As the LSU Tigers look to shake back after a disappointing 2020-21 season, it will all start with the play of Daronte Jones’ defense. Leading Jones’ defensive unit will be projected top ten pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Derek Stingley Jr., who remained optimistic about this upcoming season in Monday afternoon’s SEC Media Day.
Stingley Jr., named to the Bednarik Award Watch List as the nation top defensive player, is the engine that keeps this Tigers defense going as he looks to lead this team to another national championship. His praise of Coach Jones gives Tigers fans hope heading into this fall.
“On the defensive side of the ball, when Coach Jones walks in the room, he just gives us energy,” said Stingley Jr. “We all as a group from the front line to the secondary, we're all hanging out, outside of football, interacting more, and it's showing on the field, and it's going to show this fall too.”
Coming from the NFL, Jones has plenty of tricks up his sleeve as he prepares this team for battle this season and will look to utilize Stingley Jr. in a multitude of ways. His preparation and in-depth analysis is what has this defensive group so excited to showcase their talent come September.
“Coach Jones, he brings a lot of stuff from the NFL, and whenever he introduces something new to us, he breaks it down on an NFL level,” said Stingley Jr. “He shows how they did it when he was at the Vikings. He shows clips from that, or he shows clips from the Bengals and stuff like that. When we see that, we're like, okay, we can do it. They're making it look simple, so we can go out there and do it too.”
With the new NIL rule taking over the landscape of college athletics, it wasn’t surprising to see Stingley Jr. capitalize off of his popularity day one after inking a deal with Walk-Ons. His charisma and humble demeanor, aside from his incredible football talent, are what will have endorsement deals coming in bunches.
“Everyone has their own wants and needs, just like everything else,” said Stingley Jr. “You're going to go, and you're going to listen to what benefits you. So, with my process, I'm still trying to figure it out. This is all new. So I'm looking forward to seeing how it's all going to pan out in the end.”
Stingley Jr. is set to wear the infamous No. 7 jersey for the Tigers this upcoming season in Death Valley, continuing the tradition of LSU greats to do so. With NIL becoming a reality, we will surely see him do well as not just anybody gets to wear the prized jersey. To follow in the footsteps of LSU legends rocking No. 7 has Stingley Jr. as excited as ever to continue the legacy.
“I'm very excited. It's something I've always seen as a kid, the hype around it, and what everybody did with the number,” said Stingley Jr. “That's what I look forward to doing. I really want to leave a mark.”
Learning from the greats to do it such as Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Leonard Fournette have taught him how to be the ideal leader in the locker room. The No. 7 is much more than a jersey number, it’s a way of life, which is something Stingley Jr. hit on in Monday’s SEC Media Day.
“I've talked to a couple of the previous 7s, but with TyrannMathieu, I asked him how to be the perfect leader, and there is no perfect way,” said Stingley Jr. “It's just however you feel it needs to be. You don't always have to go out there and scream and yell and be this rah-rah guy. When you speak, people are going to listen.”
Stingley Jr.’s confidence in defensive coordinator Daronte Jones and his personal impact he must have on this LSU locker room were prominent figures throughout his Media Day interview. He knows the expectations people will have on him and this team heading into the fall and is wholeheartedly up for the challenge.
With Stingley Jr. leading the charge, all eyes will be focused on the improvement of this year’s defense compared to last as the Tigers look to push their names back into the national championship conversation.