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LSU Spring Football 2019: Defensive Backs

Graduate one All-American, two more shall rise.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to DBU, where spring practices feature losing an All-American and expected first-round draft pick, but:

A) Still having the best defensive back in the country returning;

B) At least one more potential all-star expected to break out as a pro prospect; and

C) The highest-rated cornerback prospect ever signed by the program as an enrolled true freshman.

Two starting spots are open, and of the nine players competing for them, seven were at least a four-star defensive back prospect or better.

LSU Defensive Backs: Spring 2019

Position Player Ht/Wt Tackles Tackles for Loss Pass Break-Ups Interceptions Forced Fumbles
Position Player Ht/Wt Tackles Tackles for Loss Pass Break-Ups Interceptions Forced Fumbles
Cornerbacks 22 Kristian Fulton (Jr.) 6-0, 192 25 1 9 1 1
5 Kary Vincent Jr. (Jr.) 5-10, 181 31 1.5 6 1 0
28 Mannie Netherly (Jr.) 6-3, 199 Three tackles in 11 games.
1 Kelvin Joseph (So.) 6-1, 195 12 0 1 0 0
24 Derek Stingley Jr. (Fr.) 6-1, 195 Five-star recruit.
Safeties 7 Grant Delpit (Jr.) 6-3, 203 74 9.5 9 5 1
30 Eric Monroe (Jr.) 6-1, 200 Accumulated no stats in 4 game appearances.
3 Jacoby Stevens (Jr.) 6-2, 225 35 6.5 5 1 0
33 Todd Harris Jr. (Jr.) 5-11, 186 31 0 3 1 0
31 Cameron Lewis (Jr.) 6-2, 201 Four tackles in 3 game appearances.
21 Kenan Jones (So.) 6-3, 210 One tackle in 13 games (played special teams as a receiver).
Returning starters in bold.

What’s Good?

LSU returns two starters here, but one of them is the nation’s best returning defensive back. Grant Delpit was the first player in LSU history to put together a five interception/five sack season, and was a unanimous All-American pick. He’s the complete package as a safety — he has the size to play in the box and is an excellent blitzer, but still has the short-area quickness to cover slot receivers and the speed to play center field.

His fellow returning starter is junior Kristian Fulton, a former five-star recruit who finally made it through some suspension issues to start most of the 2018 season before an ankle injury that he only just recently rehabbed enough to start practicing again. Fulton was an ace cornerback for most of his first season in the lineup though, a physical, tight man-to-man cover guy who was one of the more efficient in the conference. He should be an all-conference, and possibly all-American caliber player this year leading into a possible high NFL Draft selection.

The options for the remaining spots include a host of talent and experience:

  • Kary Vincent, the starting nickel back who put together a strong season playing something of a corner-safety hybrid position that saw him playing deep leverage and blitzing from the edge, but also put together an aces Fiesta Bowl starting at corner in place of the injured Fulton.
  • Derek Stingley Jr., the nation’s top cornerback prospect out of high school, a 6-1, 195-pound freak athlete that started practicing with the team before the bowl and immediately impressed. Stingley is going to play a major role on this team one way or another, but nobody would be surprised to see him lock down the starting job and keep Vincent at nickel.
  • Todd Harris Jr., a former stud recruit who started in place of John Battle last year due to injury and looked pretty competent in the role.
  • Jacoby Stevens, the former five-star athlete prospect who was kind of lost in the shuffle through his first two seasons, but found a role last last year as the “quarter” safety/linebacker hybrid spot in sub packages.
  • Kelvin Joseph, a former star recruit who rotated at nickel and corner as a true freshman.
  • Eric Monroe, also a superstar recruit that, to date, has been largely limited by injuries.
  • Mannie Netherly, a converted receiver pressed into starting duty in the Fiesta Bowl. Netherly considered transferring, and will have to battle the incoming freshmen for minutes this fall. But he has the size that Corey Raymond likes out of his cornerbacks, and aside from a few missteps, was solid in the bowl game.

What’s Bad?

There really isn’t a whole lot to complain about, if you’re Raymond. If Stingley is the player he’s billed to be, sliding him into the spot opposite Fulton isn’t a huge concern. Dave Aranda tends to keep coverage pretty simple for the cornerbacks. And Vincent has looked strong enough that most would feel comfortable starting him or sliding him inside to nickel.

Safety is probably the most interesting battle — Harris looked like a competent starter there, but Stevens is such an athlete it’s hard to keep him off the field. But is he a full-time starter or better off in sub packages near the line of scrimmage?

What’s the goal for this unit in the spring?

It’s doubtful that the competition for playing time — whether it’s the two open starter positions or the sub-packages rotation — will be settled before another load of talented freshmen arrive in the summer.

But Raymond and safeties coach Bill Busch can still narrow down the list of players that they know they can count on, or for whom they may want to carve out specific roles.

A physical guy like Kenan Jones (he brought an absolute dog mentality to special teams coverage last year) may be able to evolve into a backup for Stevens in the quarter position. Can somebody like Joseph work in at nickel, or does he need to consider moving to the open safety position?

Having too much talent is a “problem” every coach wants to have, but LSU does have to make sure they move the pieces around in the right way. Spring practice can help set the board.