Each year the Jim Thorpe Association awards the Thorpe Award to the top defensive back in the country. According to the Association’s website the "pre-season "watch list" is determined by an analysis of All-American teams listed in various pre-season college football publications. "
With the secondary a likely top focus in next year’s draft there is a good chance at least one of the names on this list will be playing for the 49ers next season.
The Thorpe Award watch list:
Kenneth Acker, Southern Methodist (CB), Sr.
Ricardo Allen, Purdue (CB), Sr.
Dion Bailey, Southern California (S), Sr.
C.J. Barnett, Ohio State (S), Sr.
Bene Benwikere, San Jose State (S), Sr.
Nat Berhe, San Diego State (S), Sr.
Tre Boston, North Carolina (S), Sr.
Christian Bryant, Ohio State (S), Sr.
Deone Bucannon, Washington State (S), Sr.
Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee State (S), So.
Carrington Byndom, Texas (CB), Sr.
Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern (S), Jr.
Sam Carter, Texas Christian (S), Jr.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (S), Jr.
Ross Cockrell, Duke (CB), Sr.
Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma (S), Sr.
Alden Darby, Arizona State (S), Sr.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (CB), Sr.
Quandre Diggs, Texas (CB), Jr.
Ahmad Dixon, Baylor (S), Sr.
Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky (S), Jr.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (CB), Jr.
Ciante Evans, Nebraska (CB), Sr.
Antone Exum, Virginia Tech (CB), Sr.
Phillip Gaines, Rice (CB), Sr.
Andre Hal, Vanderbilt (S), Sr.
Najja Johnson, Buffalo (S), Sr.
L. J. Jones, Fresno State (S), Sr.
Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (CB), Sr.
Isaiah Lewis , Michigan State (S), Sr.
Craig Loston, Louisiana State (S), Sr.
Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State (S), Sr.
Terrance Mitchell, Oregon (S), Jr.
Marco Nelson, Tulsa (S), Sr.
Isaiah Newsome, Louisiana at Monroe (S), Sr.
Dayonne Nunley, Miami, OH (CB), Sr.
Calvin Pryor, Louisville (S), Jr.
Ed Reynolds, Stanford (S), Sr.
Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State (CB), Sr.
Jordan Richards, Stanford (S), Jr.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State (CB), Jr.
Derron Smith, Fresno State (S), Jr.
Hakeem Smith, Louisville (S), Sr.
Damian Swann, Georgia (CB), Jr.
Jason Verrett Texas Christian (CB), Sr.
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois (S), Sr.
Deron Wilson, Southern Mississippi (S), Sr.
Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State (S), Sr.
By Conference: Big 12 (8); Big Ten (8); Pac-12 (8); SEC (4); ACC (4); MW (5), C-USA (4); MAC (3); AAC (3); SBC (2); Big East (1)
I talked about of some the countries top defensive backs on the Bednarik watch list post, which can be found here. Other top DBs listed on the Thorpe Award watch list include:
- S Ha'sean Clinton-Dix, Jr, Alabama: Ha-Ha as he's known as might be one of the top safety prospects in the country. His natural ball skills and ability to read and react have the NFL paying attention. Recorded 37 tackles and five interceptions in 2012.
- CB Darqueze Dennard, Sr, Michigan State: One scout gave Dennard a first round grade prior to this year's NFL draft. However, Dennard decided to return to Michigan State for his senior season and is widely considered a top-5 corner. Dennard had a solid 2012 season with 52 tackles and three interceptions.
- CB Antone Exum, Sr, Virginia Tech: Exum has the size defenses covet at 6-0, 223lbs Exum is quick and athletic and capable of playing well against all receivers. Exum tallied 16 pass breakups in 2012 to go along with five interceptions. I look for him to rise up the draft boards as the season progresses.
- S Ed Reynolds, Jr, Stanford: Reynolds was a ball hawk in the Cardinal secondary last season grabbing six interceptions and scoring touchdowns on three of them. He has good size and speed and figures to be a true free safety at the next level.