Bryce Thompson is the best true freshman cornerback in all of college football. And it isn’t even close.
According to grades determined by the college division of Pro Football Focus, the South Carolina native has been exceptional for the Vols this season and has graded out as the top true freshman at his position. His grade of 81.8 is one of the highest for any true freshman regardless of position on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s a whole 4.2 points ahead of the second-place true freshman corner, Iowa’s Julius Brents.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 15, 2018
“Thompson leads all true freshmen cornerbacks in overall grade, pass-rush grade and coverage grade this season as he’s been incredibly efficient across the board,” writes PFF. “He has been sticky in coverage mainly, despite allowing four touchdowns, he has intercepted three passes and broken up another six to give him nine total plays on the ball on 44 targeted passes as the primary coverage defender. A sneaky good blitzer, Thompson has rushed the passer just eight times in 2018, yet brought home six total pressures (1 sack, 5 hurries).”
But Thompson isn’t the only Vol cornerback to grade out highly this season.
Alontae Taylor is also among the highest-graded true freshmen at the cornerback position according to Pro Football Focus. Taylor received a grade of 74.2, just barely edging out Texas State’s Jarron Morris and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn — a former Vol commit in the 2018 class — for the No. 4 spot among true freshmen corners.
Both Thompson and Taylor have been the primary starters for Tennessee at cornerback this season, and they were part of the trio of freshmen who started in the secondary for the Vols’ first game of the season against West Virginia. The other true freshman who started for UT in that match-up was safety Trevon Flowers.
On the season, Thompson has 28 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, three interceptions, six pass breakups, and a quarterback hurry. His three interceptions are the most for a true freshman at Tennessee since Eric Berry had five in his first year with the Vols in 2007.
For Taylor, he’s totaled 29 tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, two pass breakups, and a blocked kick.