Updated: Feb 10, 2021
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
JABRIL COX (LB)
RED SHIRT JUNIOR
58 tackles (37 solo)
1 INT RET for TD
(a 2nd Cox INT taken to the 1 inch line @ ARK, although footage shows Cox scoring)
4 QB Hurries
5 QB Hits
How many more touchdowns would've been scored on the Tigers' defense had Bo Pelini's crew failed to pursue Jabril Cox ruthlessly in the transfer portal?
I know we blame Bo Pelini for so much of what went down with the disgusting 2020 defensive performance, however in this regard, Pelini excelled in bringing Cox aboard. I don't think Cox would've come all the way down to Baton Rouge unless there was someone from the Midwest, preferably a coach he knew.
Pelini had a prior relationship with 3x FCS National Champion Jabril Cox at North Dakota State (Pelini knew him from his time recruiting him at Youngstown State & getting his ass whooped by Jabril); The NDState National Champion was the top defensive transfer target of the 2020 college season and Orgeron was hell bent on securing Jabril in an attempt to shore up the Tigers' bleeding linebacking crew.
LSU lost Michael Divinity, Jacob Phillips, Patrick Queen, as well as edge rushing hybrid LB K'Lavon Chaisson to the NFL, and Coach O knew they had to get Cox at all costs.
In Cox LSU wouldn't just be getting a talented linebacker...they'd have access to a vastly experienced, professional-level, NFL-ready leader among their linebackers corps.
Although Coach O believed securing Cox would be a move akin to grabbing "Joe Burrow on defense", the play-making from linebacker doesn't always translate into direct wins or losses as much as the quarterback, no matter what...especially when surrounded by missed tackles, blown coverages and failing schemes left, right and center...
Despite the fallout from Cox failing to complete every academic requirement (which cost LSU the Eric Wilson transfer), Jabril made enough unbelievable plays to more than justify LSU's one year ride with #19: there were countless moments where busted plays (resulting in large gains) showed LSU defenders flailing and chasing after the opponents streaking down the sideline, only for Jabril Cox or Derek Stingley Jr to finally take the man down....on almost every big gain, either Cox or Stingley (sometimes Damone) preventing touchdowns...
More than making up for his teammates' lackadaisical performances, Jabril demonstrated his boundless side to side range of motion, hunting down ball carriers or screen passes and desecrating skill position players.
At the same time, I would've loved to see harder hitting from Cox, the linebacker seemed to pull away from hits at the last second on many occasions, settling only for a calm sack rather than a full, thick blasting takedown...and maybe that's fine, it was 2020 after all.
Jabril completed most of these takedowns, but he had some misses....it's just something to notice for a player who feels he now must head to the NFL...a lack of aggression won't win out at the pro level.
What Cox doesn't have in raw terminator monstrosity, he makes up for in anticipatory footballing instincts, picking off 3 passes in his lone year at NFLSU, returning 1 for a TD and another clear to the centimeter line (robbed by the refs' review).
Cox was beyond the hype as far as his coverage abilities, we must be honest...Cox was unreal...dropping deep to bat down a Kyle Trask bomb vs Florida, playing better coverage than Cordale Flott, Todd Harris and Mo Hampton combined from the LB spot:
Cox indeed met the coverage hype which ushered his arrival.
He posted a sick 7 games of 5+ combined tackles and seemed to play his best games when LSU were down: Cox's season-high 9 tackles came vs Alabama, he deflected 3 passes vs Texas A&M, 2 PDs vs Florida as well, 2 TFLs & a fumble recovery vs Missouri, 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT returned for TD vs Miss State....when LSU seemed to play their worst defensively, Jabril stood up to be counted.
Overall in his maiden campaign at LSU, Cox racked up 58 tackles (37 solo), 6.5 TFL, 1 FR, 3 INTs including his 1 1/2 returned for touchdowns, 5 PDs, 1 sack, 4 QB Hurries and 5 QB Hits (including 4 pressures & 2 QB hits on Florida's Kyle Trask), ranking near the top in almost every category for the 2020 Tigers' defense. Not bad at all for his lone SEC jaunt of 10 games, with no easy peezy gimme outings early on in the schedule against Rice, Nicholls etc.... Cox had to be ready immediately.
And he announced himself beautifully on his LSU debut, picking off K.J Costello and returning the INT for an easy score with falcon-esque speed. His pick helped LSU to an early lead against Miss State, one the Tigers should've held on to...
His interception on Arkansas' Feleipe Franks was a carbon copy of his Miss State pick, nearly getting into the endzone for his 2nd TD of the year, displaying his mesmeric reading of the passing lanes over the middle.
The former LSU linebacker topped this off with a delirious final pick on Ole Miss QB Matt Corral during his turnover-mad first half vs our Tigers. Cox was masterful, jumping in front of a Kiffin-called screen pass and ripping the ball out of the air, only to receive a buzzkill tackle before he began his march towards miles of open field.
Watching his season over again, his performance against #6 Florida is where Cox and his family decided he would head for the NFL.
That man put on a sicknasty display vs Kyle Trask and Dan Mullen's Gators, demonstrating his Patrick Queen-esque pace and finishing ability, his underrated brilliance as a blitzer, the chaos he can cause in a backfield, his coverage on the short pass or deep ball...Cox had the performance LSU's linebackers required that night: without a Covid-19 protocol absent Micha Baskerville, Cox's showstopper gave LSU just enough juice to get over the line....a shoe toss helped as well but....you get the point...
Who knows what Jabril's lasting legacy will be at LSU, maybe that doesn't really matter right now...he survived 2020, he rode through wave after wave of negative Tigers news & uncertainty, grew as a player and in the end, he decided his Bayou Adventure had come to an end.
Many will see Jabril Cox as a mercenary who used LSU to climb the NFL Draft ladder...some will say he "didn't care" about LSU....others will also claim he "wasn't that good at LSU"....but this situation isn't so black or white:
I can't help but feel Cox was cheated out of the full experience of what it means to play at Death Valley in front of a packed house on a Saturday night, without a deadly pandemic, the isolation of social distancing or the turmoil of mass social injustice and its resulting effects on the LSU team...
I wonder where 2020's defense would've been with Cox surrounded by Tyler Shelvin, Kary Vincent Jr, Marcel Brooks at LB....or had Bo Pelini been willing to try different combinations at linebacker...(Cox, Baskerville, White / Cox, Baskerville, Lee)...
Under the awful authority of these circumstances, Cox still had a damn good single year career as a Tiger....
Will his tenure be forgotten in the canon of LSU history?
Tell us what you think!
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: Thank you Jabril for helping LSU's 2020 defense maintain some respectability. Good luck to you in the NFL and I'm happy for you to gain the kind of financial independence you deserve.