In today’s game, high-powered offenses are king. Long gone are the days of wishbone formations, triple-option quarterbacks and play-calling strategies centered around “three yards and a cloud of dust.”
In 2020, spread sets are the norm and offenses are designed to put up points in a hurry. For defenses to be successful at slowing them down, they need skilled and versatile defenders in the secondary who can stop the pass and help slow the run game. Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are home to some of the best in the country.
Here are my Top 10 defensive backs in the DMV.
Ryan “Bo” Barnes | Quince Orchard (MD)
Cornerback: 6’2”, 180 lbs
Ryan Barnes is a ball-hawking DB with next level length and a knack for making big plays. At 6-foot-2, Barnes is a big corner who blankets his opposition. He uses his long arms and stride to aide in recovering, and once he gets his hands on the ball he is a threat to score.
Though slight of frame, Barnes is a physical, sure tackler who effectively sets the edge against the run.
Antoine Booth | DeMatha (MD)
Cornerback: 6’0”, 190 lbs
Committed: Michigan State
Antoine Booth often accepts the challenge of lining up against the opposition’s No. 1 receiver -- he does not back down. In fact, he raises his game to that of his competition. He plays the game with a moxie and bravado that will serve him well this season and moving forward.
Booth does a stellar job reading and reacting. He keeps his eyes in the backfield, plants his back foot and jumps routes, often leading to pass breakups and interceptions.
Jalen Clyatt | Sherwood (MD)
Safety: 6’4”, 200 lbs
Committed: East Carolina
Jalen Clyatt has tremendous size and length. As a long strider, he covers a lot of ground in little time.
Clyatt manages the middle of the field. His range allows him to cover from sideline-to-sideline, and his ball skills make him a threat to intercept passes that sail over the middle.
Cam Johnson | St. Frances (MD)
Cornerback: 6’0”, 170 lbs
Cam Johnson has excellent technique. His hips are fluid, his backpedal is smooth and he changes direction effortlessly, which allows him to be successful in man coverage even when playing on an island.
At 6-feet tall, Johnson has nice length and a frame that he will grow into. The rising junior has legitimate “lockdown corner” potential.
Jalen “Buck” McCain | Flowers (MD)
Defensive Back: 6’0, 190
Committed: Boston College
Jalen McCain is a versatile defensive back capable of making plays from all over the field. He can line up as a boundary-corner or in the slot versus spread offenses, as he displays proficiency in both zone and man coverage.
McCain is a skilled blitzer, has the speed and field awareness to defend in two-deep looks and thrives as a box safety, where his physicality and tackling abilities are on full display.
Will Simpkins III | Quince Orchard (MD)
Cornerback: 6’2”, 180 lbs
Committed: University of Virginia
Simpkins has a Div.-I body type and he uses it to his advantage. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and excels at redirecting receivers, making it difficult for them to get into their routes.
His hand-fighting techniques are superb. He has loose hips and solid ball skills. Simpkins is capable of taking away an entire side of the field.
Jalen Stroman | Patriot (VA)
Safety: 6’1”, 195 lbs
Committed: Virgina Tech
Jalen Stroman is developing into a special student athlete. He’s a big hitter who is most effective coming down hill and attacking. When defending the run, he’s equally adequate at filling the hole as he is setting the edge.
In pass coverage, Stroman displays an ability to undercut routes and break on the ball. He also displays the range to play deep centerfield.
Joshua Thompson | St. John’s (DC)
Cornerback: 6’2”, 190 lbs
Joshua Thompson thrives in press coverage. He has the physicality to manhandle receivers at the line, and the length to recover and make plays on the ball.
As a rising junior, his stock is on the rise. Thompson should develop into a 25-plus offer student athlete.
Dante Trader | McDonogh (MD)
Safety: 6’0”, 185 lbs
Dante Trader is a natural center-fielder who displays excellent range and ball skills. His footwork and technique allow him to cover ground efficiently. He’s a sound tackler who consistently finds himself around the ball.
What he lacks in size, he makes up for in instincts. Trader does an excellent job of diagnosing plays; seeing what’s in front of him and flowing accordingly.
Zakee Wheatley | Archbishop Spalding (MD)
Safety: 6’3”, 190 lbs
Committed: Penn State
Zakee Wheatley is a big time student athlete who makes plays all over the field. He has the coverage skills to line up on the outside, as well as the size and physicality to run with tight ends down the seam.
Wheatley is a heavy hitter who provides support against the run and routinely uses his force to separate man from ball.