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Better Know a Freshman: Kelvin Joseph

Pass the torch. DBU ain’t going nowhere.

DBU is a tradition continually fulfilling its own promises at LSU. It surely can’t go on forever, but LSU is on a seemingly unending run of dominant defensive back play. It’s a standard so high we easily discard players like Craig Steltz, who was a consensus All-American in 2007. Hell, Craig Loston is widely considered a major bust and all he did was make the All-SEC 2nd Team. It’s an entirely unreasonable and somehow entirely earned standard of greatness that LSU looks to be continuing into the future.

But the 2018 signing class took a major hit when superstar recruit Patrick Surtain Jr. changed heart at the last possible moment and chose to head to Alabama instead of long-favored LSU. To make matters worse, the coaching staff didn’t deliver a single CB recruit to fill his vacated spot. That is, until Kelvin Joseph stepped up to the plate, ready to play corner and ready to carry the tradition.

The Story

Two years in the making. Some might say Kelvin Joseph’s road to LSU started in February of 2016, when, after unofficially visiting for Boys from the Boot, he gave his verbal pledge to then head coach Les Miles.

But it started long before. It started with his birth in Baton Rouge, a place he’s proud to call home and a place he’s ready to make proud of him.

Joseph’s line wasn’t straight, but everyone knew it would always wind up back here. Throughout his junior season, Joseph teased de-commitment, going on the record with statements of being “committed but open” and “not 100% committed.” He accepted an invite to the Army All-American game and flirted with Alabama. Finally, a year and a half later, Joseph officially de-committed, right on the heels of LSU’s losing rout to Mississippi State and surprising upset at the hands of Troy. As I wrote in October, it gave Joseph the clean break he needed to go take his visits and his recruitment. It would always end up back here.

Joseph took an official visit to Tallahassee while the world knew this would truly be a showdown between Alabama and LSU. Except, he never followed through on all the flirtation. In fact, his only visit to Tuscaloosa came in the summer before his Junior season. Joseph never took an official visit to Alabama. As his commitment date at the Army All-American bowl neared, Joseph kept constant contact with the LSU staff. At the game, he gave his pledge:

“It’s time to make a name for myself... and my city.”

It was always to be this way. Two weeks later Joseph officially visited Baton Rouge. Following his visit, Nick Saban hit the road, hoping to convince Joseph to follow through on a planned official visit to Tuscaloosa leading into February 7th’s National Signing Day. Joseph rebuffed the efforts and shut down his recruitment for good.

The Numbers

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.

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. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

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 is projected to play professionally.

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. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

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.

247 Composite Rating: ****
247 Composite Ranking: .9784

Joseph sits on the very cusp of consensus 5-star status. Ranked 42nd overall nationally, and as the 5th ranked safety in America, Joseph is clearly one of the top prospects in all of America. At 6’1” and 181 pounds, he’s got ideal size to be a combo DB, capable of playing multiple positions in the backfield. Joseph isn’t a burner, but he’s got great natural instincts and should be able to use his size to bully opponents with a physical style. The All-State, All-American DB stands up to the tale of the tape.

The Film

When I think Joseph, I think versatility. As a sophomore, he scored five different touchdowns. None of them were on offense. His highlight tape leads with a huge punt return TD, followed by a massive hit in over the top coverage, followed by a huge kick return touchdown followed by a receiving touchdown in which he spun out of one tackler’s arms and then bowled over another to get into the endzone. Those are the first 1:32 of his highlight tape.

LSU’s lack of CB depth probably means Joseph won’t see much time as a returner, but he’s absolutely dynamite with the ball in his hands and shows that start/stop explosion you love to see, paired with elite vision and feel for finding the open lane.

Those instincts roll over to defense, where Joseph looks equally natural as a deep coverage safety, roaming around looking to wreak havoc. Joseph reads QBs well and uses his natural athleticism to make plays on the ball in the air. If you throw the ball in his direction, be prepared to pay the price.

But Joseph isn’t just a sit back and make a break on the ball in the air type of safety. He’s not a “strict coverage guy.” What sets Joseph apart is his physical nature. Joseph is as willing to be a special teams kamikaze as he is to come up and stick his name in the running game. In fact, he first gained notice in HS for his willingness to charge down the field and take people to task on special teams. Some guys hit. Some guys like to hit. Joseph is the latter.

On the field, Joseph brings it all to the table. He’s a versatile threat capable of making an impact no matter where he ultimately winds up.

The Future

LSU signed some good players in the 2018 signing class, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Kelvin Joseph wound up being the gem of them all. Joseph strikes me as the type of player having the right mixture of talent and intangibles to really excel at the next level. Joseph talks openly about wanting to play for his city, which clearly motivates him to excel much in the same way Leonard Fournette always sought to be a role model to the 7th ward of New Orleans.

The big question to answer is where Joseph ultimately fits in the defensive backfield. He shifted to safety his senior season, but previously played corner. It’s hard to watch his safety tape and not go ga-ga. That’s a young Jamal Adams type of player roaming deep. He’s a sideline-to-sideline threat that can come up and mix it up in the run game but can also get around and cover if needed. Positional need means Joseph slots at CB for his freshman season and frankly, that’s just fine. LSU’s scheme is pretty flexible with DBs, so I imagine Joseph will be moved all around and used as a weapon rather than confined to a boundary corner role. Thankfully, Greedy Williams has a lock on the no. 1 CB role, so all Joseph needs to do is show up ready to make plays, which is right in his wheelhouse.

To say people are sleeping on Joseph is probably a stretch, but I do think he became a bit of a forgotten man in the chase for Patrick Surtain Jr. Joseph sat as the highest ranked member of LSU’s signing class for all of his year and a half commitment and only 5-star Terrace Marshall ranked above him in the end. He’s as good as they come in Louisiana and nationally. Expect big things. Kelvin Joseph is on a mission to deliver.

High End: All-American. 1st round draft pick.
Low End: Multi-year starter.
Realistic: All-SEC. Torch bearer for DBU.