College Football 2011: Ranking the Pac-12's Top Defensive Backs

Jason Figueiredo@sportschatterCorrespondent IMay 20, 2011

College Football 2011: Ranking the Pac-12's Top Defensive Backs

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    BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Cliff Harris #13 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after he returned a punt for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears  at California Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Ge
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Whether it is making a touchdown-saving tackle or swatting down a threatening pass downfield, defensive backs are the lifeline for any defense.

    The corps of DBs in the Pac-12 is definitely no exception, and these ball hawks are more than capable of changing the makeup of any game in a heartbeat.

    Let’s take a peek at which defensive backs rank at the top of the Pac-12 for next season.

No. 5: Tony Dye, UCLA

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Daniel Thomas #8 of the Kansas State Wildcats is tackled by Tony Dye #6 of the UCLA Bruins in the third quarter at the Rose Bowl on September 19, 2009 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA defeated Kansas State 23-9.  (Photo by Jeff
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Senior strong safety Tony Dye rocked any ball that came his way last season, finishing second amongst DB’s in the Pac-10 with 96 tackles, tacking on 10 passes defended to boot.  Dye is a wrecking ball in UCLA’s secondary and will be a force to be reckoned with this season.  

    ***Check out which running backs ranked six through 10 at The Pacific Dozen: A Pac-12 Football Blog.

No. 4: John Boyett, Oregon

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    PASADENA, CA. - OCTOBER 10: John Boyett #20 of the Oregon Ducks intercepts the ball in the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruins on October 10, 2009 at the rosebowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jacob De golish/Getty Images)
    Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

    It can be hard to get press time when you are riding alongside the best DB in the Pac-12 Conference (Cliff Harris).

    However, Oregon free safety John Boyett made a decent-sized splash of his own in 2010. Boyett tied for second in the Pac-10 with five interceptions, and he added 14 passes defended. The Ducks' duo in the secondary will without a doubt produce another year of havoc in the Pac-12.

No. 3: Nate Fellner, Washington

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    SEATTLE - OCTOBER 24:  LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks carries the ball against Nate Fellner #29 of the Washington Huskies on October 24, 2009 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Ducks defeated the Huskies 43-19. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Strong safety Nate Fellner exploded onto the scene for Washington last season, collecting five interceptions, 13 passes defended and 79 tackles. The 6’1”, 201-pound junior will be the most important part of Washington’s growing secondary.

    With his ability to deceive the QB downfield, don’t be surprised if Fellner increases his interception total in 2011.

No. 2: Delano Howell, Stanford

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    PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Ronald Johnson #83 of the USC Trojans loses control of the ball when he is hit by Delano Howell #26 of the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Delano Howell emerged as a solid strong safety for the Cardinal, grabbing five picks last season during the Stanford defense's rapid revival. Howell is an everlasting threat in the Cardinal secondary and will undoubtedly pluck a few balls from the skies this season.

    As the leader of the group, Howell will need to kick his game up a notch in order to help maintain this defense’s recent progress.

No. 1: Cliff Harris, Oregon

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    EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 2: Cornerback Cliff Harris #13 of the Oregon Ducks intercepts a pass in front of cornerback Corey Gatewood #2 of the Stanford Cardinal in the third quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    There are ball hawks, and then there are ball eagles. Oregon’s Cliff Harris definitely falls into the latter category. Harris led the Pac-10 last year with 17 broken-up passes and six interceptions.  His apparent omnipresence on the field makes the Ducks secondary one of the scariest to throw into.

    Keep track of the Pac-12 at The Pacific Dozen: A Pac-12 Football Blog.