The safety position is likely going to be a big need for the Green Bay Packers once again next offseason. Here is a look at why, along with some names to keep your eyes on throughout the college football season.
Safety was a big need for the Packers this offseason as well. However, with very limited spending power in free agency due to salary cap restrictions, along with the safety position being one of the weaker position groups in the 2023 draft class, Green Bay wasn’t able to make that splash addition everyone was hoping for.
With that said, it’s not as if the Packers didn’t address the need, either. In free agency, Brian Gutekunst signed Tarvarius Moore and Jonathan Owens, re-signed Dallin Leavitt and Rudy Ford, along with drafting Anthony Johnson.
The 2023 safety room – for the time being – is made up of Darnell Savage, Ford, Leavitt, Johnson, Owens, and the recently claimed Zayne Anderson. Matt LaFleur has said that Savage has had a nice training camp, but we need to see that carry over to the regular season after a 2022 season filled with inconsistency, which resulted in him being benched at one point.
All signs point to Ford starting next to Savage, but with about a week left in training camp, Gutekunst said that no one was able to separate themselves consistently when it came to that positional battle. Owens, meanwhile, has taken his lumps in coverage. Johnson is only in his second season playing the position, while Leavitt and Anderson are special teams players. Even with a full offseason, there still seem to be more questions than answers at a position that, on paper, could be the weak link on the defensive side of the ball.
Ultimately, after a year of missed tackles, miscommunications, and coverage breakdowns happening all too often at this position group, what Joe Barry is looking for most of all is day-to-day consistency.
As we look ahead to 2024, the unknowns around this position group remain. The only safety on the current 53-man roster who is under contract beyond this season is Johnson. Everyone else is playing on a one-year deal. From a pure numbers standpoint, adding to the safety room is going to be a must, but this position group is likely going to need an overhaul as well, depending on what transpires this season.
With added salary cap flexibility, the Packers could turn to free agency, but addressing the need early on in the draft feels like an almost certainty, given the current makeup of the 2024 roster at this position.
With the help of Packers Wire’s own Brennen Rupp, here are a number of safeties to keep your eyes on during the upcoming College Football season.
Andrew Mukuba, Clemson
A four-star recruit out of Texas, Mukuba has recorded 101 tackles, one sack, one interception, and 10 pass deflections during his first two seasons at Clemson. Mukuba has cornerback fluidity with swivel hips. The Clemson safety has good range and shows good instincts in coverage to quickly break on routes. Mukuba is a player capable of wearing multiple hats for a defensive coordinator. During his first two seasons at Clemson, he’s logged 417 snaps in the slot, where his short-area quickness and fluidity shine.
Javon Bullard, Georgia
The Packers didn’t select a Georgia Bulldog in the 2023 NFL Draft. Brian Gutekunst might get the itch to draft another Bulldog defensive player in the first round in the 2024 NFL Draft. Enter, Javon Bullard. Last season, the former three-star recruit and Georgia native recorded seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, and five pass deflections. Bullard, a high school cornerback and former track athlete is a movable piece in the secondary. He’s capable of lining up on the boundary in the slot or deep. He logged the majority of his snaps last season in the slot (510) and this season he could see more movement in Georgia’s secondary.
Calen Bullock, USC
During his first two seasons at USC, Bullock has recorded 88 tackles, seven interceptions, and 15 pass deflections. A high school wide receiver, Bullock shows plus-ball skills, finishing last season with five interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He has disciplined eyes and shows good range.
Aug 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) celebrates a stop against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the fourth quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Nubin, Minnesota
Nubin has started 24 games over the past two seasons for the Golden Gophers. During that span, Nubin has recorded 107 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, seven interceptions, and 12 pass deflections. A former high school wide receiver, Nubin showcases plus ball skills. He has a smooth shuffle and showcases great route recognition. Last fall he improved his tackling and he has the downfield burst to quickly close on ball carriers.
Rod Moore, Michigan
Moore, a former track athlete, has the quickness to cover a lot of ground. He shows good route anticipation and does a good job of keeping everything in front of him. During his first year as a full-time starter, Moore recorded 71 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and four interceptions.
Cole Bishop, Utah
Bishop is fearless in run support. The versatile Utah defensive back led the team in tackles (83) last season. To go along with those 83 tackles, Bishop recorded six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and one interception. Bishop shows good field awareness and takes appropriate angles to the football.
Kamren Kinchens, Miami
The Miami safety should be nicknamed Verizon because he has outstanding range. He has disciplined eyes and showcases a high football IQ. He attacks the ball in the air like a wide receiver and recorded six interceptions last season.
James Williams, Miami
There just are not a lot of safeties built like Williams. The Miami safety checks in at 6-5, 215 pounds. Williams is at his best playing downhill, showcasing a quick trigger. Last season, Williams recorded 58 tackles and seven pass deflections for the Hurricanes.
Beau Brade, Maryland
During his first year as a starter for Maryland, Brade responded with a team leading 85 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two interceptions. Brade is an explosive athlete. He has outstanding burst to close on routes. He tracks the ball well and showcases plus ball skills.
Aubrey Burks, West Virginia
Burks recorded 66 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception last season. Burks flies downfield in run support and appears to have an appetite for the physical side of the game. He’s a fluid athlete and showcases good change of direction skills.
Demani Richardson, Texas A&M
Richardson enters his fifth year at College Station with 43 career starts under his belt. He’s recorded 245 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four interceptions and 15 pass deflections. Richardson is a good-sized athlete that has worn multiple hats, spending time in the slot and as a high safety. The Texas A&M safety is a prospect is a well-rounded safety and his versatile skill set will be appealing.
Jack Howell, Colorado State
Howell plays bigger than his frame (5-10). The Colorado State safety is tough as nails. Howell recorded 108 tackles, three tackles for loss, three interceptions, and six pass deflections last season. He showcases good closing burst and is highly instinctive.
Patrick McMorris, California
The San Diego State transfer started 27 games during his time as an Aztec. McMorris is a versatile playmaker that has an appetite for the physical side of the game. He has a high football IQ and is always in the right spot to make plays.
Malachi Moore, Alabama
Versatility, versatility, versatility, and more versatility. Moore is a Swiss Army Knife for the Crimson Tide. Moore can line up in the slot, on the boundary, or deep. Moore burst onto the scene in 2020, recording 44 tackles, four tackles for loss, three interceptions, and nine pass deflections, while playing the Star position for Nick Saban. With Brian Branch’s departure, Moore is ready to get back to making plays.
Six more names to know:
Kitan Oladapo, Oregon State
R.J. Mickens, Clemson
Lathan Ransom, Ohio State
Yam Banks, South Alabama
Jaylon Carlies, Missouri
Asa Turner, Washington