By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports
BATON ROUGE — The foundation of LSU’s reputation of DBU – Defensive Back University – is based on the Tigers currently have 11 former DBs in the NFL including five starting cornerbacks.
Yet because 12 of 14 cornerbacks the Tigers signed in the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes are no longer in the program – five transferred to other FBS (Division 1-A) schools, three left early for the NFL and four graduated, including three one-year-rental transfers, reality has slapped LSU in the face.
LSU’s DBU is now MIA (missing in action).
The 14th-ranked Tigers (1-1), who open SEC play at Mississippi State on Saturday at 11 a.m., are ranked 102 of 132 FBS teams and dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed (258 per game).
Armed with transfer cornerbacks for the second straight season, LSU is also giving up an SEC-worst 13.23 yards per completion and allowed five TD passes.
The person who is the least surprised about the Tigers’ early cornerback struggles is LSU second-year head coach Brian Kelly, who has signed 14 cornerbacks (three true freshmen and four transfers) in each of his first two recruiting classes.
“We knew that we were playing new players back there,” Kelly said. “The challenge we’re going to be is developing players with very little experience but with talent. But talent is only one part of the equation.
“It’s developing the consistency and doing the little things that require playing at a high level – tackling, being in the right leverage whether it’s inside leverage or outside leverage and raking through the basket.”
How did LSU’s seemingly endless tank of cornerback talent run dry?
Simple. Five cornerbacks signed in the Tigers’ 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes transferred. They were Dwight McGlothern who moved on to Arkansas, Eli Ricks to Alabama, Damarius McGhee to Kansas, Ray’darious Jones to Mississippi State and Jaelyn Davis-Robinson to SMU).
They were supposed to fill the vacancies of 2019 cornerback signees Derek Stingley and Cor’Dale Flott (who both left LSU early for the NFL) and Jay Ward, who eventually played mostly safety before graduating after last season and moving on to the NFL).
Kelly wants to develop the underclassmen he has signed. But the pressing need for experienced cornerbacks has him again starting transfers.
This season’s starting corners have been juniors Duce Chestnut (who started 24 games for Syracuse) and Zy Alexander (28 starts for Southeastern Louisiana) and sophomore Denver Harris (who played in five games for Texas A&M last season).
“This is a process,” Kelly said. “It’s about being in the right technique. I like the competitiveness. We like our guys. This is going to be coaching and player development the entire season.”
KNOW THE ENEMY
No. 14 LSU (1-1) at Mississippi State (2-0), Davis-Wade Stadium, Saturday, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Last game for the Bulldogs: MSU edged Arizona 31-24 in overtime in Starkville on Saturday night. After the Bulldogs took the lead in the first possession of overtime on QB Will Rogers’ 29-yard screen pass TD to Jeffrey Pittman, the Bulldogs’ defense stopped Arizona QB Jayden de Laura inches short of a first down on 4th and 10. The MSU defense finished with nine tackles for loss, four interceptions and eight pass breakups.
Series record and last meeting: LSU leads 77-36-3. Last season, LSU won 37-16 after trailing 13-0 in the second quarter. The Tigers outscored MSU 21-0 in the fourth quarter and 31-3 in the game’s final 31 minutes. The Tigers sacked MSU QB Will Rogers four times and recorded eight tackles for losses.
Mississippi State head coach: Zach Arnett (2-0 in two seasons overall and at Mississippi State)
THIS AND THAT:
Early betting line: LSU is favored by 9
Number of Louisiana natives on MSU roster: 8
Number of Mississippi natives on LSU roster: 1
Number of transfers on MSU roster from 4-year schools: 21 players from 19 schools including 17 players from 15 Power 5 Conference schools
MISSISSIPPI STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Will Rogers (33 of 46, 71.7 percent for 389 passing yards, 5 TDs, 0 interceptions), RB Jo’Quavious Marks (250 rushing yards and 3 TDs on 43 carries, 8 catches for 91 yards), WR Lideatrick Griffin (9 catches for 116 yards, 2 TDs), LB Nathaniel Watson (18 tackles, 2 TFL, 1½ sacks, 1 interception, 2 PBU), LB Jett Johnson (17 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles), PK Kyle Ferrie (3 of 4 FGs, 10 of 10 extra points), P Keelan Crimmins (5 for 37.8, 4 fair catches, 1 inside the 20), KO Marion Hauck (13 for 63.5, 4 touchbacks), PR Jaden Walley (2 for 15 yards), KOR Lideatrick Griffin (1 for 21)
1. When did Mississippi State clinch its first and only SEC football championship?
A. The year every SEC football program but Mississippi State was on NCAA probation
B. Eight days before Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941
C. The day Starkville got electricity for the first time
D. On the inaugural National Cowbell Day
2. Why did current Dallas Cowboys and former Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, who starred at Haughton (La.) High, have no interest in signing with LSU in 2011?
A. He didn’t like the color purple
B. He wanted to play immediately
C. Then-LSU head coach Les Miles was recruiting him to play linebacker
D. He wanted to attend college in a town almost as small as Haughton
3. How many current players does Mississippi State have in Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Answers: 1. B 2. C 3. D
Contact Ron at email@example.com