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Better Know a Freshman: Kevin Toliver II

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The most hyped player in the 2015 signing class is the first entry in 2015 Better Know a Freshman.

Student Sports

If we keep going like this, a tradition unlike any other won't be the first full week in April where people play golf, but instead, playing defensive back at LSU. DBU, as they call it. LSU's line of excellence in producing NFL backs is unparalleled by any institution, now and likely forever. Just take a look:

  • Ron Brooks
  • Morris Claiborne
  • Jalen Collins
  • Craig Loston
  • Ronald Martin
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Danny McCray
  • Patrick Peterson
  • Eric Reid
  • Tharold Simon.

These are just the players currently on NFL rosters. Players like Corey Webster, Laron Landry, and Ryan Clark have either recently retired or are currently looking for work. Hell, the Saints just signed a kid that LSU recruited and signed out of HS, who suffered a tragic neck injury, and was never able to play for LSU, Delvin Breaux.

Evaluation, recruiting, and development have been on another level since about 2003, even more so since the dawn of the Miles era. That tradition shows no signs of slowing in the coming years.

Background

When Kevin Toliver II signed with LSU he broke a record for longest committed prospect, both for Miles and reportedly, in history.

Toliver pledged to LSU as a sophomore, in the Fall of 2012. Even then pundits regarded him as one of the top rising prospects in the nation. Toliver is blessed with natural size and strength that allowed him to bully most of his competition throughout his prep years.

He remained courted by schools nationwide. Jimbo Fisher, perhaps most famously, openly told Toliver he would flip him. Les 1, Jimbo 0. He's been a model citizen and a quality student all along the way, despite having every bit of hype lauded onto him. The changes in recruiting in even the past 5-6 years are tremendous. A player like Patrick Peterson was a widely regarded prospect, but wasn't being touted as a 5-star as a sophomore in HS. It wasn't until his amazing camp circuit the summer before his senior year that he really rocketed up into that top prospect discussion, from memory. Obviously he proved worthy. Sans your standard message board recruiting drama, Peterson stayed out of trouble and is one of the most "business minded" athletes to ever step foot in Baton Rouge. Friend of the site Carter Bryant once told me, "I've never met a player more focused on getting to the NFL than Patrick Peterson." It's part of what makes him great.

I say all that to say, Toliver's had to deal with an entirely other level of hype and attention. Three plus years of being told he's among the best in the nation. At times he was touted as the number one player in the entire 2015 signing class. All of that hype and Toliver barely flirted with other schools, finished his HS diploma in time to enroll early and never once even sniffed trouble. That's a big deal.

The closest Toliver came to ever jumping ship was this fall, when he took a visit out to Virginia Tech and was purportedly really intrigued. Within weeks, that rumor shut down and so did Toliver. His recruitment was over. He was signing with LSU. He used all that time committed to recruit. Building relationships with fellow prospects and pushing them to sign with the good guys.

If he's the most beloved Tiger signee of 2015, there's good reason for it. His loyalty, his focus, his unwavering dedication to LSU. To DBU.

Toliver ranks as a 5-star CB on the 247 composite with a .9948 rating. He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

Tale of the Tape

Height: 6'1
Weight: 193 pounds
40: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Kneeling Powerball Toss: 32.0
Vertical Leap: 37.1"
SPARQ: 99.03

The first thing you'll notice is that he's not a burner. Toliver is a big, physical corner. He's at his best absolutely bullying people at the LoS. He can push around most WRs with ease. He's also tall and long and can make up ground using his length, rather than speed. If you are expecting a guy like Tre White, who's quickness allows him to stick with any WR anywhere on the field, check your expectations. Toliver simply won't win that way. He'll win by being bigger, badder and smarter. Frankly, this is ok. The "shut down" corner is an exceptionally rare commodity. But big corners are majorly en vogue right now across the league, and Toliver fits that bill well.

His speed is adequate for a college corner on the outside. Toliver is a very good, not great athlete. He still has an explosive vertical leap and that aforementioned frame, which should allow him to win many battles.

Film Study

Strengths: Size/Length, Strength, Mentality, Instincts

Weaknesses: Speed, Quickness, Not Fluid, Mentality

Strengths

Size/Length: As previously noted, Toliver is a big-bodied corner. Not only does he have above average height, his arms are long. He knows how to use his size to his advantage and plays well at the LoS, using that advantage in length to get his hands on WRs and veer them completely off course.

Strength: Ties in with the above, but watch 1:27 and how he's able to bully the receiver at the LoS and blow him completely off the line. Then watch the play at 1:44, which is downright abusive. He's really naturally strong. 190ish pounds at 6'1" isn't overly large, but you still see him regularly push guys around.

Mentality: Toliver is aggressive. He enjoys being physical, hitting and pushing people around. He loves jamming guys and playing up close. He likes to mix it up. I love to see the aggression when properly deployed.

Instincts: At :38 you can see how well he reads the action of the play, stays honed in on where the QB is going with the football and makes an interception. 2:36 you can also see a good display of his football smarts. He's constantly reading eyes and seemingly always in position. This allows him to make up for his lack of top end measurables. 3:00 is another example.

Weaknesses

Speed: The 40 time says it pretty well, but he's not going to blow your doors off. This raises concerns when it comes to man-to-man coverage and having to run down the field with receivers the SEC tends to feature.

Quickness: Similar to speed, but his average short shuttle time raises concerns about his ability to work in short areas, explode on the football for break-ups etc. He does compensate with his intelligence and instincts, so this will be something to watch. That being said, I could be dead wrong on this one. He does look explosive at moments on field, and that's really almost more valuable than true long speed.

Not Fluid: Best example I can cite is at 1:16. When it comes to fluidity, it's all about the ability to open up the hips turn and run down field. That's an area I don't see Toliver excelling. You can see in this one highlight, he's a bit awkward getting turned around and fortunate the ball is so poorly underthrown, allowing him to make the INT.

Mentality: The things that make his mentality so impressive, also make it dangerous. Watch 3:30. That's a pretty routine with Toliver. He's always pushing, even after the play, even when unnecessary. He needs to learn to reign in that aggression and properly deploy it, or he'll attract plenty of flags in SEC play. At 4:06 he taunts a defender for no reason and seemingly gets flagged for it. Don't get me wrong, I like guys with a chip on their shoulders, just use it judiciously.

Summary

Toliver is already well known to most LSU fans, both due to his recruiting hype and his early enrollment, which resulted in some good practice reps for a guy that's almost certain to play this fall. Toliver checks quite a few boxes in the playing early survey. He's got the size and strength and he'll have some exposure and experience that should give him a leg up in understanding the defensive concepts.

There's also the fact that LSU is seeking to figure out their two deep at corner. What's the status with Rashard Robinson? Beyond Tre White and Ed Paris, there is no true no. 3 guy currently. Dwayne Thomas returns, but he's mostly a nickel. Jalen Mills has played corner, but he seems primed to be a starting safety. The only other competitors are other true freshmen, neither of which made it to campus early. All that to say, expect to see Toliver play, possibly as early as game one.

Long term, the upside is pretty high here. I doubt Toliver can usurp the starting job opposite of White, considering Paris was widely praised for his work this Spring. At least not by season's start, any how. But he'll get plenty of reps, regardless, which should set him up to start by 2016.

Toliver is a player I like a lot. I'd even go far enough to speculate he could enter future Thorpe Award talks, if Steele's defense doesn't limit his playmaking ability too much. I'm not sure I'd deploy him man-up against speedy WRs, as that doesn't play to his strengths. That said, he can win those match-ups by being big and punishing them at the LoS. I do like him as a Cover 3, off corner, because he seems to have really good instincts. He loves to read the QBs eyes and always floats to the ball. A move to safety shouldn't be ruled out either.

High End: Future All-American corner.

Low End: Multi-year starter at LSU.

Realistic: I see Toliver as an All-SEC player, that may drive us a bit batty early with his propensity to be overly aggressive.