for a very improved Texas Tech defense. He picked off three passes, broke up seven passes and made 101 tackles as part of a secondary that limited offenses through most of the season.
5. Sam Carter, TCU: Carter made a splash in his first year in the Big 12 for the league's best defense. He broke up 10 passes, picked off four more and made 63 tackles. He also forced a fumble and had three sacks.
6. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dixon's got a ton of talent and probably has the most NFL potential of any Baylor defender. He had a solid year, and could put together a big year in 2013. Baylor's defense still struggled for much of the year, but Dixon helped spur a late-season charge alongside linebackers Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey. Dixon made 102 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss, and intercepted two passes.
7. Javon Harris, Oklahoma: Harris tied for the Big 12 lead with six interceptions, though half of them came in games against FCS Florida A&M and 1-11 Kansas. He excelled this past season in Mike Stoops' defense, morphing the Sooners' biggest weakness -- defending the long ball -- into one of its strengths for most of the season.
8. Durrell Givens, Iowa State: There were more talented guys on Iowa State's defense, but there's something to be said for being a turnover machine in a breakout season like the one Givens had in 2012. He produced nine turnovers (three INTs, six fumble recoveries) and forced four more fumbles while making 80 tackles.
9. Bradley McDougald, Kansas: Kansas' defense was pretty ugly, but McDougald was a bright spot with 93 tackles, three interceptions and four tackles for loss with a pair of forced fumbles.
10. Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's secondary was a bit disappointing, but Lowe had a decent season with 75 tackles, three tackles for loss, a pair of interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
We'll continue looking at the Big 12's best at positions across the Big 12 today with the guys who serve as the last line of defense: the safeties. It's a pretty strong position across the Big 12, just like pass-rushers.