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Jack Follman’s 2023 Preseason Top Pac-12 Defensive Backs

It’s not a strong year for Conference DBs, but there’s a solid group of returning standouts on top

Posted on July 5, 2023

  By Jack Follman, SuperWest Sports

The Pac-12 has some of the best quarterbacks and receivers the Conference has ever seen coming back in 2023.

The good news for them is it’s not a strong year for Pac-12 DBs. It’s a fresh crop of talent defending Pac-12 passing offenses and not the deepest group.

There’s still a solid group of returning standouts on the top and depth that’s ready to break out this season.

1. Kitan Oladapo, Senior, Oregon State
Beaver DB Kitan Oladapo | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Oladapo grew into a big-time player last year with 80 tackles, six passes defended (PDs), and 2.5 sacks. He’s the most consistent and reliable DB coming back in the Conference.

2. Calen Bullock, Junior, USC
Trojans DB Calen Bullock | Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
Bullock is definitely in the discussion for the best DB in the conference. There’s a good chance he leads the Conference in interceptions this year after grabbing five last year.

3. Cole Bishop, Junior, Utah
Utah S Cole Bishop | Rick Scuteri/AP
The Utes have produced a ton of great safeties over the years. Bishop is next after racking up 80+ tackles last year with 4 sacks and 8 PDs in his career already.

4. Evan Williams, Senior, Oregon
Oregon DB Evan Williams | Jackson Moore/247Sports
Williams was a perennial All-Mountain West selection at Fresno State and should step right in and make an impact at Oregon.

He’s the kind of steady playmaker the Ducks need to improve their secondary.

5. Jabbar Muhammad, Senior, Washington
Washington DB Jabbar Muhammed | Scott Winters/ICON Sportswire
Washington snagged the Oklahoma State transfer and All-Big 12 selection to try and bolster their pass defense. He should be one of the best corners in the Conference right away.

6. Jaden Hicks, Sophomore, Washington State
Cougar DB Jaden Hicks | Young Kwak/The Associated Press
A weekly honor usually in the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week selection, Hicks had 75 tackles, a sack, and an interception in 2022.

7. Asa Turner, Senior, Washington
Washington DB Asa Turner | Dean Rutz/Seattle Times
One of the best veterans in the Conference, Turner has six interceptions in his career and more than 100 tackles. He should be the leader of the Husky defense in 2023.

8. Travis Hunter, Sophomore, Colorado
Colorado DB Travis Hunter | Colorado Athletics
The former No. 1 recruit in the nation is now in Boulder and ready to turn into a star in the Pac-12. He’s one of the most exciting players coming into the conference in 2023.

9. Chau Smith-Wade, Junior, Washington State
Cougar DB Chau Smith-Wade | WSU Athletics
Smith-Wade quietly had a really good 2022. He finished with eight PDs on top of 40-plus tackles and two interceptions.

10. Ryan Cooper Jr., Senior, Oregon State
Beaver DB Ryan Cooper Jr. | Soobum Im/USA TODAY. Sports
An underrated stud on Oregon State’s stellar 2022 secondary, Cooper had three interceptions last year and 45 tackles with a sack.

11. Craig Woodson, Senior, Cal
Cal DB Craig Woodson | Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times
Woodson stepped up as part of Cal’s perennially tough secondary last year with more than 70 tackles, three PDs, and two interceptions with one for a touchdown. He takes over as Cal’s best DB.

12. Jeremiah Earby, Sophomore, Cal
Cal DB Jeremiah Earby | Thearon W. Henderson | Getty Images
Earby had a fantastic first season at Cal, which seems to grow stud DBs on trees. He had 11 PDs as a freshman and 35 tackles with an interception.

—More from Jack Follman—