The last few weeks have been tough on junior safety Grant Delpit. After suffering an ankle injury in the Tigers 23-20 win over Auburn a little over a month ago, Delpit has been playing through soreness and for the first time since the initial injury, seems to be close to his old self.
"Grant is full speed," coach Ed Orgeron said Monday. "I just talked to Jack [Marucci]. He's going to work out today and he's going to practice every day this week. I think the rest helped him."
The ankle injury has kept Delpit from participating in practices leading up to gameday, making it difficult for him to catch up to game speed on Saturdays. That couldn't have been more evident than against Ole Miss two weeks ago, when Delpit was a step or two slow on multiple big runs from quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.
Orgeron and the coaching staff made the decision to sit Delpit against Arkansas, which the junior said has really helped him as he feels close to 100%.
"I don't know if I'm fully 100% yet but I'm close to it," Delpit said. "It's tough because I don't want to miss practice because practice reps lead to having good game reps so it's been tough. I came out today and was feeling pretty good, loosened up a little bit as I got warmed up. It's an injury but I've got to play through it."
The 2019 season has been a bit of a roller coaster for the preseason All-American and presumptive first round draft pick. The playmaking ability displayed during his sophomore season hasn't translated in his junior year and some of that may be due to a change in position.
"I haven't made a lot of big time plays or anything like that but at the same time I'm playing a different position so I'm not around the ball a lot but I'm not complaining because we're winning."
This year, Delpit’s played more of the free safety role while junior JaCoby Stevens has been playing the nickel safety position closer to the line of scrimmage, a position Delpit thrived in 2018.
As a result, Stevens has thrived in that role, leading the team in sacks and has won SEC Defensive Player of the Week three times during his breakout junior year.
"That's where he's good at and so we're just trying to play around our skill level and I think it's working out pretty well," Delpit said. "He loves being in the box and around the ball. I could do it also but he's got the hot hand and been doing a great job at it."
One of the reasons for Delpit's role change was the injury to Todd Harris, who played at free safety primarily in 2018 and was the starter at the beginning of the 2019 season. With Harris down, Delpit was the more experienced and talented deep coverage safety so he made the switch from nickel safety to take over for Harris at free safety.
"When Todd got hurt it was unfortunate," Delpit said. "We had a little rotation going on especially with Todd, who can do everything. I think it simplified things, us sticking too a certain position and playing around certain people's skill level and what they do best."
With the switch and adjustment to a position he wasn't in much last season, Delpit was still recognized as a Jim Thorpe Award finalist on Monday for a 50 tackle year that includes an interception.
"First of all, I feel extremely blessed because that's a very prestigious award," Delpit said. "I'm very humbled, I probably haven't had the best year but we're winning games and that's all that matters. It was a good moment."