Perhaps under appreciated by the national media with the superlative play of his defensive back "partners in crime" in Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, by the time his career at LSU had ended everyone knew just how good he was. That was the story of Mo Claiborne.
While a talented return specialist, and a good athlete himself, Claiborne wasn't the all-purpose machine Peterson and Mathieu were. But he was an absolute lock down, dominant cover corner. Teams put receivers up against Claiborne and he took them out of games. It wasn't necessarily through INT's, though he had quite a few of those. He led the nation in interception return yardage in 2011, is tied for sixth in school history with with 11 career picks and is second in interception return yardage (274). Claiborne was physical with you, but had quick feet, and fantastic closing speed. He was everything you wanted in a corner.
One of the most impressive things about Claiborne though, was how he improved throughout his career. The stats show it
2009: 7 games (0 Starts), 7 tackles.
2010: 12 games (all starts), 37 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 interceptions, 11 Passes Defended
2011: 14 games (all starts), 51 tackles, 1 TFL, 6 interceptions, 12 Passes Defended
In 2009, despite being a virtual unknown as a recruit, Claiborne eventually ended up as the No. 2 right corner behind Patrick Peterson and 5 of his 7 tackles came in 2 games against Tulane and Auburn. He even started fall camp as a receiver.
In 2010, Claiborne broke out at left corner, was a 2nd Team All-SEC selection, ranked fourth in the SEC in passes defended, third in interceptions, and became the first LSU player since LaRon Landry in 06 to have back-to-back games with picks. He had a career game in tackles versus Ole Miss, and in interceptions versus Mississippi State. By any stretch, this was a very good season. And then he went and played even better.
In 2011, he was the best damn corner in College Football. And in early December he finally got that spotlight he deserved. He won the Thorpe Award for best defensive back in the country. But that wasn't it. First Team All-SEC. SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Unanimous All-American. It was one of the greatest seasons an LSU player has ever had.
I had Mo ranked 4th on my list. While he didn't have some of the all-purpose exploits and brilliant game-changing plays and outright domination my Top 3 had, Claiborne had one of the best seasons from an LSU player of all time. He was the best defensive player on one of, if not the greatest defense we've ever seen at LSU.
There have been many, many great players that have played under Les Miles. But not many had as great a season as Morris Claiborne did in 2011. Not many had as good a career and career development as he did. And for me, that's worthy of a really high ranking on this list.