As the days count down to the start of the 2017 FCS season, we take a closer look at the subdivision's top conference, the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Each week will feature the top five returners in a position group in the MVFC.
Next up are the safeties. The talent at this position is deep in 2017. Some of the best safeties in the conference return this season and will have NFL scouts paying close attention.
5. Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
As a freshman in 2016, Chinn showed he'll be a top safety in the Valley for years to come. He tied for fourth on the team with 51 total tackles and first with three interceptions.
Chinn picked up seven or more tackles in his last six games played as he was named to the Valley's All-Newcomer Team. The Salukis gave up 267.2 passing yards per game, which will need to improve in 2017. But with Chinn and Craig James returning, SIU has two weapons to work with.
4. Elijah Campbell, Northern Iowa
Campbell transferred to UNI from Northern Illinois and started all 11 games at safety last year. He was sixth on the team with 42 total tackles and added three interceptions, which was tied for first.
He earned MVFC Second Team and All-Newcomer honors in his first season with the Panthers. Now a junior, Campbell and cornerback Malcolm Washington, another Second Team and All-Newcomer selection after transferring from Fresno State, lead an always-talented UNI secondary.
3. Alec Kocour, Illinois State
Kocour earned MVFC Honorable Mention honors as a sophomore in 2015 and made the Second Team last year. He'll enter his third year as a full-time starter on a veteran Redbirds team.
In 2016, Kocour finished ninth in the conference with 91 total tackles, which led all defensive backs. He added one interception on the year while hauling in three the season prior. NFLDraftScout ranks Kocour the No. 39 strong safety heading into the season.
2. Robbie Grimsley, North Dakota State
Thrown into the fire, almost literally, in the 2015 season-opening game at Montana on ESPN as a true freshman, Grimsley has developed into a reliable player on the backend of NDSU's defense. After his Valley All-Newcomer season as a freshman, Grimsley increased his production last year to be named on the First Team.
He totaled 84 tackles, which was second on the team, and racked up five interceptions, which was second in the conference. Grimsley has now played in 29 games and started 24 of them in two seasons on a Bison defense that could be one of the best in the FCS this year.
1. Tre Dempsey, North Dakota State
Since moving from cornerback to safety in 2015 as a sophomore, Dempsey has started 29 straight games for NDSU. He's become a leader on the unit after a breakout junior year where he was a MVFC First Team selection and named on several FCS All-American lists.
In 2016, Dempsey led the Valley with six interceptions and added 53 total tackles. As a versatile player, NFLDraftScout currently ranks him the No. 30 cornerback for the 2018 NFL Draft.