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Jalen Pitre: Nation’s Top Defensive Back?

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Joe and Evan have published stories on the accolades and awards that Baylor Safety Jalen Pitre received this season. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Defensive Player of the Year. Jim Thorpe Finalist.

The actual Jim Thorpe Award recipient, given to the nation’s best defensive back, will be revealed tonight. In advance of the announcement, I wanted to do a quick statistical comparison of Pitre to other defensive backs. The following numbers are based on all players listed as a Cornerback or Safety with at least 100 snaps this season.

Pro Football Focus grades BU #8 as the #1 run defender among defensive backs, and you won’t find many people willing to argue with that assessment. He is in the top twenty in number of tackles with 70, and he leads the country in defensive stops (“tackles that constitute a ‘failure’ for the offense”, per PFF) with 47.

Pitre is also elite at rushing the quarterback. He is tied for second in the country in sacks with four and leads the country in quarterback hurries with seventeen. You’d struggle to record those stats playing NCAA Football 14 and calling safety blitzes every play.

When he’s not chasing a quarterback down, you can find Pitre annihilating an unsuspecting receiver on a bubble screen and forcing a fumble. Pitre is tied for 29th in the country with four turnovers, though some record books have Pitre with an additional forced fumble, which would put him tied for twelfth.

Pitre is no slouch in pass coverage, either. He ranks in the top ten percent in number of pass breakups despite spending so much of his time rushing the QB. When targeted, he keeps opposing QBs at an NFL passer rating of 62 and limits yards per reception to 9.2. Both of these numbers are in the top (best) fifteen percent of defenders.

So how does Pitre compare to other DBs this year?

I’d say pretty well.