How LSU Football Plans to Attack the Secondary in the 2021 Recruiting Class

Brian Smith

LSU is after a handful of the nation’s best defensive backs, and the Tigers have a chance to sign arguably the nation’s best class if all falls into place.

LSU is one of the nation’s top programs at producing All-American cornerbacks and safeties. One of the prime reasons is LSU brings in athletic and rangy players that are willing to be coached and placed at multiple positions.

Remember the Honey Badger? He moved all over the field for LSU, and now he’s doing the same in the NFL. Versatility can be a beast on the field all by itself. The last LSU class displayed that with three ultra-talented defensive backs that can play multiple positions, and this group could end up being just as versatile. Of course, LSU needs to sign the top 2021 targets.

Yes, there’s always a possibility that LSU misses on some of its top targets. That’s recruiting. Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Texas A&M, Texas, Auburn, and Florida will be just some of the programs that LSU goes up against for the following players.

Based on history, however, it’s wise to bet on LSU signing at least two or three more top-notch deep secondary defenders, and possibly a fourth if coach Ed Orgeron and his staff truly desires it.

Safety Khari Gee, from Atlanta (Ga.) Woodward Academy, already joined the fold. He’s likely an impact player from the start because of his versatility. He could play free safety, strong safety, and even nickel. Athletic and football savvy, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound talent will also be a great addition to the LSU special teams units.

Do not be surprised if Gee ends up playing serious minutes as a freshman. He's a very undervalued prospect by the other recruiting services. LSU landed a big-time player when Gee provided his verbal commitment to Orgeron and the LSU staff. Now, here are a few players to keep an eye on down the stretch, plus a few scenarios to consider.

LSU really wants to land Ga’Quincy McKinstry because he’s such a dynamic player. Although the 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback from Pinson (Ala.) Pinson Valley has been mostly recruited as a cornerback, McKinstry could legitimately play wide receiver, safety or running back in college. He provides the vision, explosive leaping ability, quick hips, and speed to be a shutdown cornerback. That’s his likely future home.

If LSU pairs McKinstry with Gee (not to mention the 2020 LSU defensive backs) it would be two players capable of not only playing their primary position, but also capable of playing multiple positions in the secondary. That’s invaluable because the LSU coaching staff could move each of the two prospects around to different areas of the secondary.

For instance, McKinstry could mirror the opposing team’s best player all night, or he could play nickel corner, as well as be a blitzer from the edge. Same with Gee. He’s a natural free safety, but he could be a dime linebacker or nickel cornerback. Because of the talent and versatility he provides, it would be hard to argue against anointing McKinstry as the top non-committed defensive back on LSU’s board. He has company, however.

Another intriguing cornerback would be Nathaniel Wiggins from Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake. He’s a 6-foot-1, 170-pound speedster that is just beginning to learn the nuances of cornerback play. In fact, much of Wiggins’ Hudl video is of him playing wide receiver. Here’s a look.

Wiggins could play wide receiver or free safety, but with his length, explosive first step, and open-field speed, he’s possibly a great fit for the boundary cornerback position. He needs to add weight but he could easily be a 200-pound player in less than two years. It’s rare to find a boundary cornerback with the type of speed Wiggins provides.

While not necessarily as likely to make an immediate impact like McKinstry, Wiggins does provide the physical attributes to play as a true freshman. One last defensive back to discuss, and he’s a personal favorite.

One of the best all-around athletes any place in the country would be Sage Ryan from Lafayette (La.) Lafayette Christian Academy. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound do-it-all performer has played a number of positions in high school, including quarterback. His ability to break on the football and deliver a blow is still what attracts college recruiters.

He’s the rare player that’s played all over the football field and made big plays regardless of the position he’s played, but that hitting ability, along with his excellent hands, makes him a prime candidate to team up with Gee in the deep secondary. He’s also capable of playing linebacker down the line, at least situationally.

Ryan will gain at least another 15 or 20 pounds before he leaves LSU. It’s part of the maturation process that he will undertake. That added size will allow him to play nickel linebacker against a team like Mississippi State that will stretch a defense thin with its myriad of formations and empty (no running backs) looks. There’s no place to hide; defenders must be able to cover, linebackers included.

That’s how a player like Ryan can make an impact each and every week. Against most teams, he will be a safety. Against a passing attack like Mississippi State, he’s more likely to at least drop into the box and be the nickel cornerback, if not linebacker.

These are just a few of the athletes that LSU fans should be excited about. The Tigers have a chance to land all three of these players to go along with Gee. It would be a great haul. Keep in mind, there are still other targets out there as well. LSU has a lot of time to possibly add a player that people may not currently expect to the 2021 recruiting class.

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