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2018 LSU Preview: Defensive Backs

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DBU suffered a setback, but the backfield is still poised to set the standard.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

LSU’s defensive backfield took a hit with the NCAA’s nonsensical, heartless decision to continue Kristian Fulton’s suspension through the 2018 season. But don’t expect opponents to send Ed Orgeron, Dave Aranda and Corey Raymond many sympathy cards. There’s still a tremendous cache of riches in LSU’s defensive backfield, including two freshmen All-American choices, a pair of fifth-year seniors, a safety, and five additional former four- or five-star talents.

Plus a graduate transfer from a power-five team for a little extra depth.

2018 LSU Roster: Defensive Backs

Position Player Ht/Wt Targets Completions Allowed Completion Rate Contested Targets Contested Completions Break-Ups Interceptions TDs Allowed Air Yards/Tgt Yds Allowed 1st Downs Allowed PI Penalties
Position Player Ht/Wt Targets Completions Allowed Completion Rate Contested Targets Contested Completions Break-Ups Interceptions TDs Allowed Air Yards/Tgt Yds Allowed 1st Downs Allowed PI Penalties
CB 29 Andraez Williams (So.) 6-3, 184 58 20 34 19 3 11 6 1 16.1 299 11 0
22 Kristian Fulton (So.) 6-0, 192 Missed 2017 season. Former Five-star recruit.
5 Kary Vincent Jr. (So.) 5-10, 181 9 tackles, 2 pass break-ups and 1 interception in 11 games.
13 Jontre Kirklin (So.) 6-0, 182 2 tackles in 12 game appearances on special teams.
28 Mannie Netherly (So.) 6-3, 199 Former four-star receiver recruit.
11 Terrence Alexander (Sr.) 6-0, 182 Graduate transfer from Stanford.
1 Kelvin Joseph (Fr.) 6-1, 195 Four-star recruit.
FS 9 Grant Delpit (So.) 6-3, 203 60 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 9 pass break-ups in 13 games.
21 Ed Paris (Sr.) 6-0, 208 Played in just 3 games due to injuries. 8 tackles, 4 pass break-ups.
30 Eric Monroe (So.) 6-1, 200 14 tackles, 2 pass break-ups in 13 game appearances with one start.
3 Jacoby Stevens (So.) 6-2, 225 Two catches for 32 yards as a receiver.
SS 26 John Battle (Sr.) 6-2, 206 61 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception, 5 pass break-ups and 2 forced fumbles.
31 Cameron Lewis (So.) 6-2, 201 One tackle in two games.
33 Todd Harris Jr. (So.) 5-11, 186 Four tackles in 13 games on special teams.
*Currently suspended by the NCAA.

Projected starting lineup: One side of this unit will be locked down by the nation’s best corner, third-year sophomore Greedy Williams. In his first year as a starter, Williams allowed just a 22.9 passer rating in 66 pass attempts to his side of the field and led the SEC with six interceptions. He may be the most pure man-to-man cover corner LSU’s had since Morris Claiborne, specializing at getting his head around and finding the ball in deep coverage — a skill I’ve always believed can’t truly be taught. The other corner position may be up in the air, but one side of Aranda’s defense is locked down.

Williams skipped last weekend’s scrimmage and has donned the non-contact jersey some, but that’s more about the staff being cautious with a good player.

At safety, fifth-year man John Battle and sophomore Grant Delpit currently man the starting positions, the latter coming off a freshman AA season in which he emerged as an excellent in-the-box run defender. Battle is more athletically limited, but one of the more well-respected leaders in the unit. Expect some rotation here with Ed Paris, Eric Monroe, Todd Harris and possibly Jacoby Stevens as well. Monroe is a much better athlete than Battle, but struggled with coverage assignments at times as well, notably being out of position on a long touchdown versus Auburn.

New safeties coach Bill Busch, a veteran coach Aranda brought in, is a wild card here in terms of how he may rotate some of the players involved.

The big question mark will be at the other cornerback spot. LSU wasn’t necessarily assuming that Fulton would play, but they were hopeful. Him being out puts the onus on a competition between sophomore Kary Vincent, freshman Kelvin Joseph and Stanford graduate transfer Terrence Alexander. Vincent had some moments early on as a true freshman, but tailed off. He and Alexander bring sprinter speed to the position, it’s just a question of whether the rest of the coverage skills translate. Joseph is an interesting option — most believe he’s a better fit at safety, but as a prospect he has the length and ball skills Raymond likes for his corners. And with the amount of man-to-man coverage LSU typically plays out wide, corner is a position ripe for a freshman.

The loser of the corner competition will likely work at nickel, with Monroe and Harris in competition there as well. Aranda prefers a more well-rounded nickel player that can blitz and drop into zone coverage, so safety skills are a plus at that spot. Don’t be surprised if there’s a rotation at this spot early on as well, unless somebody emerges quickly.

Power Point: there’s a lot of talent here.

See above — the returning starters are exciting enough, but watching Monroe, Harris, Joseph and Vincent grow into their roles should be a lot of fun. And then there’s Stevens, a former five-star athlete who has bounced between safety and receiver, but has the size to even play linebacker. Time will tell what role he finds, but right now it’s easy to picture LSU rotating anywhere from four to six safeties.

Pressure Point: the cornerback competition.

Losing out on Patrick Surtain Jr. on national signing day not only cost LSU a potential starter, it handed him to a divisional opponent. There’s still more than enough talent to man the spot — sophomore Jontre Kirklin is also a Raymond favorite — but it is the one big question mark for this unit. It’s much easier to hide a single corner, especially with this group of safeties. But if somebody can handle the job full-time, that’s a big relief.