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Better Know a Freshman: Sage Ryan

Nation’s top safety prospect should help DBU return to form

The DBU reputation took a hit last fall.

It would be one thing for LSU to have been the worst defense in school history if there was a mass exodus of talent in the secondary. But, as often the case at LSU, there are future pros littering LSU’s depth chart and many of those young men will likely hear their names called early whenever they do declare for whatever NFL Draft they’ll be part of.

That’s what makes Bo Pelini’s second go round at LSU so maddening. Derek Stingley will go in the top-10 of the 2022 draft; Eli Ricks will likely go in the first round in the 2023 draft; Jay Ward, Dwight McGlothern, and Cordale Flott have shown they have futures in the NFL. To fail so spectacularly with that much talent to work with gets harder to believe the further removed we get from the Pelini era.

The DBU legacy will likely return to form but the players will need to earn that reputation back. Sage Ryan will help repair the damage done last year.

The Story

Sage Ryan, like fellow incoming freshman Maason Smith, seemed to be as big of a lock as there was.

For starters, Ryan was a five-star, No. 1 safety in America from just outside LSU’s backyard. Second, his head coach at Lafayette Christian Academy, Trev Faulk, was a former LSU linebacker and oh by the way is Ryan’s uncle; and finally, speaking of family ties, Ryan is cousins with current Tiger running backs coach Kevin Faulk.

It should have been the easiest of layups for LSU to sign an elite prospect at a position of need with so many connections to program...until it wasn’t.

As Ryan was set to announce his commitment on Halloween, rumors began flying that Ryan would spur the Tigers and sign with Alabama. And it wasn’t just mere message board rumors, 247’s Shea Dixon—who covers LSU for the site—and Steve Wilfong—247’s director of recruiting—both ended up predicting Ryan would end up in Tuscaloosa.

But in his high school gym with Ryan’s mother on one side and his uncle on the other, family won the day.

The Numbers

247 Composite Rating: *****

247 Composite Ranking: .9852

The Film

Scouting report courtesy of 247’s Gabe Brooks

Versatile, athletic football player with functional size that could translate to cornerback, safety, nickel, receiver, or even running back. Not overly tall, but possesses adequate height and encouraging bulk relative to position and age. Electric athlete with combine-verified athleticism (4.45 40, 4.37 shuttle, 36-inch vertical). Speed, explosiveness, and fluidity manifest on the field. Closes fast and arrives with a purpose. Could be an intriguing blitzing option. Changes direction well. Flashes impressive burst and acceleration, plus terrific top-end speed. Dangerous return game option. Shows promising football instincts and natural playmaking ability. Good football pedigree. Back-to-back state champion in sophomore and junior seasons, but will face a significant jump in competition going from Louisiana small private school level to high-major college ball. Occasionally a bit too physical and handsy in coverage. Can provide the big hit but sometimes sacrifices tackling technique to do so. One of Louisiana’s top 2021 prospects with position versatility and athleticism that translates all over the field. Possesses long-term early-round NFL Draft potential.

The Future

I joked when Ryan announced his commitment to LSU that the Tigers needed to get him on a jet and fly him to Auburn because he was good enough to be on the field that day. And since Auburn would go on to hand LSU the most lopsided beating in the history of the rivalry I stand by my statement.

Ryan, like Maason Smith, will absolutely be on the field against UCLA September 4. The only question I have is where will he be deployed. Todd Harris is a senior and Jay Ward shined when the coaching staff moved him to safety; LSU also has the best corner tandem in the nation with Ricks and Stingley, and Cordale Flott will surely have a bounce back year at the nickel.

While on the surface it appears Ryan’s path to playing time is blocked everywhere you turn, I believe that is actually a luxury. This, to me, allows the coaching staff to use him as a chaos bringer the way Tyrann Mathieu was used in 2011. I’m not saying he’ll have the same kind of impact that Mathieu did, I just believe the coaching staff will be able to say to Ryan “go make plays.”

High End: The next great Tiger safety. A player you can put up there with Laron Landry, Craig Steltz, Eric Reid, Jamal Adams, and Grant Delpit.

Low End: A JaCoby Stevens/Kary Vincent type of career where he’s a better athlete than pass defender. Multi-year starter and a second or third-team All-SEC pick his final season in Baton Rouge.

Realistic: Freshman All-American, makes multiple first-team All-SECs and possible All-American. Goes no later than the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft.