Only 4 ACC teams had total defenses ranked in the top 40 among FBS teams in the 2021 regular season. The conference champion, Pittsburgh, was ranked No. 41. And the bottom 4 defenses in the league ranked No. 99 or worse. Compare that to the SEC, home of 5 of the top 25 ranked defenses in the FBS.

Small wonder that defense was an emphasis for recruiting for ACC schools, especially when they were hunting for talent in SEC territory.

On Thursday, we listed the 10 best offensive prospects from SEC territory who signed with ACC schools from the football Class of 2022. Just like with that list, on this roster of top 10 defensive recruits who chose ACC schools over the SEC, we try our best to define SEC “territory” for recruiting in states that have both SEC and ACC schools.

Here are the top 10 defensive recruits that ACC programs took from SEC territory. These players are in order of their overall ranking according to 247Sports. Each player is listed by name, position, college commitment, high school and 247 recruiting ranking.

Sam McCall, S, Florida State (Lakeland, Fla.), No. 31

Lakeland is not far from Tallahassee, but it’s a lot closer to Gainesville, and Polk County is confirmed Gator territory. So it’s a coup for Mike Norvell and his Seminoles staff to snag one of the top-ranked players in America out of that region. McCall, a 5-star prospect, is the top-rated player in FSU’s entire Class of 2022.

Khamauri Rogers, CB, Miami (Lexington, Miss.), No. 103

The Hurricanes snagged a top cornerback from a town that’s about 85 miles west of Starkville and about 110 miles south of Oxford. Rogers is rated as the 2nd-best prospect in UM’s class and the No. 3 player in Mississippi. The 4-star prospect also visited Mississippi State.

Marcus Allen, CB, North Carolina (Marietta, Ga.), No. 269

At 6-2, 175, Allen has good size for a cornerback. The 4-star recruit, listed as the No. 25 prospect in Georgia and the No. 32 cornerback in the nation, visited Auburn and Georgia Tech, according to 247Sports, but chose the Tar Heels. UNC was No. 82 in passing yards allowed in 2021, a key factor in a disappointing 6-6 campaign.

Markeith Williams, S, Miami (Orlando, Fla.) No. 287

Miami went a fair way upstate and well into Gator Country to get a commitment from Williams, a 4-star safety who also visited Nebraska and Ohio State. At 6-1, 170, he will need to add weight to play safety at the ACC level.

Jaylin Marshall, S, Georgia Tech (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), No. 368

Marshall is the 2nd-highest rated prospect in Georgia Tech’s Early Signing Day group. And the Yellow Jackets got him out of South Florida, one of the most competitive recruiting grounds in the nation. Marshall, a 4-star safety, has good size at 6-3, 190. Tech got Marshall after he decommitted from Arizona State.

Brandon Cleveland, DL, NC State (Tampa, Fla.), No. 382

Cleveland went to a small school in Tampa and is the cousin of Tyrie Cleveland, a former receiver at Florida who has played for the Denver Broncos. The 3-star defensive lineman, at 6-3, 269, is ranked the No. 49 prospect in Florida.

Daniel Lyons, DL, Florida State (Homestead, Fla.), No. 468

This is another signing from the prospect-rich South Florida area that’s not only Miami’s key recruiting region, but one for Florida and a lot of other top-flight programs. Lyons, at 6-4, 270, has the frame to be a key defensive lineman for the Seminoles.

Aaron Hester, Edge, Florida State (Neptune Beach, Fla.), No. 469

Neptune Beach is near Jacksonville, an area that has long been a battleground between Florida State and Florida, among others. But FSU had a special connection for Hester: His father, Ron Hester, was a linebacker for the Seminoles and later played for the Miami Dolphins in 1982.

Bishop Thomas, DL, Florida State (Orlando, Fla.), No. 483

FSU scoured its own state for D-line prospects and snared another one in Thomas, who also visited Tennessee and Texas. The 3-star signee is 6-2, 301 and is rated as the No. 65 prospect in the Sunshine State. Orlando is prime ground for FSU and Florida, and the home of future Big 12 program UCF.

Nick Campbell, DL, NC State (Lake Minneola, Fla.), No. 597

Like fellow Wolfpack commit Brandon Cleveland, Campbell went to a small school in definite Florida territory. Also like Cleveland, Campbell visited NC State and Virginia. Campbell is listed at 6-3, 270 and is a 3-star prospect.