The Top 12 Pac-12 defensive backs of the BCS era: Troy Polamalu headlines list of Pac-12 greats

Nick Laham

The early-2000s was a great period for defensive backs in the conference.

Antoine Cason Arizona 2004-07

Cason came to Tucson as a lightly-heralded recruit and made the most out of his career, leaving as one of the program's best defense players of all-time. Cason had his best year as a senior when he won the Thorpe Award and was honored as an All-American and finished his career with 15 interceptions.

Daymeion Hughes Cal 2003-06

Hughes was the best defensive player on Cal during the glory days of the Jeff Tedford era. Hughes blew up as a senior, winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 while picking off eight passes and also earning All-American honors and first team all-conference honors for the second year in-a-row.

Taylor Mays USC 2006-09

Maybe the most physically gifted and intimidating safety to ever play in the conference, Mays was a physical freak who was an All-American in the last three years of his career. Mays arguably had a better start to his career than finish, but his accolades and on-field production are still staggering enough to make him one of the top safeties of the era, if not ever, in the conference.

Chris McAlister Arizona 1996-98

One of the best Wildcats of all-time, McAlister was literally a shutdown corner that teams didn't throw against during his time in Tucson, being named first team all-conference three years in-a-row. McAlister finished with 18 interceptions in his career and was named an unanimous All-American in 1998.

T.J. McDonald USC 2009-12

The son of the great Tim McDonald, T.J. had a fantastic overall career at USC as a great all-around safety that was especially effective in run defense. McDonald was an All-American as a junior and followed it up with a great senior season in which he had more than 100 tackles.

Rahim Moore UCLA 2008-10

One of the best players in conference history at pulling down interceptions, Moore was deadly in pass coverage in his three-year career, peaking as a sophomore when he led the nation with 10 interceptions. Moore received a countless number of honors as a sophomore and junior as he held down the back of the Bruin defense including back-to-back All-American and first team all-conference honors.

Deltha O'Neal Cal 1996-99

The ultra-speedy corner's most impressive stat was setting the NCAA single-season record for interceptions returned for touchdowns in 1999 with four. O'Neal was a superb cover corner and peaked as a senior when he was an All-American and first team all-conference before becoming a Top 15 NFL Draft pick.

Troy Polamalu USC 1999-2002

Polamalu had a good career leading up to his senior year in 2002, but as the Trojans did, he completely blew up in 02 and was a big part of their initial run to BCS glory under Pete Carroll. Polamalu was a Thorpe Award finalist in his standout senior season along with earning numerous All-American honors and first team all-conference honors.

Jorday Poyer Oregon State 2009-12

Poyer blew up as a senior and had one of the best single seasons recently achieved by a Pac-12 cornerback. Poyer was honored with numerous All-American honors for his excellent senior season in which he totaled seven interceptions and finished his career 13 total.

Lamont Thompson Washington State 1998-2001

Thompson, probably even more than Moore, was as good as any player in conference history at tracking the ball in the air and picking it off, finishing his career with a staggering 22 interceptions. Thompson's career peaked as a senior as he led the nation with eight interceptions and was a big part of a 10-win season for Washington State.

Marcus Trufant Washington State 1999-2002

A pure cover corner, Trufant was a big part of why the Cougars were so good and hard to pass against in 2001 and 2002. He earned All-American and first team all-conference as a senior and finished his career with 11 interceptions before becoming a first round draft pick.

Tank Williams Stanford 1999-2001

Williams lived up to one of the great names in Pac-12 history as a fearsome hitter who held down the backend in a big way for the Cardinal during some really good seasons for the program. Williams had his best season in 2001 when he earned All-American honors and first team all-conference honors while picking off five passes.

Honorable Mention

Hakim Akbar Washington 1998-2000

Nnamdi Asomugha Cal 2009-12

Darnell Bing USC 2003-05

Deone Bucannon Washington State 2010-13

Syd'Quan Thompson Cal 2005-08

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