LSU players have popped up on pretty much all but one preseason watch list and Tuesday was more of the same. Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., safety JaCoby Stevens and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin were three of the 98 players named to the Nagurski Award watch list.
The Nagurski Award is presented annually by the Football Writers Association of America to the top defensive player in the country. Past winners of the award include Chase Young, Aaron Donald, Luke Kuechly, Ndamukong Suh and Terrell Suggs. Former LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey picked up the award in 2007 and is the only Tigers to ever win the award.
With Tuesday's announcement, Stingley has now racked up preseason watch list nominations in both the Bednarik and Jim Thorpe Awards while Stevens was also named to the Thorpe watch list. Stingley was a consensus All-American in 2019 as he proved to be one of college football's best lock down corners.
The LSU coaching staff will continue to grow his role in 2020 as coach Ed Orgeron said the program would ideally like to use Stingley as a blitzer in some situations as opposed to just strictly man-to-man coverage.
“I think this year you’re not going to see us just use Derek in man free coverage, I think you’re going to see him blitzing, I think you’re going to see him use his talents in some places where we need him on defense," Orgeron said on WWL radio this summer. "I think Bo’s going to mix it up where he’s going to have our corners doing different things.”
Stevens will return as LSU's biggest breakout star from a season ago and likely has the inside track at the No. 18 jersey for this upcoming season. Stevens recorded 92 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, five sacks and three interceptions as a junior and will be used close to the line of scrimmage as a hybrid safety that can also rush the passer.
Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has spoken many times in the offseason about how excited he is to get to work with Stevens.
“I can't even tell you how excited I am to have JaCoby Stevens in our system,” said Pelini at LSU’s Coaches Caravan. “He can do so many things. The NFL is going to be licking their chops over this guy. There's a lot of versatility, and there's a lot of depth in our secondary."
Shelvin may not have put up the gaudy statistics in 2019 but he was every bit as important as Stevens and Stingley and will continue to be in 2020 as the anchor of the defensive line. What Shelvin does better than most in the SEC is eat up offensive linemen.
Most of the times, Shelvin, because of his sheer size and strength (6-foot-3, 346 pounds), attracted double teams which allowed the players around him to have more success. Weight has always been the primary concern with Shelvin and was something Orgeron addressed on "Off the Bench" Tuesday.
"If Tyler doesn't lose weight we might need a Mack truck to bring him out there," Orgeron joked. "I do believe he will get down in weight, I believe in Tyler."
If watch list season has proven anything over the last two weeks it's that the only adjustment that will need to be made on defense is the 4-3 system. The roster is littered with talent on the defensive side of the ball and should be an area of strength for the Tigers this season.