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2020 LSU Football Preview: Defensive Backs

The strength of the 2020 LSU Tigers

Northwestern State v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The DBU moniker is claimed by a number of different schools. LSU has a valid claim for it. So does Alabama, Florida and Ohio State. Florida State, Texas and Virginia Tech all like to throw their names into the mix as well.

Frankly the DBU debate wears me out. One publication can run a metric and come to a conclusion that one school is DBU, while another one can come up with its own formula to declare that another school is the real one. All I know is that for 2020, the best defensive back in America plays for LSU and the unit as a whole will be the strength of LSU.

2020 LSU Defensive Backs

Position Player Height/Weight Tackles Pass Breakups Interceptions
Position Player Height/Weight Tackles Pass Breakups Interceptions
Cornerbacks 1. Elias Ricks (Fr.) 6’2”/196 Five-star freshman
2. Dwight McGlotheren (Fr.) 6’2”/182 Four-star freshman
16. Jay Ward (Soph.) 6’1”/176 4 3 0
24. Derek Stingley Jr. (Soph.) 6’1"/195 31 21 6
25. Cardale Flott (Soph.) 6’1”/165 15 4 0
29. Raydarious Jones (Soph.) 6’2"/170 No stats
Safeties 3. Jacoby Stevens (Sr.) 6’2"/230 85 (8.5 TFLs, 5 sacks) 9 3
4. *Todd Harris Jr. (Jr.) 6’1”/195 3
5. Kary Vincent Jr. (Sr.) 5’10”/189 47 (2 TFLs) 13 4
11. Eric Monroe (Sr.) 5’11”/209 7 (1 TFL) 0 0
14. Maurice Hampton Jr. (Soph.) 6’0”/215 10 1 0
21. **Jordan Toles (Fr.) 6’0”/199 Four-star freshman
31. Cameron Lewis (Sr.) 6’2”/197 20 2 0

*Suffered season-ending knee injury against Northwestern State

**Will also play basketball

This table starts and stops with 24. Derek Stingley Jr. is the best defensive back in America. He was the best defensive back in America in 2019, he will be the best in 2020 and you can go ahead and pencil him in for being the best in America in 2021. LSU has produced a truly staggering amount of elite defensive backs over the years and Stingley may very well end up being the best one to ever come out of the program. Had he been eligible to declare for last April’s draft he would have pushed Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah to be the first defensive back taken and you can also argue Grant Delpit is holding Stingley’s Thorpe Award.

Stingley was a consensus First-Team All-American, First-Team All-SEC and the conference’s newcomer of the year (though laughably not the SEC freshman of the year, that went to Auburn’s Bo Nix which...sure). He led the conference in interceptions with six and was second in the nation in pass break ups with 21, and the only reason he may not replicate those numbers is because quarterbacks won’t throw the ball his way. At least the smart ones won’t. Stingley is something LSU hasn’t had since Morris Claiborne or Patrick Peterson: a true eraser of one side of the field.

Stingley wasn’t the only corner LSU signed in its 2019 class. It also added Cardale Flott, Jay Ward and Raydarious Jones. While Jones didn’t record any statistics, Flott and Ward shined in limited capacity. The two played in 13 games each defending the slot and Flott and Ward should see their roles expand in 2020, perhaps with one of them taking over the spot vacated by Kristian Fulton.

But it won’t be easy for Flott or Ward to take that spot because for the second year in a row LSU signed one of the nation’s best corner prospects. Last year it was Stingley, this year it’s Elias Ricks. An IMG product by way of California, Ricks enrolled in January and impressed despite a shoulder injury that required surgery. Ricks played his entire senior year with a torn labrum, but is expected to be starting at corner once the season begins.

LSU will also have fierce competition for playing time among the safeties. Stevens is a lock to be on the field, and probably the odds on favorite to wear No. 18, and will probably be relied on to play close to the line of scrimmage.

On the back end is where the real battles begin. Todd Harris is back from an ACL injury that ended his 2019 prematurely. Mo Hampton Jr. will also be coming back from an injury after hurting his back during the brief baseball season. Hampton came on later in the year and started the Arkansas game in place of Grant Delpit. Hampton’s emergence really helped stabilize the Tiger secondary. The more Hampton played, the more LSU could put Delpit closer to the line of scrimmage and Delpit began to look more like his All-American 2018 self. My question with Harris and Hampton is this an either/or situation or can they both be on the field together? And what about Kary Vincent Jr, how will Bo Pelini use Vincent’s track speed?

The 2020 LSU secondary has dizzying amount of combinations it could use. The Tigers have four and five-star talent all across the board and some won’t take meaningful snaps in 2020. The secondary has traditionally been one of LSU’s strongest units and the 2020 edition will be no exception.