As the 2020 football season unfurled one thing became apparent for LSU: the safety position needed some serious changes.
The combination of Jacoby Stevens/Todd Harris/Mo Hampton Jr. left a lot to be desired and the unit’s poor play cost safeties coach Bill Busch his job. Stevens went off to the NFL and Hampton, who was reportedly going to focus solely on baseball, transferred from LSU in the spring.
So LSU went out and did what elite programs are supposed to do: they retooled and reloaded.
Corey Raymond is back coaching all defensive backs, not just corners. And more importantly LSU added a much needed infusion of talent to the safety room, Derrick Davis Jr. chief among them.
Davis came to LSU from an unusual place. Monroeville, Pa. Big 10 country isn’t an area LSU normally targets but an exception was made for Davis, the No. 4 safety in America and No. 65 overall prospect.
LSU offered Davis on September 1, 2019. By then Davis already had offers from the hometown Nittany Lions, Bama, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin; not long after LSU’s offer came offers from other elites of college football like Georgia and Oklahoma.
While Davis could have gone anywhere, surely Penn State would land his commitment. An elite prospect that was two and a half hours away from State College would obviously stay home. Especially one that visited campus, per 247, eight times.
And yet somehow, on an early November weekend, LSU convinced Davis to make the near 1,200 mile move and commit to LSU.
“I just feel like that is the perfect place for me,” Davis told 247Sports after he announced his commitment. “It reminded me of home. The staff really showed a lot of love toward me and my family. They see me doing a lot of big things for their team, for their program.”
247 Composite Rating: ****
247 Composite Ranking: .9706
Scouting report courtesy of 247’s Brian Dohn
Safety build with body type to carry 210 pounds. Physical, tough and plays nasty. Has man-cover ability. Mentality to play in box and runs well enough to play free safety. Nickel ability. Capable blitzer. Instinctual player who tracks ball well. Good change of direction. Strong on jams and re-routes well. Shows good acceleration and closing speed. Strong tackler. Must continue to add upper body strength. Refining back pedal and adding hip flexibility important. Ability to play for elite program as true freshman. Second day NFL draft pick potential.
Sage Ryan may be slightly more touted than Davis, but Davis has been on LSU’s campus since January and that eight-month head start should lead to a quicker path to the field come September 4 in the Rose Bowl.
On 247 Davis is compared to Malcom Jenkins. I assume most readers of this here website are Saints fans, myself included so I’m plenty familiar with Jenkins. For those of you who may not be familiar with Jenkins, think of Davis as the JaCoby Stevens/Jamal Adams type of safety. The kind of safety who plays closer to the box almost like an extra linebacker.
That’s an awfully enticing comparison since Ryan projects more like a Grant Delpit type of safety. LSU won a national championship with Delpit and Stevens as its starting safeties, could Ryan and Davis be that next tandem? Here’s hoping
High End: Multi-year starter who, alongside Sage Ryan, gives LSU its latest and greatest safety tandem. Think Delpit/Stevens or Brandon Taylor/Eric Reid. All-SEC selection and early day two pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Low End: Gets lost in the sea of talent at the safety position LSU has and transfers somewhere closer to home. Remember Davis will be competing for playing time with Ryan, Jay Ward, Major Burns, Todd Harris, Jordan Toles, and Matthew Langlois. LSU will for sure lose Harris at season’s end (graduation) and could lose Ward as an early entry for the draft. Even if that happens you’re still looking at a crowded safety room in 2022 where Toles and Burns are both juniors, you have two other sophomore safeties and call me optimistic but I still think five-star 2022 safety Jacoby Matthews ends up at LSU. There’s but only so much playing time to be had and if someone transfers, I’d assume it’s the kid whose family is 17 hours away.
Realistic: Fortunately I think Davis is talented enough that he’ll earn adequate playing time as a freshman and finds his way into a bigger role in 2022 before declaring for the NFL Draft after a successful LSU career.