Sports in Kansas: 25 Defensive Backs to Watch in 2015

Creighton Sanders of Wichita Heights may be top multi-sport athlete in Kansas. (submitted photo)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Aug 7, 2015

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Several players return after having big seasons as defensive backs in 2014. Check out who some of them are to watch in Kansas for the 2015 season.

(Alphabetical by last name - not ranked)

Cole Baird, Silver Lake (5-11 175 Sr.)

Baird will be one of the better multi-position players in 3A for 2015. He is one of 3A’s top returning safeties as he logged 58 tackles as a junior. On offense he is scheduled to be the quarterback, but at receiver in 2014, he caught 20 balls for 374 yards. He is one of only two returning starters on the Lake defense.

Cole Calvert, Salina South (5-10 160 Sr.)

Calvert picked off six passes last year in 12 games for the Cougars. He earned first team all-league honors and was also credited with 84 tackles as a junior.

Tommy Carter, Derby (6-0 185 Jr.)

Carter had a big season as a sophomore in 2014, earning second team all-league honors in one of the best leagues in Kansas. He will look to lead a Derby team to its second title appearance in three years.

Adrian Castelli, Salina Central (5-11 180 Sr.)

Castelli returns for his third year as a starter in the defensive backfield for the Mustangs. He earned second team all-conference honors at defensive back as a junior last season.

Mark Collins Jr., Blue Valley West (5-11 175 Jr.)

Collins earned second team all-conference in one of the premier leagues (EKL) in Kansas for 2014. He has several offers at the FCS level and should be without a question one of the top defensive backs in the KC metro for 2015. Collins has speed in the 4.5 range in the forty-yard dash. His father, Mark, played in the NFL.

Chase Crawford, Valley Center (6-0 185 Sr.)

Crawford had over 100 tackles from his strong safety position in 2014. He earned first earned first team All-AVCTL II honors and will look to lead a Hornet defense that returns five starters in 2015.

Lucas Dunbar, Hutchinson (5-10 190 Sr.)

Dunbar is back after registering 98 tackles last year as a junior. He will look to lead the Salthawk’s defense back into the 6A state title game. Hutchinson doesn’t return a lot but many players got playing time last season because of injuries suffered.

Jack Gordon, Blue Valley North (6-0 175 Sr.)

Gordon earned second team defensive back honors from the EKL league coaches in 2014 and will look to lead the Mustang defense in 2015.

Elijah Harris, Pittsburg (5-8 160 Jr.)

Harris has started since he was a freshmen at Pittsburg High and earned first team all-conference honors as a sophomore in 2014. He is a lock down corner and makes up his small size with his strength and speed. Expect another big year for Harris in the SEK League. Pittsburg may feature one of the better defenses in 5A, adding senior all-state caliber transfers Zack Roark from Columbus and Sherrick Rogers from Chetopa, who are both also defensive backs. Also add in the highly recruited Trevor Kent (6-5 245 Jr) at defensive end and all-state linebacker Will Mengarelli.

Robert Hutchins, Burlingame (5-9 155 Sr.)

Hutchins is one of the top returning defensive backs in the eight man ranks as he had six interceptions in 2014. Hutchinson also had 73 tackles. He will also carry the load on offense as he rushed for over 1,200 yards as a junior.

Christian Jegen, Mill Valley (6-2 195 Sr.)

Jegen is one of the best multi-purpose players in the state. He will be a three year starter on both sides of the ball and enters with over 70 career tackles and three interceptions in his role on defense. Jegen will be one of the premier players to watch in 5A on the offense this season, whether he is playing receiver or out of the backfield. He is also one of the best kick returners in Kansas.

Aryus Jones, Junction City (6-3 180 Jr.)

Jones had a monster sophomore campaign in which he picked off five passes to lead his team. He will team with Christien Ozores to form one of the better defensive backfields in 6A this season. JC returns 10 defensive starters.

Jack Knutson, Blue Valley Northwest (6-0 200 Sr.)

Knutson is back after having a big year in 2014 as a junior. He earned second team EKL honors and will be one of the defensive backs to watch for in the league once again this season. Knutson also figures to be the quarterback for the Huskies.

Eli McKee, Halstead (5-11 170 Sr.)

Besides rushing for over 1,300 yards from his quarterback position last season, McKee also helped lead the Dragon (10-3) defense with over 100 tackles from his defensive back position. McKee and teammate Blake Beckett form one of the better offensive/defensive duos in Kansas for 2015.

Jordan McKinney, SM West (6-0 185 Sr.)

McKinney was second in the Sunflower League in interceptions with six interceptions last year. He returns with seven other starters to help lead the Viking defense in 2015.

Jahron McPherson, Basehor-Linwood (6-1 185 Sr.)

McPherson is one of the most underrated player in Kansas, partly because he missed a lot of time last year with injury. He has had a great offseason and has an offer from North Dakota at the FCS level. He has 4.5 40-yard dash speed and a 33” vertical.

Evan Nichols, Bishop Carroll (5-11 175 Sr.)

Nichols earned first team all-city league honors as a junior last fall. He returns on an Golden Eagle defense that captured the 5A state title in 2014.

Christian Ozores, Junction City (5-10 190 Sr.)

Ozores returns for his third year as a starter at cornerback for Junction City. He has earned all-league honors twice and is one of 10 returning starters on the Blue Jay defense.

Darraja Parnell, Andover Central (6-2 185 Sr.)

Not only did he make the wide receivers list, Parnell also is a defensive back to watch. He picked up 69 tackles last year and intercepted four passes. Parnell has committed to play division one basketball at the University of Central Arkansas.

Creighton Sanders, Wichita Heights (6-0 185 Sr.)

Sanders may be the top overall athlete in Kansas. In track and field he is one of the best hurdlers in the state. He picked up the javelin as a junior, only to end up as a state champion and ranked in the top 10 in the country. He also is an all-state caliber baseball player and swims for his high school. He has an offer from Northern Iowa in football. Is there much this kid can’t do?

Christopher Schilling, Aquinas (6-0 200 Sr.)

Schilling is one of the top returning defenders in the state for 2015. He picked off five passes and had 78 stops last year from his safety position. He earned first team non-senior honors from Sports in Kansas and will be relied upon heavily to get the Saints back to the 5A state title game. Schilling has a few FCS offers on the table including heavy interest from the Ivy League.

Isaiah Simmons, Olathe North (6-3 215 Sr.)

Without a question the top defensive back prospect in the state for this football season. Simmons led the Sunflower League in interceptions as a sophomore and followed up with an all-state campaign as a junior in 2014. He is also a two-time 6A long jump champion and has over 10 offers at the FBS level. His brother, Victor, played football at the University of Kansas.

Trevor Thompson, SM East (6-1 185 Jr.)

Thompson will look to be one of the better cornerbacks in the Sunflower League this season after transferring from Bishop Miege. He earned all-conference honorable mention honors from the EKL coaches in 2015 after starting on the 2014 4A-I state championship team.  

Bryce Torneden, Free State (5-10 182 Sr.)

Although he returns as one of the best signal callers in Kansas, Torneden had a big year at defensive back last year intercepting two passes and picking up two fumble recoveries. Depending on depth this season, he may be asked to play some more reps at defense. He has committed to play at four-time FCS National Champion, North Dakota State.

Logan Weakley, Augusta (6-3 185 Sr.)

Weakley has had a big off-season, growing two inches and packing on twenty pounds. He also picked up an offer from Emporia State. Weakley was a second team all-conference pick last season after picking up 45 tackles and three interceptions. He features a 4.6 40-yard dash and a vertical of 39 inches.

ADDITIONAL: this list was so hard to break down to just 25, some additional names to look for in 2015.

Garrett Burkhart, Baldwin

Tylen Coe, Campus

Bradean Crites, Central Plains

Brady Dinkel, Victoria

Steffan Dolechek, Hoisington

Dillon Engelland, Buhler

Nick Fisher, Basehor-Linwood

Dedric Flax, Trego County

Tanner Fox, Blue Valley

Eric Gfeller, Wallace County

Joel Holloway, Moundridge

Nick Holmes, Pleasant Ridge

Tucker Horak, Rossville

Colter Hulings, Kapaun

Peyton Huslig, Andover Central

Gavin Lively, Norton

Trevor Lowell, Republic Co.

Ben Murray, SE-Saline

Justin Onwugbufor, Wichita Northwest

Gabriel Otero, Garden City

Konnoer Penning, Washington Co.

Lane Raida, Cherryvale

Colson Reames, Beloit

Kyle Rinck, Independence

Zack Roark, Pittsburg

Sherrick Rogers, Pittsburg

DeMare Simms, Derby

Simeon Sykes, Seaman

Jake Tiernan, Solomon

Shase Williams, Wichita Independent

Raye Wilson, Junction City

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List was compiled by Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas with input from Ben Mitchum of SB Nation.