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By Craig Haley, FCS Exec. Director - Archive - Email
Ten FCS defensive backs to watch
Alabama State free safety Kejuan Riley finished fifth in the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award voting.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Offensive firepower may come to mind first with the Southland Conference - like the rushing talents of FCS runner-up Sam Houston State and the passing of Central Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin.

But it doesn't get any better than the top defensive backs in the Southland, as they fill spots among the best in the Football Championship Subdivision as well.

The depth is so impressive that Sam Houston State cornerback Daxton Swanson, who led the conference and was third in the nation with eight interceptions, ranks behind safeties Malcom Bronson of McNeese State, Jestin Love of Central Arkansas, Darnell Taylor of Sam Houston State and Jamaal White of Northwestern State.

The best players combine speed, power and the ability to get into position to make plays.

Following are 10 FCS defensive backs to watch this season:

Malcolm Bronson, McNeese State, FS, Sr., 5-11, 192 - The playmaking Bronson has twice led the Cowboys in tackles, including 86 as a junior last season. Blessed with outstanding speed and a 40-inch vertical leap, he has a knack for making the big plays. A year ago, he had two interceptions with nine pass breakups and forced three fumbles, while making the All-Southland first team for the third time.

Top DB by FCS Conference
Big Sky: T.J. Lee, Eastern Washington, CB; Big South: Charles James, Charleston Southern, CB; CAA Football: B.W. Webb, William & Mary, CB; Ivy: A.J. Cruz, Brown, CB; MEAC: John Ojo, Florida A&M, FS; Missouri Valley: Marcus Williams, North Dakota State, CB; NEC: Serge Kona, Duquesne, FS; OVC: Justin Bell, Eastern Kentucky, CB; Patriot: Jeremy Moore, Georgetown, CB; Pioneer: Brandon Chandler, Campbell, FS; SoCon: Demetrius McCray, Appalachian State, CB; Southland: Darnell Taylor, Sam Houston State, SS; SWAC: Kejuan Riley, Alabama State, FS


Charles James, Charleston Southern, CB, Sr., 5-10, 175 - James wears jersey No. 1 and expects to take that spot on the Buccaneers' all-time interceptions chart. He enters his senior season one interception shy of the record 11 picks. The former sprinter is technically sound in coverage and plays with an aggressive style. He had 40 solo stops among his 66 tackles last season, while making the All-Big South first-team secondary alongside recent NFL draftees Josh Norman and Justin Bethel.

Serge Kona, Duquesne, FS, Sr., 5-11, 225 - With a sideline-to-sideline playing style, Kona gets to ball carriers and then delivers hard-hitting tackles (he started 11 games at outside linebacker in 2010). He's quick and agile, and, with dreadlocks that flow out from his helmet, he makes people think of another safety in Pittsburgh, Troy Polamalu. Kona had 48 tackles and forced three fumbles last season.

Jestin Love, Central Arkansas, SS, Jr., 6-0, 204 - "Jestin Time" might have been more entertaining than the Bears' new purple-and-gray turf last season. He continually made big plays late in games, including three interceptions that helped seal victories. The athletic Love has terrific instincts as well as ball skills. He has 11 interceptions through two seasons, three of which he has returned for touchdowns. He also had 75 tackles a year ago.

Demetrius McCray, Appalachian State, CB, Sr., 6-0, 185 - As a sophomore in 2010, McCray's first three career starts were against the University of Florida and in FCS playoff games. Ever since, his terrific coverage skills and tackling ability have kept McCray in the starting lineup. He is a former high school quarterback who knows how to position himself for balls in the air, and uses long arms to grab them. He intercepted five passes and broke up nine more in a stellar junior campaign last year.

Kejuan Riley, Alabama State, FS, Sr., 6-0, 208 - Hornets safeties coach Dominique Stephenson says when the ball is in the air, Riley is like "a hawk circling overhead looking for his prey and he feels like it is his ball and no one else's." Riley was fifth in the Buck Buchanan Award voting last season (in fact, he was the only defensive back in the top 13). Athletic and quick, Riley had nine interceptions last season, which ranked second in the FCS. He has 17 in his career.

Darnell Taylor, Sam Houston State, SS, Sr., 6-0, 190 - Amid all the talented defensive backs in the Southland Conference - and talented players - Taylor was named the conference's defensive player of the year while he helped the Bearkats go undefeated up to their FCS championship game loss. He is a fierce one-on-one tackler, with 88 solos among his 128 tackles. He's quick with an innate ability to be in position to make the play.

B.W. Webb, William & Mary, CB, Sr., 5-11, 175 - The highly decorated Webb (2009 CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year and first-team all-conferencce in each of the last two seasons) has been a playmaker throughout his career. Opposing quarterbacks started avoiding his side of the field after he had eight interceptions as a redshirt freshman in 2009. He's fast with slick skills. He also is dangerous on punt returns.

Jamaal White, Northwestern State, SS, Sr., 6-0, 192 - White played alongside NFL draft selection Jeremy Lane in the Demons' secondary last season and now is a candidate for the 2013 draft. Emotional on the field to a fault, White is athletic, aggressive and a big hitter. He picked off three passes and forced two fumbles last season. He made the All-Southland second team - ahead of Lane.

Marcus Williams, North Dakota State, CB, Jr., 5-11, 190 - Breaking up isn't hard to do ... at least not for Williams. He had seven interceptions and 15 pass breakups in an electrifying campaign for the FCS national champion Bison last season. A member of The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS All-America first team, Williams scored two touchdowns off his own interceptions, another off an interception-and-lateral from safety Colton Heagle and another off a kickoff return. He also finished the season with 53 tackles.