Ranking the 10 best USC defensive backs of all-time

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7. Dennis Smith

Dennis Smith isn’t on USC’s wall of All-Americans, but he remains one of the exceptional defensive backs to wear cardinal and gold.

Smith partnered with football legend Ronnie Lott in what would become an all-time great duo of defenders. While Lott brought the thunder, it was Smith’s blazing speed which served as lightning, capable of covering large swathes of the field. His background as a championship high jumper in high school gave him another edge, leaping high to disrupt and intercept passes.

In fact, Smith remains third on USC’s all-time interception list with 14 takeaways in his career.

As a freshman in 1977, it was clear that Smith, and Lott, would keep the future of the Trojan secondary bright, but they went well beyond that. Smith picked off seven passes as USC won the national title in 1978 and he went on to all-conference honors in 1979 and 1980.

Smith was picked up by the Broncos with the 15th pick in the 1981 NFL Draft and went on to prove that he wasn’t simply riding on Lott’s tailcoats. In his 14-year pro career, he went to six Pro Bowls and established himself in Denver lore as well.