LSU Football Linebacker Jabril Cox Ready to Prove He Belongs in the SEC
The decision loomed in the back of Jabril Cox's mind throughout his final season at North Dakota State. Should he enter the 2020 NFL draft or decide to play one final college season at the FBS level and enter the transfer portal.
Cox had already established himself as an elite talent at the FCS level, winning three national championships and being named an All-American two times during his career with the Bison. He had even received draft buzz after the 2019 season concluded, with coach Ed Orgeron later saying some scouts believed he could've been a first-round pick.
Instead, after a long talk with his family, Cox entered the portal and eventually signed with the LSU program without even visiting campus. That was a tough decision for Cox but he knew he'd be in good hands playing for the defending national champs.
"I'm used to a family atmosphere kind of vibe and LSU really brought that to me when I was talking to them," Cox said. "A lot of the coaches and players were explaining to me about how it's very tight knit and once a Tiger, always a Tiger.
“During the process, I had seen they had three linebackers go to the draft so off the bat it was an eye-opening thing for me. Talking with Bo Pelini and his scheme and the way he coaches was a reason I wanted to come to LSU."
The 4-3 scheme is one that Cox is very familiar with and with the finesse he plays with on the field, he feels the playmaking ability he displayed at NDSU will translate to his performance with LSU. At the FCS level, Cox was used to double teams consistently but now that he's playing big time SEC football, he looks forward to having more one-on-one opportunities.
"I like to play out in the open, cover, use my speed to my advantage and my length," Cox said. "I think I can improve playing in the box more. Showing that I can run through the A gap or the B gap and take on blocks and shed them. Just show that strength and physicality that the SEC brings."
He's had a few months to learn the scheme and Cox believes the play style combined with the athletes on the field will lead to more success and plenty of aggressiveness.
"You can expect a lot of blitzes, moving around, a lot of different coverages to confuse the offense," Cox said. "I know coach Bo loves to bring pressure and that's what we're trying to do this year, is cause havoc to offenses. At NDSU we ran a 4-3 and pressure was one of our main friends. Just bringing pressure and blitzes is something both of these squads do."
Cox will have plenty of help in the attack style defense the Tigers will display this season. JaCoby Stevens, Micah Baskerville and Damone Clark are just a few of the players who have helped Cox in his adjustment to the LSU system and what to expect in SEC football.
Clark in particular is set for a breakout campaign after spending the last few years learning behind Devin White, Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips. With both Clark and Cox expected to fill a large portion of the responsibilities at linebacker, it's important that chemistry is strong.
"It's a great relationship and he's one of the first guys that I talked to during the whole transition," Cox said. "Me and him clicked real well on the field and we have kind of the same personality. The chemistry on the field and the friendship off is very tight between us."
While Cox expects to mostly be covering running backs and tight ends, when teams go to the spread and split out five receivers, covering the slot will be an expected move. Luckily, the players Cox and Clark are facing everyday in practice have helped the defense and linebacker unit as a whole adjust to what other SEC offenses could throw their way.
"The people we see in practice, Terrace, Arik, Kayshon, Koy, we see them in practice and know we're going against the best," Cox said. "That's helping us prepare for gametime.”
With all of the opt outs that have hovered around the team in recent weeks, that was never something Cox ever considered. He knew that opting out would mean missing out on a lifelong goal of competing for a national championship at the FBS level.
Though the team looks vastly different than it did a month ago, Cox is used to winning championships now and is the main goal as the Tigers prepare to take the field on Sept. 26.
"Me coming here was a blessing so opting out was never a decision for me," Cox said. "I just wanted to come here and compete. If I were to opt out I wouldn't have been able to get better at football, I would be taking a whole year off so staying and playing football was something I wanted to do."