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Janie Harris | | August 27, 2016

7 defensive leaders returning to match stats in 2016

  Kent State's Nate Holley led the nation in total tackles per game last year.

Now that college football season has arrived, different teams will rise and fall throughout the season. College football remains a volatile beast. With injuries, upsets and rotating players, each week can prove to be worlds different than the week before.

However, each week, teams covet and fear a solid defense.

While one player cannot make up a whole defense, these seven men guided their team in the right direction at defensive statistics leaders last year. And while these statistics might change as the season goes one, these men look to make a similar impact in college football in 2016.

Rashard Fant | Indiana

Passes Defended per game: 1.8

As a red-shirt sophomore in 2015, cornerback Fant finished with 22 pass breakups, 52 tackles, 48 solo tackles, one interception and a single fumble recovery. He recorded his best game for pass breakups against Florida International. Now, walking on to the field to play for his third year, Fant looks to break his own record again.

Shawun Lurry | Northern Illinois

Interceptions per game: 0.6

During his break-out sophomore year, this junior cornerback led the FBS with nine interceptions and even finished behind Fant for passed defended. However, he also led NIU in interception return yardage historically, averaging about 30 yards per game. In 2016, Lurry looks poised to help lead NIU to a solid season.

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Trey Hendrickson | Florida Atlantic

Sacks per game: 1.13, Forced fumbles per game: 0.42

  FAU's Trey Hendrickson led the nation in sacks per game and forced fumbles per game last year.
Now stepping into his senior year, this defensive end looks to defend his statistical titles. Last year, Hendrickson posted his best night against Charlotte where he tallied six solo tackles and three sacks for a total loss of 21 yards as well as a forced fumble. He continues to impress those watching him and seems as if he will continue that trend in 2016.

Fish Smithson | Kansas

Solo Tackles per game: 7.9

Also coming into his senior year, safety Smithson prepares to potentially receive second-team All-Big 12 honors for the second year in a row. Last year while starting in all the games he played, he became the first player at Kansas since 1990 to make 10 or more stops in six consecutive games. While he did miss a game due to injury last year, he walks onto the field for 2016 looking healthy and ready to make an impact.

Nate Holley | Kent State

Total Tackles per game: 11.8

With 315 career tackles to his name, this senior safety posted impactful numbers each of his years at Kent State. During his freshman year, he tallied a team high of 12 tackles against Ohio State. As a sophomore, he recorded 10 or more tackles in eight games, and as a junior, he posted 15 or more tackles in six of the last nine games. Now as a senior, he looks to continue to bump up his impressive numbers.

Devonte Fields | Louisville

Tackles for loss per game: 1.7

Starting in all 13 games for the Cardinals, this senior linebacker was named the team defensive player of the year in 2015, finishing fourth on the team for a total of 64 tackles. He also posted 22.5 tackles for loss last year, which is the second most for a single season in Louisville history. Now, Fields looks to break that record for the Cardinals as he moves into the 2016 season.

Jah’Shawn Johnson | Texas Tech

Fumbles recovered: 4

In 2015, this red-shirt sophomore defensive back started as a safety in each of Texas Tech’s 13 games, playing a role in multiple turnovers for the season. He posted 85 tackles, four forced fumbles, four fumbles recovered and two interceptions. His record on fumbles recovered is the most for Texas Tech since Franklin Mitchem in 2009. Looking to 2016, Johnson seems poised to continue his positive trend for the Red Raiders. 

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