On the surface, just looking at the 2019 and 2020 season in a vaccum, you wouldn't think that any singular component of the 2020 results would compare to that magical 2019 season. After all putting an undefeated natonal championship run up against a 5-5 season tells most of the story in and of itself.
However, the performance out of freshman cornerback Elias Ricks comes pretty close to that of Derek Stingley during his freshman campaign in 2019 as week in and week out Ricks proved to be among the country's very best corners in man-to-man coverage.
For a little comparsion, here are the stats from Ricks' 2020 season and Stingley's 2019 season:
Ricks- 20 tackles (0.5 for loss), 4 interceptions, 5 pass defended, 2 defensive touchdowns
Stingley- 38 tackles, 5 interceptions, 15 passes defended
The two received major accolades for their performances with Stingley being a concensus All-American while Ricks was named a third team All-American by the AP. Ricks was also named to the All-SEC team in 2020, with Stingley being named to the first team and Ricks the third team.
Much like Stingley in 2019, Ricks was one of the best college football in man coverage during the 2020 season according to Pro Football Focus. Of course, during that 2019 season, Stingley posted a coverage grade of 91.7 to lead the country and allowed an opponent completion percentage of just 42% when he was out in coverage.
On the other hand, Ricks allowed just a 44.4% completion percentage and when it was all said and done he had scored as many touchdowns as he had allowed during the course of the season (2). Much like Stingley the year before, his four interceptions was first among freshman defensive backs and was tied for eighth nationally.
Taking Stingley's stats alone, that's hard for anyone to match up to but cirmcumstances do need to be taken into account. For much of that 2019 season, Stingley was opposite a first round pick in Kristian Fulton, the eventual Jim Thorpe award winner in Grant Delpit and a defensive coordinator in Dave Aranda who was clearly among the best in college football.
For comparison, Ricks started opposite a hobbled Stingley for some of the 2020 season, a secondary that became known more for busted coverages than anything else and a simply bad fit at defensive coordinator in Bo Pelini. It could be argued that because of the poor play from the secondary this season, that Ricks grading out as one of the best in man coverage is as impressive to what Stingley accomplished in 2019.
LSU still needs to find "the right fit" for its next defensive coordinator but if that hire can fix some of the fundamental issues with the schemes and breakdowns that became so rampant in 2020, there's little to no reason why Stingley and Ricks shouldn't be the best 1-2 punch at cornerback in the country in 2021.