Summer football preview: Defensive backs

A defensive back and a receiver running stride for stride both reach for a pass
Peyton Waters of Birmingham is among the top defensive backs to watch during the upcoming high school football season.
(Craig Weston)

Defensive backs who make plays and can cover receivers have become invaluable at all levels of football.

Continuing a summer look at players to watch for the upcoming high school football season, it’s clear that Southern California has lots of quality defensive backs. And it starts with players named Peyton.

Peyton Waters of Birmingham is committed to the University of Washington. He’s moving to safety this season, his projected position in college, after starring as a cornerback. He also plays receiver and wildcat quarterback and uses his instincts, athleticism and versatility to make an impact.


Peyton Woodyard of St. John Bosco is committed to Georgia. He’s a safety who plays with a physicality and confidence hard to duplicate.

Linebacker should be one of the strongest positions for high school football teams throughout the Southland this fall.

July 18, 2023

St. John Bosco also has USC-bound Marcelles Williams, a cornerback who defines the term “lockdown.”

Mater Dei is loaded with quality defensive backs, led by Zabien Brown (Alabama commit) and Jeilani Davis (Utah), both of whom had three interceptions as juniors.

Rancho Cucamonga was impressive during summer passing competitions because of its strong secondary that includes Duke commit Kyren Condoll, San Diego State commit Rahim Wright, two-time all-leaguer Amaurey Brooks and improving Elyjah Gordon.

Sierra Canyon’s secondary should be outstanding, with Chaminade transfer Marquis Gallegos (USC commit), returnees Jae’on Young, Madden Riordan and Jaylen Dai Sumlin (Stanford commit).

Gardena Serra has USC commit Dakoda Fields, a cornerback. Tustin picked up Mater Dei transfer Khristian Dunbar-Hawkins, a UCLA commit. Turran Williams of Muir is an Arizona commit.


Dayton Aupiu of Oxnard Pacifica is a safety committed to Cal.

High school football practice officially begins this week for City Section teams. Southern Section teams start July 31.

July 24, 2023

Mission Viejo’s secondary should be one of the best in Orange County, with super junior Dijon Lee joined by Travis Anderson and Trey Tolmaire. Anderson had nine interceptions last season.

Loyola sophomore defensive back Brandon Lockhart is on his way toward becoming a national recruit.

St. Bonaventure junior defensive back Drew Cofield was impressive in summer passing competitions.

Aquinas junior defensive back Jojo Solis, a Cal commit, is so versaatile that he also plays running back and linebacker.

Nonso Ndukwe of King/Drew had seven interceptions as a junior.

Jett White of Los Alamitos is nearly 6-2 and only a junior with improving skills.