Troy has never lacked for standout defenders in the secondary, so many that even All-American greats can’t crack our ranking of the Top 10 USC defensive backs of all-time..
The likes of Jim Sears, Nate Shaw and Mike Battle set the stage for the immense success to come in the Trojan secondary.
All-Americans like Cleveland Colter and T.J. McDonald also received national honors during their time at USC and deserve their due.
Underrated figures like Kevin Ellison, Nickell Robey and Danny Reese, who remains second on the all-time interception list, could also make their claim to distinction.
However, it can be a tough field when two of the game’s all-time greats wore cardinal and gold.
Here’s our ranking of USC’s 10 best defensive backs of all-time…
10. Taylor Mays
9. Adoree’ Jackson
There have been many great safeties in USC history, but picking out a truly great cornerback from the Trojan ranks was much more difficult before Adoree’ Jackson came around.
Jackson built his reputation around college football as an all-around talent. He was a two-time finalist for the Hornung Award as one of the nation’s most versatile players. However, his ability as a cornerback for the Trojans was also unrivaled.
The Pac-12 named him Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2014 after he won a starting job within the first month of his first season. He didn’t give up his first touchdown until the final game of that season.
As a sophomore, Jackson proved that his freshman showing was no fluke. He was named an All-Pac-12 first team defender and returned his first interception for a key touchdown against Cal.
Jackson’s junior campaign saw him get even more of the recognition he deserved. He was a consensus All-American selection and became USC’s second-ever Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s best defensive back.
Unlike many of the others on this list, Jackson hasn’t had time to solidify his place as an equally great cornerback in the NFL, but his future appears bright. He was drafted No. 18 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.
8. Artimus Parker
7. Dennis Smith
6. Charles Phillips
5. Dennis Thurman
4. Tim McDonald
3. Mark Carrier
2. Troy Polamalu
1. Ronnie Lott