Derek Stingley, Elias Ricks and Damone Clark figure to be three of the dominant defenders on LSU's roster in 2021. All return with at least a season's worth of SEC starting experience and are expected to make big leaps in their development under Daronte Jones and company.
On Monday, Stingley and Ricks were named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list while Clark was named to the Butkus Award watch list. The Thorpe award is earned annually by the best defensive back in the country while the Butkus goes to the best linebacker.
Many past LSU great defensive backs, including Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and most recently Grant Delpit have won the Thorpe award. Meanwhile, LSU hasn't had the same level of success with the Butkus award as Devin White became the first winner back in 2018.
Stingley and Ricks return to Baton Rouge as one of the best cornerback duos in the country even after a down 2020 season from the secondary as a whole. The hope is that Jones can come in and fix some of the communication errors the back half of the defense suffered from in 2020 and turn in a much more consistent performance.
Stingley enters his third season for the Tigers, he has the chance to be the second player in LSU history to earn first-team All-America three times. The Baton Rouge native flew onto the scene as a true freshman on LSU’s 2019 national championship roster and hasn’t looked back since.
Stingley was also voted as the SEC Newcomer of the Year in 2019 after leading the conference in interceptions with six, including two in the SEC Championships Game win over Georgia.
For Ricks, he enters his second season for the Tigers looking to carry the momentum over from a stellar freshman campaign in which he led the Tigers in interceptions along with being second in the SEC with four total. Of his four picks, he took two of them back for touchdowns with one coming in a crucial victory over sixth-ranked Florida.
After an outstanding season, Ricks was named to the Freshman All-America team while earning third team All-America by the Associated Press.
Clark will anchor the middle of the defense after an up and down season in 2020 where at one point he was off the field completely. Orgeron has called him one of the most improved players and a big part of that is the game finally starting to slow down for the now senior, who will sport No. 18 as one of the Tigers biggest leaders on the team.
With Ricks and Stingley on the outside and Clark in the middle, LSU is hoping the additions of Jones and linebackers coach Blake Baker make all the difference in the world for the Tigers.