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July 19, 2012
DeSOTO, Texas -- Texas already has a reputation as the state that does the best job of producing quality college and NFL quarterbacks.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Lone Star State is also starting to churn out some outstanding college-ready defensive backs.
When you're spending your Friday nights trying to contain the next Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin or Ryan Tannehill, you're going to be prepared for whatever you'll face in college.
"The competition is so good in Texas," Beaumont (Texas) Ozen cornerback Tony Brown said. "You have to be good, or you won't be in (the game)."
Brown, a participant in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge, is arguably the best defensive back in a talent-laden 2014 Texas defensive back collection that is already earning notice.
Anyone looking for future stars at the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge at DeSoto (Texas) High School earlier this month just had to look at all the Texas-based defensive backs with multiple FBS offers.
"There's usually probably three or four Texas DBs in the Rivals250," Rivals.com Texas recruiting analyst Brian Perroni said. "I could honestly see 13 or 14 (in 2014). Five of the top 10 players in the state could be defensive backs. It's just ridiculous. There's never been anything close to this in the state of Texas."
This isn't necessarily about quantity, though there's plenty of that. A look in the Rivals.com database shows 15 Texas defensive backs in the Class of 2014 with at least one FBS offer. Although that total is impressive, it doesn't lead the nation. Florida, which annually produces college defensive backs with assembly-line precision, already has 21 rising junior cornerbacks and safeties with offers.
The quality is what really stands out about the Texas guys. Many of them already have high-profile offers and are showing four-star potential.
"I think the Texas defensive backs [in 2014] are probably more polished than the guys in Florida," Perroni said. "Texas traditionally produces offensive linemen, quarterbacks, receivers. Florida is DB and wide receiver heaven, whereas in Texas it's more all-around. It's definitely rare that Texas could even come close to being on the same level as Florida as far as defensive backs are concerned."
Brown, one of only 19 juniors to participate in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, was rated by Rivals.com as the top overall defensive player at the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge. He could play cornerback or safety in college and already has offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Dallas Skyline cornerback Cedric Collins' offer list includes Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Houston Alief Taylor cornerback Chris Hardeman, who committed to LSU this week, held offers from Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma State among others.
Lancaster cornerback Nick Harvey has offers from LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and several other schools. Dallas Bishop Dunne cornerback Nick Watkins also has a national offer list that includes Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford.
Texas also has a strong collection of junior safeties.
That group is headlined by Arlington Mansfield Timberview teammates Edward Paris and Brandon Simmons, though Paris actually plays cornerback for his high school team. LSU, Michigan, Nebraska and Notre Dame are four of the schools that have offered both players.
Mesquite West Mesquite safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner already has committed to Clemson.
They came to their current positions by different means. For instance, Simmons has played defensive back most of his life, but Paris and Collins are former running backs who moved to the secondary just before high school because it gave them a better chance for early playing time.
As soon as all these guys started playing defensive back, the talent level in this class became apparent. "I think [people] noticed it a long time ago," Paris said. "My freshman year, a bunch of kids in Texas were getting offers."
The competition among the 2014 Texas defensive backs started at an early age. Brown remembers running against many of these guys in youth track meets as a kid. Then he started seeing all these familiar faces once he started participating in football camps.
He already knew they were fast. He'd soon know they also were good.
And they are also plenty confident in their abilities. That much is apparent when you ask each guy who's the best Texas defensive back in this class.
"Cedric Collins," Collins said without hesitation. "There are things I can bring to the table. I can run man, zone. I can do it all."
"I'd say myself," Paris said.
"Naturally, I would say myself," Brown said. "I put the most work in."
The defensive backs say that supreme confidence is necessary to succeed at a position where a single mistake can result in a touchdown.
"The two hardest positions are quarterback and DB," Brown said. "You've got to have the most confidence on the field at DB." Brown has plenty of reason for confidence.
Although the defensive backs continue to debate which of them is the best of the bunch, Brown's recent camp performances have allowed him to separate himself just a bit.
"If I had to rank them right now, Brown and Paris would be the two battling for the top spot," Perroni said. "Eddie Paris is a big kid (6-foot-2, 188 pounds). He's built like a safety, but he plays cornerback. He wants to play corner at the next level. Even if he doesn't, he'll be a great cover safety. He's fast. He's big. He moves really well in coverage. He changes direction well.
"Tony Brown isn't quite as big [6-1 and 185], but he tested at 4.39 in a camp, which is ridiculous for his size. He's great in press coverage. A lot of kids want to give some cushion, but he can press and jam you at the line of scrimmage and he's also going to run with you downfield.''
They are big-time players with big-time goals.
Sumner-Gardner already has committed to Clemson, but he said he continues to participate in showcase events and camps such as the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge because he wants to prove he's the No. 1 defensive back in his class. Brown has set his sights even higher.
"My goal is to be the No. 1 recruit in the nation - not just the No. 1 DB," Brown said.
First he must prove he's the No. 1 defensive back in his home state. Brown's off to a fast start in that regard, but plenty of other talented contenders are vying for that position.
"There's a lot of talent here in this 2014 class,'' said Carrollton Hebron safety Jamal Adams, who holds offers from Kentucky, Notre Dame, TCU and West Virginia. "It's going to be fun seeing who's on top and who's mediocre."
In this group, it's tough to find much mediocrity.