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October 27, 2013
The Class of 2013 was dubbed the Year of the Cornerback and the collection of five-star prospects that sat inside the top 10 of the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour. It has done nothing to disprove the experts evaluating talent. During Week 9 of the college football season, it was the four safeties from the class that started to fulfill the promise each displayed in high school.
It was the efforts of USC duo Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, Notre Dame's Max Redfield, and Ohio State's Vonn Bell that pushed Virginia Tech standout Kendall Fuller's three-interception performance to a footnote from Saturday.
Cravens has been starting for the Trojans since the opening weekend and in the 19-3 win over Utah he added his third interception of the season and returned it 54 yards. Entering the game McQuay only had two tackles, a forced fumble and a blocked punt as a special teams contributor, but he saw significant time on defense this week and added a solo tackle, two assists, a pass breakup and his first interception of the year.
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron said that he knew the program was getting a special duo.
"When we recruited both of those guys, we signed two of the best safeties in America," he said. "Leon is a great example of someone who steps up. He's been working hard and solving problems."
The pair were ranked accordingly as Cravens was the top safety in the country coming out of Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta and was No. 12 overall in the class of 2013. McQuay III chose to come across the country after being the No. 2 safety and No. 22 from Armwood (Fla.) Seffner.
The victory was the second for Orgeron after taking over for Lane Kiffin three weeks ago. The team is competing with fewer than 65 scholarship players and this week it needed to have contributions from 11 walk-ons.
Orgeron said that it was a good week and he was ready to keep moving forward.
"Outstanding performance by our players, an outstanding mindset throughout the week. Great job by the assistant coaches, pulling together and fighting through adversity. I'm really pleased how we played," he said. "Its' a happy locker room and I'm happy for them."
Redfield and Bell were two of the final four players to have earned a fifth star in the true freshman class and each got their first significant playing time on defense this week and both doubled their output.
Redfield was ranked third of the four top safeties and was No. 30 overall from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High. Entering the game against Air Force he only had two assists on special teams tackles. In the victory, he added another assisted tackle on a punt return but then secured his first two solo tackles in the fourth quarter at his natural position.
Bell was the next to last player to have been given a fifth star, being ranked No. 32 nationally out of Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland. Coming into the game, he had seen some time and had three solo tackles and three assists. In the blowout against Penn State, he added three more solo tackles -- two of which game on the same drive in the third quarter.
All told, the four safeties added seven solo tackles, three assists, two interceptions and a pass break up -- with the majority of the damage coming from the duo at USC.
Orgeron said that the mindsest of the team won't change as injuries and a lean roster could become more of a challenge, adding that he will continue to lean on his five-star players.
"We weren't going to blink. We weren't going to use it as an excuse," he said. "The words `Step up' and `Compete' were talked about. We believe in you and we're going to compete and play."
Recruiting class of 2013 five-star tracker
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
QB Max Browne, USC
LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
OL Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
LB Matthew Thomas, FSU
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
RB Greg Bryant, Notre Dame
S Leon McQuay III, USC
DE Frank Herron, LSU
DT Montravius Adams, Auburn
RB Ty Isaac, USC
LB Alex Anzalone, Florida
S Max Redfield, Notre Dame
DB Vonn Bell, Ohio State
DT A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
Dallas Jackson is the national columnist for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.