by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
JAY WARD (FS)
29 TACKLES (21 SOLO)
2 QB HITS
1 INT TD RET
1 BLOCKED FG
While he missed most of 2020's first half (due to a torn meniscus), Jay Ward burned holes through opponents' hearts over the final 5 games, providing one heroic moment after another:
It all began when Jay rejected a potential game-tying field goal vs Arkansas (Mutumbo would be proud), then he created LSU's only turnover vs Alabama when socking the ball out of "Tigerbait" Slade Bolden's hands, followed by a wondrous reactionary red zone INT on his knees vs Florida, and finally Ward capped off the year by ripping 2 INTs out of the sky vs Ole Miss, underlined by his tone-setting pick six.
When he was fully healthy, Jay Ward was as close as you can come to being an All-American without being named one, absolutely decorating Ole Miss, Florida & Arkansas in their own blood, while saving some defensive face vs Alabama, A&M and Miss State (in his first football action of any kind since surgery on a torn meniscus, Ward blocked a team-leading 3 passes and even registered a brutal QB pressure / hit on K.J Costello, flying in with relentless 25 yard pursuit, smashing the ball out of Costello's hands during the vicious takedown).
I wonder: had Ward never torn his meniscus before the 2020 campaign, perhaps Jay catches more interceptions than Eli Ricks and could've been part of that 2020 Household Names list....
Instead, his torn meniscus forced Jay to the sidelines for 2 whole games (South Carolina and Vanderbilt); in addition to his recovery, our Stingley / Ricks tandem on the outside limited his reps for much of the year.
LSU's defense suffered mightily without his extra playmaking or smart tackling.
When Jay Ward was on the field in 2020, LSU created more turnovers, forced more 3 and outs, and completed more tackles...the problem??? Ward was a cornerback trying to play when Derek Stingley Jr and Eli Ricks were already available....
Would he have started if Eli doesn't get ejected against Arkansas or banged up vs Florida & Ole Miss....was it only due to Stingley's pre-Week 1 injury that he started vs Miss State??
Regardless, I'm so glad Jay's revival happened the way it did...
Now we know what Jay Ward is all about...and this fall, so will the entire country.
Holding such a brilliant player at a stacked position, I had an intense feeling Jay would be switching to free safety before the season. The Georgia-native's versatile range is perfect for the move and he's simply too valuable to be sitting on LSU's bench.
In February, when LSU Odyssey heard Ward had a conversation with Daronte Jones and Corey Raymond about "switching from cornerback to free safety", I knew it was the right move.
After 4 interceptions during recent scrimmages, 5+ solo tackles in all 4 LSU starts (including our Spring Game) while showcasing smart reading of the game & a swaggering leadership, I believe Jay Ward will be named an All-American DBU King by the time December rolls around, with an outside shot of taking the Thorpe Award (just behind Derek or Eli).
Against the toughest opponents, @ Alabama, Florida, Auburn or Week 1 @ the Rose Bowl vs UCLA, Jay will rise like a Phantom of DBU Mania, issuing brutal hits, recording some key turnovers and attacking the line of scrimmage during frenetic safety blitzes.
Throughout some of our biggest games, most intense road trips, craziest plays or toughest opponents, we will all be able to sit back and watch Jay Ward go to work on the top offenses in college football and it should be an absolute feast for anyone who loves LSU.....'cause this guy brings the pain, lays the wood, takes the ball outta the air, blocks kicks, forces fumbles, scores touchdowns, leads by example....he can do it all...
A Complete Tiger....
2021 STAT PROJECTIONS:
1 FR TD RET
52 TACKLES (39 SOLO)
-Thorpe Award Nomination / Victory
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: Jay himself!!! THE MAN HIMSELF!!! We back you, win, lose or whatever else may come, we are behind you 100% bro! THE "WARD OF DBU"