Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer 640d

Big 12 pre-spring position rankings: DB

With spring ball less than a month away, we've been ranking the position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations are based on past performance, future potential and quality depth of the entire group. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment.

We continue this series with defensive backs:

1. Oklahoma: Zack Sanchez leaving early for the draft doesn't knock the Sooners off this perch. CB Jordan Thomas and safeties Steven Parker and Ahmad Thomas still form a terrific trio. Will Johnson solidified the nickelback role midseason. The Sooners also have a pair of viable options to replace Sanchez in Dakota Austin and P.J. Mbanasor.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boast a terrific safety duo in All-Big 12 performer Jordan Sterns and the big-hitting Tre Flowers. CBs Ashton Lampkin and Ramon Richards bring starting experience.

3. TCU: With a clean bill of health, the Horned Frogs might be No. 1 here. Kenny Iloka and Ranthony Texada are still working their way back from season-ending knee injures. TCU has also lost Julius Lewis to an apparent season-ending offseason injury. Even then, the Horned Frogs still have versatile starter Nick Orr and safety Denzel Johnson, who could challenge for first-team All-Big 12 honors.

4. Texas: Holton Hill and Davante Davis earned valuable experience as true freshmen and flashed potential as a foundational CB tandem. Jason Hall is a big hitter at safety. However, the big storyline here could be Brandon Jones. The nation's No. 2 safety could challenge immediately for a role once he arrives on campus.

5. Baylor: All-Big 12 CB Xavien Howard bolted early for the draft, but the rest of the secondary returns intact. Safeties Orion Stewart, Chance Waz and Travon Blanchard were all honorable-mention All-Big 12 selections last season. This unit will need to step up as Baylor replaces its entire starting defensive line.

6. Iowa State: This quietly has a chance to be a terrific unit. Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is a former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. CB Nigel Tribune will be a four-year starter. And CB Brian Peavy was on our All-Big 12 underclassman team.

7. Kansas State: All-Big 12 safety Dante Barnett will be back after missing all of last season with an injury. He was the glue of the K-State secondary in 2014. He'll be flanked by CB Duke Shelley, who flashed plenty of All-Big 12 potential while starting as a true freshman. Donnie Starks will also be a returning starter at nickelback.

8. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose both starting CBs as Terrell Chestnut graduated and Daryl Worley declared for the draft. The Mountaineers will look for juco transfer Rasul Douglas and Miami transfer Antonio Crawford to fill those voids. West Virginia could be leaning on another transfer to help at safety. Kyzir White, the younger brother of former West Virginia WR Kevin White and current WR Ka'Raun White, was one of the top jucos in the country and could win the starting job alongside three-year starter Dravon Askew-Henry in the fall.

9. Texas Tech: Keenon Ward, Jah'Shawn Johnson, Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel II return for what figures to be the strength of the Tech defense. If the Red Raiders can take the next step up, it could go a long way toward helping the rest of the defense.

10. Kansas: Safety Fish Smithson was a tackling machine for the Jayhawks, ranking second in the league with 126 tackles. Shaq Richmond, Kyle Mayberry and Ian Peterson should help out a secondary that could start four seniors.

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