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Multiple LSU Football Stars Named in ESPN's "Top Returning" Players By Position

Ja'Marr Chase, Derek Stingley among the top returning college football players

Much has been made about the star power Ed Orgeron and company must replace in 2020 but the Tigers are returning quite a bit of star power as well. 

On Friday, ESPN released its top-10 returning players by position and multiple LSU players made the cut, headlined by receiver Ja'Marr Chase and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

Chase has deservedly eaten up a lot of the offseason talk after winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2019 for his 1,780-yard, 20 touchdown season. He's seen as a virtual lock to be a top-10 if not top-five pick in next year's draft and was ranked as the best returning receiver by ESPN.

“You saw Ja’Marr Chase just dominate when the games were most important,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said. “You saw what he did against AJ Terrell, who was the 16th pick in the draft out of Clemson. This is a kid with great talent, he’s the AJ Green, Julio Jones potentially of this draft class.”

"Chase produced one of the best seasons PFF has ever seen as a true sophomore last season. Not only was he the most valuable wide receiver and second-most valuable non-quarterback in the FBS, behind only his teammate Derek Stingley Jr., but also his season landed right behind Amari Cooper's 2014 effort as the best we've seen by a wideout."

While it's hard to expect Chase to match last season's insane production, particularly with a new quarterback and offensive line to work with, he's not far off from making a little program history. With 2,093 career yards and 23 touchdowns, Chase is 909 yards away from breaking Josh Reed's career record in yards (3,001) and four touchdowns from passing Dwayne Bowe (26) in program history.

As for Stingley, the sophomore cornerback proved to be one of the top players in the country as a freshman. Another one of the offseason’s most talked about returners, Stingley will without question be considered among the elite defensive players in 2020.

"The gap between Stingley and the second cornerback on this list is massive. Stingley shattered PFF records across the board in his 2019 true freshman campaign, notably putting together the most WAA [Wins Above Average] we have ever seen by a non-quarterback in a single season."

Stingley was one of the most battle-tested corners in the country a season ago. He saw a whopping 94 targets -- second most among cornerbacks -- but he managed to allow a 38.3% catch rate and produce a 91.9 PFF grade that ranked fifth and first, respectively, among players at his position.

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His 15 pass deflections were tied for first in the SEC and his six interceptions led the conference and were second in the nation, resulting in him earning a consensus All-American title in 2019. 

Stingley even has +6000 odds to win the Heisman according to Fanduel, the highest such odds for a non-quarterback or running back. And he'll barely be 19 years old when the season starts.

Nose tackle Tyler Shelvin was also ranked as the No. 6 returning interior defensive lineman. At 6-foot-3, 346 pounds, Shelvin's greatest attribute is his ability to eat up multiple offensive linemen, allowing his teammates around him more one-on-one matchups. 

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini is extremely complimentary of Shelvin, saying when he watches him play, he can't help but be reminded of another player that sported the No. 72, Glenn Dorsey.

"Tyler Shelvin, I think he can be as good as he wants to be," Pelini said in an interview on Hangin' With Hester. "I think he is a really talented kid. I am excited about him. He does some things, now. He is way bigger than Glenn was at this point in his career, but there are times you see that 72 and he reminds me of Dorsey - he’s just about 70 pounds bigger than Glenn was at that point. But we have guys that can play."

He has primarily lined up at nose tackle and is arguably the best returning player at that alignment against the run. Only nine players who played at least 125 snaps against the run at nose tackle graded above 80.0 last season -- Shelvin generated a mark of 90.1

Shelvin is another player to watch in 2020 as he's received a lot of offseason hype from analysts like Kiper who considers the burly LSU junior a first round talent.

"With a massive frame, Shelvin eats up blockers, allowing linebackers to get free and make tackles. He's not going to give you much as a pass-rusher, but he has a role in the NFL, even if it won't be for every team," Kiper wrote.