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Rivals Rankings Week: Storylines to follow with top 2026 defensive backs

Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

The new position rankings for the 2026 class are being released and so it’s time to look at storylines at each spot. Today we continue with the defensive backs.

NEW POSITION RANKINGS: Cornerback | Safety | Athlete | Inside Linebacker | Outside Linebacker | Strongside Defensive End | Weakside Defensive End | Defensive Tackle | Offensive Tackle | Offensive Guard | Offensive Center | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Running Back | All-Purpose Back | Pro-Style QB | Dual-Threat QB

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RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK

Sunday: Who should be No. 1?

Monday: Five-Star Countdown | Meet the new five-star

Tuesday: New Rivals250 unveiled | Position-by-position | Biggest risers

Wednesday: New offensive position rankings | QB rankings breakdown | RB rankings breakdown | WR/TE rankings breakdown | OL rankings breakdown

Thursday: New defensive position rankings | DL rankings breakdown | LB rankings breakdown | DB rankings breakdown | ATH rankings breakdown

Friday: New state rankings | Who is No. 1 in each state

Saturday: Rivals Rankings Roundtable

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THE RACE TO BE THE FIRST FIVE-STAR CORNERBACK

We don’t have a five-star at cornerback yet in the 2026 Rivals250. However, there are three prospects who are right on the cusp of getting the coveted fifth star.

USC commit Brandon Lockhart is deserving of that No. 1 spot. He’s a smooth and long corner with good coverage skills. Samari Matthews is a hot prospect out of North Carolina who is picking up elite offers left and right. Elbert Hill is a smaller corner but can cover guys on the outside and in the slot.

This could also be a position that sees some big risers come up the board. It’s a good group overall but those top three prospects have the inside track to five-star status.

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SPEEDSTERS ON THE MOVE AT CORNER

Justin Garcia/Rivals.com

There are a pair of speedsters that have popped on the cornerback radar this spring that we’ll be watching this fall when the Friday Night Lights come back on.

Miami native J’Vari Flowers is putting up crazy track times in South Florida. He ripped off a 10.4 100m dash before his junior year of high school. He’s picked up several offers lately but his recruitment is bound to go national soon.

Gadsden (Ala.) City corner Zyan Gibson holds early offers from Alabama, Miami, Georgia and others. We could see him shoot up the rankings moving forward. We’ll be watching to see if his 4.4 camp speed translates to the football field this fall.

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BODY-TYPE CHANGES ON THE WAY?

Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

For years now bigger defensive backs were all the rage with college football coaches. It’s easy to fall in love with a defensive back that is 6-foot-2 and up with a massive wingspan. But if you look at the trends in the NFL Draft those players aren’t getting drafted as high as you’d think. Instead the shorter corners with long arms and great leaping ability are preferred. There will be a trickle down effect in recruiting rankings.

The question is when it happens.

Elbert Hill, Justice Fitzpatrick and Ksani Jiles are a few prospects who would benefit from a shift in the way we think about defensive backs and size.

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WHICH BLUE-CHIP DEFENSIVE BACKS WILL LAND AT OHIO STATE?

Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

We know the Buckeyes are putting together an elite defensive back class for the 2025 cycle, but what about 2026?

Ohio State is looking to stack classes as elite programs tend to do. The Buckeyes are in the mix with Elbert Hill, Samari Matthews, J’Zavien Currence, Jireh Edwards and many other elite prospects. If the program's 2025 commitments all sign with the Buckeyes, the program will be able to be even more selective than normal when it comes to defensive back recruiting.

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