Sports in Kansas: Defensive Backs to Watch for the 2023 season across the state of Kansas

Trey Thomas of BV Southwest. photo: Grace Rich

Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas takes a look at top returning players in the state position by position. Keep in mind, our lists aren’t just prospect based as we cover the high school seasons of football by every class, not just potential or recruiting.

This list is not ranked by player or a recruiting list. Research is compiled from our all-state teams last year, stats from last year, all-league selections, off-season combines and input from other media members/coaches. Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas conducts premium player evaluations of players every year that are looking to play at the next level. If you’re interested in this premium service, please contact [email protected] as we have helped hundreds of athletes across the state over the last 11 years.

Callen Barta, Seaman

Barta, a Nebraska commitment, will be one of the top two-way players in 5A football this season for Seaman. He was a non-senior DB last fall from Sports in Kansas.

Trey Thomas, Blue Valley Southwest

Thomas has been a multiple time all-non senior pick from Sports in Kansas. He will be one of the best in 5A and all of Kansas this season. He had seven interceptions last season.

Kaleb Scott, Basehor Linwood

Scott was an all-non senior pick last season. He was also a first team UKC all-conference pick as a junior. He’s also an all-state caliber return man earning second team all-state honors at non-senior last fall from SIK.

Carter Helm, Kingman

The Kingman senior had 10 interceptions last year as a junior to earn All-Non senior honors from Sports in Kansas. Kingman was last years 2A state runner-up.  

Tony Moore, Hoisington

Moore is a returning star on both sides of the ball for Hoisington. He was an all-state honorable mention pick last year in 2A. He was a first team all-league selection at DB in 2022.

Dezmond Winton, Wellsville & Brody Lee, Wellsville

Winton is back after an All-Non senior season from Sports in Kansas in 2022. He will look to be one of the better two-way players in his class this fall. Lee also had a big time year earning all-league honors and picking off six passes.

Jameer Moore, Salina Central

Moore has great size at 6’3” and 170 pounds. He also has a 4.5 HH 40-yard dash time and a 39” vertical. Moore will look to be one of the best defensive backs in 5A this season.

Michael Boganowski, Junction City

Also listed on the LB’s list, the top defensive recruit in Kansas. Can play multiple spots all over the field and is being recruited as a linebacker at the next level. His film from the safety position is off the charts and a returning all-state pick at defensive back from Sports in Kansas.

Tanner Heckel, Lyndon

Heckel is one of the best athletes in the entire state and will be one of the best two-way players in Kansas. The Inman transfer has a 42” vertical, long jumps 24’, triple jumps 45’7” and has a 10.96 100 meter dash time. As we’ve said over and over, Lyndon is for real in 8M-I.

Drew Pettay, Wamego

Great length at 6’3” and was an honorable mention all-state pick in 4A last season for the state runner-up Red Raiders. Three-sport athlete with nice size and speed.

Garrett Cronin, Mill Valley

Cronin may not be the biggest on the field at 5’10” 180 but he is explosive with a 39’9” vertical and 4.63 HH speed in the 40. MV defense is always loaded and we expect Cronin to be a big part of the secondary at cornerback.

Cameron Porter, Gardner Edgerton, Eli Porter, Gardner Edgerton, Randy Singleton, Gardner Edgerton

Cameron Porter was a second team all-sunflower league pick last season. GE took state runner-up last season and is a team to certainly circle in 6A. Porter was a second team all-non senior from SIK last fall. Eli was an all-league honrable mention pick. The twins are primed for a huge year. Singleton was an all-league honorable mention pick last season. We felt GE was kind of snubbed on some of the all-league picks last season but it didn’t matter as they still ended up as state runner-up.

Tucker Harrell, Colgan & Connor Van Becelaere, Colgan

Harrell is likely the most explosive player on this list when it comes to a weight room. At 175 pounds, he cleans 335. He also has a sub 4.5 speed in the 40. Harrell, an ATH, shines on both sides of the ball at QB/DB. Expect a huge year for the SMC senior. Van Becelaere led the team with five interceptions last fall and will look to make an impact on both sides of the ball.

Marcus Bauman, Sabetha

Bauman is a returning all-state selection in 2A for Sabetha and will look to be one of the best defensive backs in the class. Sabetha has a ton of talent back on both sides that make them a contender in 2A.

Stetson Schafer, Cherryvale

Schafer had a breakout junior season in which he got some type of all-state honor at both WR and DB. Expect him to be one of the best two-way players in 2A. He had 11 interceptions in 2022.

Terrell King, Hutchinson

King was a first team all-non senior as a sophomore for Hutchinson last fall from Sports in Kansas. We expect Hutchinson to be a very good 5A team this fall after an improved 8-3 campaign in 2022.

Demaria’e Barker, Derby

Barker was a first team all-6A pick from Sports in Kansas last year as well as non-senior. Derby will look to be a major contender again in 6A.

Adrion Seals, Eudora & Matthew Magette, Eudora

Seals is one of the top two-way players in 4A (DB/WR) and we expect him to be all-state caliber on both sides of the ball. He was a first team non-senior DB last year from Sports in Kansas on a legit 4A Eudora team. Eudora also has high hopes for Matthew Magette who tests off the charts (10.89 100, 43’8” vertical, 315 clean, state powerlifting champion, 6’4” high jump, state runner up in the 100). He had 60 tackles last season in nine games.

Kaiden Seamster, Chanute

Seamster was a first team all-non senior last season from Sports in Kansas. He can play all over the place for the Blue Comets and will look to be one of the top two-way players in 4A (WR/DB/ATH). He even played some QB as a freshman.

Trey Ridley, Blue Valley Northwest

Ridley, 6-1 195 pounds, is likely the top defensive back recruit in the state since Michael Boganowski is classified as a linebacker. He is two-time all-non senior pick from SIK and has multiple offers at the Division I level.

Max Stanard, Manhattan

Stanard was an all-state honorable mention pick and all-non senior pick at DB last season for the 6A state champion Manhattan Indians. He has committed to South Dakota State at the FCS level. Manhattan also returns Ian McNabb and Elijah McFadden listed on the others to watch below.

Brody Hayes, Clay Center & Jackson Henry, Clay Center.

Hayes is a standout multiple sport athlete for Clay Center and sines on both sides of the ball. The SIK all-state safety helped Clay Center to a major improvement last season. He is 5’11” 185 pounds and also plays RB on offense where he was all-league last season. He had 105 tackles on defense and nearly 1,500 yards of all-purpose yards on offense. Henry picked off four passes last year and is looking to be a standout two-way player for Clay Center.

Colter McDaniel, Cheney

McDaniel is a standout two-way player for the Cardinals that should expect a big senior year on both sides of the ball.

Jaden Parker, Wichita Collegiate & Brett Wetta, Collegiate

Parker was a standout freshman last fall for Collegiate, a team many are talking about on the 3A west. He was an all-state honorable mention pick at DB as a freshman, a very rare feat. Wetta is back for his senior campaign after an all-state honorable mention junior season for the Spartans.

Quinn Eilert, Beloit

Eilert was a first team all-2A selection for the Trojans last fall. He will be depended upon heavily this season with the graduation of several key players. Eilert is 6’2” and 190 pounds and had 87 tackles last fall (2 INT). He will be one of the best in 2A this season.

Isiah Kincaide, Topeka & Centennial League

Kincaide was a first team all-league pick in the secondary last year for Topeka alongside Michael Bognanowski of Junction City and Jaren Heim of Wasbhurn Rural who are both listed at LBs this season. Max Stanard is also back as an all-league first team selection out of Manhattan.

Maveryk Becker, Centralia

Becker will be one of the top 1A players returning this fall for traditional state power Centralia. He was a first team all-1A pick last season.

Tucker Groh, Chase County

Groh will look to be one of the best 8-man DBs in the state this season. He picked off four passes last season for Chase County.

Wyatt Wurtz, Wabaunsee

Wurtz will be one of the best two-way players in 1A this season for the Chargers. The program has been on the rise and several nice pieces are back on both sides of the ball. He had five interceptions in 2022.

Eli Lang, Minneola

Lang is one of the best two-way 8-man players in Kansas. He is capable of being all-state on either side of the ball.

Cole Heitman, De Soto

Hietman was a first team all-league pick in the UKC as a junior last fall. He was one of two juniors selected at DB for the honor. Heitmann has earned all-league honors on the first team in back to back years. De Soto also has a couple of other backs on the others to watch list in Charlie Tadlock and Davis Barr that expect to have big time seasons.

Carson Shimer, Dighton & Daniel Cramer, Dighton

Shimer earned 8M-II all-state honors last season as a junior on a loaded Dighton squad. He will look to be the leader of the defense this season after picking off eight passes in 2022. Cramer will be a two-way star and was also on the WRs list. We expect this to be a great duo for the defense. He had five interceptions last season.

Brandon Schmelzle, Axtell & Brady Buessing, Axtell

Schmelzle will be one of the top two-way players in the state regardless of classification. Will be a major contender for 8M-II POY on either side of the ball for defending two-time state champion Axtell. He had six interceptions last season. Buessing was an all-state pick in 8M-II one season ago at DB and will be one of the best defenders in the class.

Briggs Jewell, South Barber

Jewell was a first team all-state pick last season for South Barber. We expect him to be one of the best defensive backs in 8-man. He had nine interceptions last fall.

Gerard Reed, Olathe East

Reed had 87 tackles, six pass breakups and an INT last year on the way to a second team SFL all-league season. He was also all-state honorable mention.

Zane Turner, Galena

Turner will be one of the best two-way players in the CNC this season. While he can play multiple spots on offense, playing QB last year and ATH the year before, he also shines as a defensive back picking up all-league honors last season.

Eric Armour, Hutch Trinity

Armour was a first team all-league pick in the secondary last season for Hutch Trinity. He also doubles as a standout QB.

Southeast Kansas League

This league is loaded with defensive backs for 2023 season with four first team all-league picks returning in Quentin Harding (Chanute), Camdon Julian (Indy), Amanie Luten (Coffeyville) & Kaiden Seamster of Chanute.


Amanie Luten returns after an all-league season along with standout two-way player Aaron Tunstall and returning starter Keshawn Kayes. Coffeyville has skill talent all over the place this season once again. The difference with this years team is they also have some very good lineman coming back which make them a team to circle on the 4A west, yes they are on the west despite being located in Southeast Kansas.

Henry Hecox, Moundridge

Hecox was a first team all-league pick in the secondary last year as a sophomore. He is also the schools quarterback. Expect a big year for Hecox on both sides of the ball.

Dane Winters, Burlingame

Winters was a unanimous all-league pick as a sophomore under HC Jeff Slater. Burlingame is always in the mix in the 8M-I ranks and we expect him to be one of the better defensive backs in 8M-I this season.

City League

Three players return after first team all-league honors in the GWAL for 2023. Dayontay Standifer of Wichita East, Omari Wishom of Wichita East and Jeremiah Harris of Wichita Northwest. Harris was a standout corner as a sophomore last fall while Wishom was a junior cornerback and Standifer was a junior safety.


Aquinas is always loaded at the position and it will be no different this year. Dillon Marshall is a rising prospect and one of the top safetys in the EKL. Blake O’Brien is player of the year in his class in baseball and also had a standout season last year. Wyatt Lewis is also back for the Saints.

Drake Mellies, Jackson Heights

Its very rare for a freshman to be a first team all-league player and that’s just what Drake Mellies was last season for Jackson Heights. We expect a big sophomore year at DB/QB.


Britt Grigsby of Ashland, Luke McGuire of Cheylin and Pablo Bermudez were all players that earned all-state honors in the class last season and should expect big senior years. Several key players in 6-man were juniors last year, especially on the defensive side of the ball in its first year as a KSHSAA class in 2022.

Other Top Defensive Backs Across the State to Watch from Sports in Kansas.

Charlie Tadlock – De Soto, Nate Martin – Basehor Linwood, Mason Alderice – Hoisington, Ace Plummer – Oakley, Isaiah Kincaide – Topeka, Hayden Buttrey – Council Grove, Keegan Brown – Council Grobe, Braun Frye – Council Grove, Eric Armour – Hutch Trinity, Jace Wunderlich – Central Burden, Griffin Heger – Hugoton, Dez Gibson – Salina Central, CJ Felder – Maize, Jeremiah Harris – Wichita Northwest, Dayontay Standier – Wichita East, Omari Wishom – Wichita East, Jack Bloom _ Seaman, Landon Christiansen – BV Southwest, Gage Ilges – BV Southwest, Emmitt Peters – BV Southwest, Rock Schomaker – Valley Center, Ashton Sell – Goddard, Quentin Harding – Chanute, Manny Gonzalez – Goodland, Jack Harvey – Baldwin, Avery Noll – Scott City, Cam Stadel – Burlington, Conner Profitt – Pittsburg, Aidan Broxterman – Nemaha Central, Layton Leiker – Ellsworth, Jess Reece – Osage City, Trace Kopper – Cimarron, Daniel Kejr – SE Saline, Seth Dugan – Garden Plain, Josh Rodriguez – Ellsworth, Dexton Hoelting – Olpe, Baker Moore – Central Heights, Ethen Redeker – Olpe, Jaiden Diasio – Sterling, Jeffry Cayton – Pleasanton, Taylor Wykes – Conway Springs, Jackson Scarlett – Pleasanton, Connor Keirns – Jeff County North, Jaiden Diasio – Sterling, Brayden Berens – Skyline, Caleb Dotterer – Lincoln, Ryan Sramek – Rawlins Co., Taegan Thrasher – Wilson, Hunter Howell – Osborne, Lane Homewood – Sylvan Lucas, Jesse Smith – Minneola, Harley McPherson – Cheylin, Weston Schultejans – Wetmore, Aiden Hoopes – Burrton, Carter Peters – Tescott, Martell Buchannan – Blue Valley, Jax Heneha – Hutchinson, Carson Powers – Salina South, Mitchel McDaniel – Buhler, Jayse Schriner – McPherson, Shannon Fuller – Mulvane, Landon Harp – Andale, Elijah McFadden – Manhattan, Lovell Autry – Junction City, Braxton Creed – Halstead, Levi Smith – Hillsboro, Peyton Schmidt – Kinsley, Cooper Hosman – Ellinwood, Landon Christiansen – BVSW, , Nate Livingston – BVNW, Anthony Lonergan – Blue Valley, Robert Marshall – Blue Valley, Jack Harvey – Baldwin, Nate Sims – Ottawa, Talon Langford – Tonganoxie, Collin McDaniel – Scott City, Ben Heidebrecht – Wichita NW, Nathan Thengvall – Kapaun, Grant O’Doherty – Pittsburg, Joe Hiechel – Ell Saline, Emilio Ibarra – Hutch Central Christian, Juan Pinon – Syracuse, Trey Carter – Atchison, Kaden Sisson – Phillipsburg, Brody Deiter – Silver Lake, Dayne Johnson – Silver Lake, Jace Woodard – Riley Co., Mike Matteucci – Sacred Heart, Ryan Parks – Minneapolis, Connor Keirns – JC North, Lincoln Shafer – Greeley Co., Korbin Cloud – Iola, Kyle Strother – Santa Fe Trail, Lennox Vann – Fort Scott, Banks Bowen – Lawrence, Joey Hoffman – SM East, Tony Jacobsen – Lawrence, Riley Jankel – Olathe NW, Grant Jennings – SM South, Merak Greinert – Olathe NW, Seth Welch – Erie, Trent Long – Clifton Clyde, Charlie Tadlock – De Soto, Gavin Thalheim – Northern Valley, Daegen Vinduska – Rock Creek, Cole Glaves – Circle, Issac Stanley – SJA, Noah Riley – Pratt, Jeter Purdy – Atchison, Chandler Scott – West Franklin, Crayton Holman – Jeff West, Landon Schmitz – Axtell, Jaedon Granere – Marmaton Valley, J.T. Prusa – South Central, Cade Gossen – Peabody-Burns, Kobe Wendt – Wakefield, Austin Rice – Lakeside, Xander Woods – Central Burden, Lane McMannis – Canton Galva, Cameron Love – Olathe North, Davis Barr – De Soto, Ian McNabb – Manhattan, Drew Tolar – Cheney, Jason Robinson – Hoisington, Keon Edwards – Newton, Jackson Kruske – SM South, Kelvin Parker – Olathe North

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