I don't know if you are aware, but LSU has had some pretty good defensive backs recently. That hasn't always been the case, though one of the greatest players in program history was a defensive back. However, there's not that crowded of a field of old timers to hold of the recently rise of #DBU.
Could be a long week for us old farts.
GOLDEN CENTURY TEAM
DB Tommy Casanova (3-time All-American, College Football Hall of Fame). This one is a total and absolute no-brainer. He was a three-time All-American, a feat no other player in LSU history can match. He is the only player prior to the recent Golden Age you could mention in the same breath as Billy Cannon and not seem like a moron.
DB Jerry Stovall (1962 All-American). This is an artful dodge on the part of the Golden Century committee, as he was an All-American as a halfback. I'm sorry, his greatest contributions were as a running back, not a defensive back, and we'll deal with him when we get to that position. He's not one of the four greatest defensive backs in LSU history.
S Johnny Robinson (1958 All-SEC). Our very own zrau wrote a good summation of Robinson's career, which you should revisit. He was a 60-minute man, and he was on the fabled 1958 team, but again, his reputation was made on the offensive side of the ball... at least until he turned pro. He was an awesome pro safety, and one of the stars of the AFL.
S Liffort Hobley (1984 All-SEC). His 6 interceptions as a senior ranked 9th in the country, which is pretty impressive for a safety. He's also one of the plaintiffs in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL, so his impact on the game may be felt more off the field.
CB Mike Williams (1974 All-American). The last in the run of All-Americans LSU had on defense, stretching back to 1969. LSU wouldn't have another All-American on defense until 1982. More important to his legacy is that he was the second African-American player in school history, part of the first class. The fact that LSU was the last SEC team to integrate is a shameful legacy, but he was a star right away, which removed a lot of the potential turmoil.
S Greg Jackson (1988 All-American). Jackson didn't intercept a ton of passes, but when he did, good things happened. He led the nation in interception return yardage with 219, still second best in SEC history. This was buoyed by a 100-yard return against Mississippi State.
CB Chris Williams (All-time LSU interceptions leader by career, season, and game). That's right, Williams had 3 interceptions in a game, which has been equaled by never bested, as is his record of 8 picks in a season (tied by Craig Burns). But his 20 career interceptions from 1977-80 still has a healthy lead over Corey Webster's 16.
CB Craig Burns (1970 All-SEC). Kind of the poor man's Chris Williams, he at least deserves a mention. He also had three picks in a game and eight in a season, but had to settle for 12 on his career, still 3rd best in school history. Overshadowed by his teammate, Casanova, and then Williams, who came later. Still, an awesome player with a great record.
Choosing four nominees is pretty difficult. It's a good group that I know will be overshadowed by the supernovas in the modern era. But I'll go through the motions and nominate:
God, I almost feel bad for having to drop a huge shitburger on your team recs. In some sense, this isn't fair. It's sort of like saying Alan Trammell isn't great just because he's not Alex Rodriguez. Different games, different eras. DBs, maybe more than any position on the field is the "athlete" position. We discussed before about comparing amongst peers, because a QB's stats from 1960 aren't generally going to compare well to even modest QB production in the 2010s. That holds true here, but the game has changed to such a degree that's it's hard to disassociate from it. There's plenty more passing in football now, so DBs naturally have more opportunities to make impact plays while the ball is in the air. That means INTs, Passes Defended, etc. go up from a pure volume perspective.
The nature of the game has changed the nature of the positions. A great safety was formerly your last line of defense, and could rack up tons of tackles. Today, there are distinctly few impact safeties, with most impact DBs now playing CB. Don't get me wrong, no coach would turn down having a real threat at Safety, but I'd near guarantee every coach would choose an elite CB over an elite safety in this era.
All that being said, I think we know the bulk of what my team will look like:
1) Tyrann Mathieu (Bednarik Trophy Award Winner, Heisman Trophy Finalist, Walter Camp National Player of the Year Award Finalist, 1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC, SEC Defensive Player of the Year)
Look, we knighted Patrick Peterson the best player of the Miles Era, and I can't really find room to disagree with this. But man, was Mathieu ever special. Mathieu had this type of football omniscience that rarely exists. He was everywhere all the time, somehow. I don't have to regurgitate stats to explain his greatness and besides, I don't think you even need them. It's rare to see a defensive and special teams player take control of the game the way Mathieu did. Seemingly every game from LSU's dominant 2011 run was broken open after Mathieu did something stupendous. And this is all WITHOUT having Peterson there as the "star" as many claimed after Mathieu's strong freshman campaign.
We may have punished him too harshly for his off the field indiscretions, when we voted him 3rd best player in the Miles era. Were Peterson and Dorsey more impactful than Mathieu? I think it's a hard case to make.
2) Patrick Peterson (Badnarik Trophy Award Winner, Thorpe Award Winner, Nagurski Trophy Finalist, 1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, SEC Special Teams Player of the Year)
Kneel. Before. Zod. Many would argue Peterson is the best DB in LSU. That's certainly not an outlandish opinion. Peterson quite literally did everything an individual defensive player could. Peterson did silly things as a returner and then would walk out and shut down the opposing team's best WR, rinse, lather, repeat. Peterson's actual defensive stats aren't jarring, but we have to remember that team's spent the better part of most games attempting to avoid him altogether. Besides, the hardware speaks for itself.
3) Mo Claiborne (Thorpe Award Winner, 1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC)
Claiborne's NFL career shouldn't have any reflection on the fact that he was a dominant force at CB in 2011. He made the leap from a very good corner to a great one that season, and finished his career with 11 INTs, which is the 4th most in school history (tying him with a huge group of others). He's second in INT return yardage, thanks in part to an 89 yarder vs. Tennessee. Mo was a great player all in his own right, even when playing alongside a couple of legends.
4) Laron Landry (1st Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC)
Landry's Trophy Case isn't as full, but his stat sheet is nearly unparalleled. He's tied with Ryan Clark for the most tackles by a DB in LSU history. He started 48 consecutive games. He's tied for 3rd All-Time in INTs. He once annihilated John Parker Wilson. What more could you ask for, really?
5) Corey Webster (1st Team All-American 2x, 1st Team All-SEC)
LSU career leader in passes defended. 2nd in LSU history in INTs. A converted WR that excelled at CB and really started the whole "DBU" mantra at LSU. He was a 2x All-American, which is a notch on his belt even other legends can't claim. Webster was an absolute stud of a defensive back and somehow pales in comparison to Peterson and Mathieu.
6) Eric Reid (1st Team All-American)
I'll throw him a bone for Penny. Not sure Reid belongs with the others in this category, but he was an All-American once.
This is similar to DL, because guys like Chevis Jackson (2nd in Career Passes Defended, 1st Team All-SEC) and Craig Steltz (1st in Career INT Return Yards, 1st Team All American), barely warrant a mention. Realistically, you could grab bag 4 of these 6 and churn out a team for which you wouldn't find too much disagreement.
So, if I'm nominating from all available candidates:
We can agree that the first three are simply unimpeachable shoo in studs, right? Casanova is one of the most decorated players in LSU football history, you can make a strong case that Peterson is the best player to ever put on the uniform, and Mathieu is perhaps the most mythic, which is even more amazing when you consider how hard it is to be mythic these days. Mathieu is almost like a real life folk tale.
I think it's insulting to everybody to even pretend we're debating the merits of those three guys. they are in, and we all know it. So let's get right to it. The old guy against the new guy: Corey Webster versus Chris Williams.
Heck, I'll let Paul make the argument for Chris Williams: "There's plenty more passing in football now, so DBs naturally have more opportunities to make impact plays while the ball is in the air." Yup. And who has more career interceptions that Corey Webster? Oh, that's right, Chris Williams. And you can't even throw out the "compiler" argument against him, as he's also tied for the single-season record in INT's as well.
PBU's is a rigged game. Football stat services didn't start officially tracking PBU's until 2001, so any list is going to be loaded with new guys by simple necessity. We just don't know how many passes Williams broke up. We do know that he picked off more passes than Webster on, as you astutely point out, less opportunities. If we're making a statistical case, it's hard not to take Chris Williams.
Here's another Chris Williams Was Awesome fact: he was moved off of the cornerback position for his senior year to safety because that's how Jerry Stovall showed he was the new boss in town. Anyway, in 1980 at a brand new position, Williams recorded 94 tackles and was named the team MVP. Oh, and he recorded enough interceptions to take the all-time interception lead in SEC history. A record he still holds. Boom.
Chris Williams is the Unknown Soldier of DBU. All of these greats have run through the program and no one has broken any of his interception records. Not the game, season, or career marks. I'm begging you, show Williams the love he deserves.
I can't find it in my being to dispute this. Williams deserves to be honored for his immense accomplishments. He dots the record books even in an era that wasn't stylistically advantageous to him, got national acclaim even when LSU wasn't a powerhouse, and even set conference records. That's domination in every way possible and the type of thing that should earn admission to the Greatest of All-Time Teams.
In the same breath, I can't just pass over Corey Webster. There's only been a handful of two-time All Americans in school history. AND, while I'm cool with retroactively adding members to DBU, Webster is really where this party bus started. That has to count for something, right?
I can't pass over Webster either, as this is a clear cut case of saying one guy is great instead of trying to tear another guy down. So this is when I reach into my bag of tricks and arbitrarily change the rules because... well, it's our all-time team and we can do whatever we want. If we added a receiver slot to the team, it's only fair to add a defensive back slot as well to give the defense as much of a chance. this way, we can honor both of the godfathers of DBU: Corey Webster and Chris Williams.
Our team so far. All that's left is a little matter of the backfield. This should be fun.
QB Bert Jones
OT Andrew Whitworth
OT Kevin Mawae
OG Eric Andolsek
OG Alan Faneca
C Ben Wilkerson
TE Ken Kavanaugh
WR Josh Reed
WR Wendell Davis
WR Michael Clayton
DE Gabe Northern
DT Glenn Dorsey
DT Booger McFarland
DE Marcus Spears
LB Bradie James
LB Al Richardson
LB Michael Brooks
LB Warren Capone
DB Patrick Peterson
DB Tyrann Mathieu
DB Tommy Casanova
DB Chris Williams
DB Corey Webster
K David Browndyke
KR Odell Beckham, Jr.
P Donnie Jones
PR Pinky Rohm