LSU'S GREATEST TIGERS BY POSITION: DEFENSIVE EDITION

Updated: Jun 15

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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


Join us as we go through LSU's illustrious history to name our top Tigers in each position on defense!

First, we started with the Tigers' offense, now we complete the best 22 in each position, including 4 defensive linemen, 2 DEs and 2 DTs, three LBs, two Safeties (or 1 safety & 1 versatile DB) and a pair of cornerbacks:


DEFENSE


DE ARDEN KEY


Becoming LSU's all time-single-season sacks leader with his 12 sack / 14.5 TFLs sophomore campaign in 2016, Arden Key arrived from the state of Georgia born to be an SEC edge rushing phenom.

Over 28 starts and 31 appearances as a Tiger, Key ascended from one individual award or honor to another, named an All-SEC Freshman following his 2015 debut year (41 tackles, 9 QB Hurries, 6.5 TFLs, 5.0 Sacks, 1 PBU, 1 fumble recovery), the former Hapeville Charter DE booked his name on the First Team All-SEC list as a sophomore and junior, finishing his career with a 3rd all time ranking 21 sacks (tied with Gabe Northern), 130 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 28 QB hurries.

Key recorded a hat trick of multi-sack outings, constantly barraging quarterbacks along the LSU front, even when the Tigers switched their D-line coach or coaching staff, Arden Key continued to destroy offensive tackles and quarterbacks for three straight seasons as a Tiger.

Critics may point to his junior season as evidence of "some kind of flaw" within Key's Tiger resume....however, I feel it only highlights his excellence:

In year three, riding a wave of pressure from his all time high sophomore year with 12 sacks, Arden Key experienced a few injuries which curtailed his final season.

Missing 5 games as a junior due to injuries stemming from an offseason shoulder surgery, Key sat out the first few games before returning for another strong stretch of play which rated alongside his best performances.


Then, a recurrence of the injury happened again during a victory over Arkansas in November 2017.....a night that turned out to be his final game as an LSU Tiger.

While he didn't record as many sacks as all time Tigers sack leader Rydell Melancon, Arden Key is, in my view, LSU's most talented ever pass rusher.

So what if his NFL career didn't pan out....

So what if he never delivered on ultimate expectations....even though he missed 7 games due to injury, Key finished his LSU career averaging 1.5 sacks per appearance.....a ridiculous number which pointed to why he belongs in our Best XI defenders in Tigers history:

Every time he took the field for LSU, he gave everything and even more.


DT GLENN DORSEY


How elite was #72 in purple & gold?????

Just ask Tim Tebow what #72 felt like in 2007....

Simply quiz Todd Boeckman on how fast #72's arms were.....

Interrogate Darren McFadden for the name of the only DT who could ever tackle him in open space....

Just ask anyone who ever played against or alongside him.....everybody knows the answer:

Glenn Dorsey is likely among the top 20 greatest DL in college football's entire history, simultaneously pushing 21st century names such as Suh, Clowney or Donald for the top 5 since 2000.

Although LSU's former All-American has experienced his share of plaudits over the years, playing a major role on the Tigers' 2007 National Championship team, winning that year's Bronco Nagurski & SEC Defensive Player of the Year awards alongside 7 other national honors (before being selected among the 2008 NFL Draft's top 5 picks), our appreciation for Dorsey's greatness doesn't match what he gave us as Tiger fans.

Alongside such outrageous names like Warren Sapp, Ndamukong Suh, Chris Long, Chase Young or Jonathan Allen, Big Glenn is only one of a few DL to ever receive a first place Heisman vote (or finish inside the top 10 Heisman rankings), but even more iconic, Dorsey is the first (& thus far only) player in college football history to sweep the Nagurski, Outland, Lott and Lombardi Awards all during the same year.

If you're at that age where you're wondering "what's a VCR?", let me explain a few things about Glenn Dorsey:

Glenn was a big game player, constantly showing up against our ultimate rivals, producing huge 3rd down sacks from the interior....the Ascension High Legend was always there for LSU when victory required his contributions, busting 7.5 sacks and 14 TFL against LSU's biggest SEC rivals (Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee at that time, Miss St & Florida).


At the end of the day, Dorsey will be remembered most for 2007:

72 put on a spotlight-capturing display of athleticism, pre-snap instincts, gap demolition & football IQ, stunning scouts who hadn't seen such innovation from a DT in some time....taking the position to the next level, just as Tiger DTs Claude Wroten & Kyle Williams did before him.

Regardless of LSU's talent on defense, 2007 was a bumpy ride of the highest highs, lowest lows, all ending on a storybook note of incredible redemption.

Facing 8 ranked teams, no opponent ranked lower than 18th nationally and a trio of top 10 squads, LSU needed everyone as they won 6 games by a margin of 7 points or less: from Craig Steltz to Curtis Taylor, Ali Highsmith, Ricky Jean-Francois, or Perry Riley, all hands were on deck.

Dorsey's sack on Tebow still makes me delirious with wonder, the All-American's last man stand against Alabama or Arkansas still supplies chills....his tireless pursuit & drive showcased a penchant for solo tackles on the edge against All-American SEC speed...it all takes me back to a time and place...when LSU lost 2 games in triple overtime and still won the SEC & National Championship.

Paving the way for a strong season from DL partner Kirston Pittman's 2007-leading 7.5 sacks, while creating enough havoc to free up 7 different Tigers for 2+ sacks a piece, Dorsey still added 7 sacks and 12.5 TFLs across 2007's intense yet historic season.

Of course, the LSU Legend's timing was always impeccable:

The only turnover he ever officially forced arrived inside the Superdome during the 2008 BCS National Championship Game vs #1 Ohio State.

In his final LSU appearance, his second straight bowl game at the hometown Superdome, Glenn racked up 4 solo tackles, 5 total stops, 1 TFL, and a tone-setting sack, but he would save his best for last:

In what would become the culmination of LSU's 2007 destiny, Glenn slapped the ball out of Todd Boeckman's clutches to keep the score at 31-17, leading to an eventual 38-24 title win.

Without Dorsey, LSU does not win a National Championship in 2007....that is clear...his 14 performances stand alone: five games with 4+ solo tackles, sacks against Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio State, recording 69 overall stops as an interior lineman...

Without Dorsey, LSU's 21st century reputation as a modern defensive institution would definitely look a lot lighter, specifically regarding national college football optics as well as the trophy cabinet.

Without Dorsey, there may not have been a Suh or an Aaron Donald, at least not in the way these DTs have become canonized. 72's evolution as a player also advanced the DT position toward heights unseen, as both a shockingly devastating pass rusher and a constantly moving, human gravesite for the aspirations of every offensive lineman with a death wish.

Both as an anchor & play-maker.

With Dorsey, LSU were able to create a lifetime of memories from just 3 years, proving what is capable when hard work, love for the craft, determination for success, and God-given talent align.......much like Joe Burrow, before we had a chance to fully appreciate who and what we were witnessing, Glenn was gone to the NFL....


DT CHAD LAVALAIS


Though Chad Lavalais' place here endured stiff competition from Claude Wroten, Kyle Williams and Booger McFarland, the former prison guard turned All-American National Champion Tiger is a fixed name on our list next to near-teammate Glenn Dorsey.

A member of the 2003/04 SEC & National Champion LSU Tigers under Nick Saban, Lavalais walked a long road to arrive at the gates of his promised land:

Initially, Lavalais committed to the Tigers way back in 1998....but due to academic ineligibility, the monstrous DT was stuck on the fringes of Louisiana State athletics until he could pull up his SAT score.

During his time in the wilderness, Chad Lavalais moved to Atlanta to work at a department store after failing to pass his ACT by a single point; before long, he moved back to Louisiana and worked at Ayolles Parish Correctional, "hiding to avoid the jokes" about his fall from grace, as he told media during a 2004 Sugar Bowl press conference.

After first-year Head Coach Nick Saban met with Lavalais, the Marksville man was set up with tutors and implored to try the SAT again. Following Saban's academic intervention, encouragement & belief, Chad passed the SAT, joining LSU's 2000 football squad.

Over the next 3 1/2 years, hard-fought glory rained down upon Marksville's reigning G.O.A.T:

As a freshman, Chad made his first start late in the season vs Alabama.....a grand stage upon which his Tigers Legacy would be born....

Picking up Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week alongside fellow Tiger Lionel Thomas, Lavalais sacked Bama QB Andrew Zow while collecting 8 tackles.....from then on, Chad became a bona fide LSU starter.

Finishing his first season at 22 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks as well as claiming a fumble recovery during LSU's 2000 Peach Bowl win over Georgia Tech (a game where LSU's defense forced 6 Yellow Jacket turnovers), Lavalais made his DT spot fixed for the next 2 1/2 years, growing from strength to strength.

Across his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, Lavalais would add 180 tackles, 44 QB Hurries, 29.5 TFLs and 9 sacks, although his senior season stands alone as the ultimate Chad Lavalais moment in SEC, CFB and LSU history:

A near unanimous All-American & finalist for the Nagurski / Outland trophies as he anchored Nick Saban's National Championship-winning #1 nationally ranked defense, Lavalais smashed, bashed and harassed Heisman QB Jason White repeatedly in the title game, caught an interception vs Alabama, and led the charge up front for a defense which only allowed two different offenses to rush in excess of 100 yards, and surrendered over 20 points to just a single team.

Built for extreme impact from his defensive tackle position, Lavalais' 2003/04 was so brilliant, wire to wire, it could perhaps challenge Glenn Dorsey's 2007/08 reign:

Appearing in all 14 games as the Tigers won both National & SEC titles, the former prison guard racked up 61 tackles, a whopping 16 tackles for loss, a filthy 7 sacks before finding time to bat down 6 passes (plus the aforementioned interception)......becoming one of the primary faces of Saban's historic 2003/04 Tigers squad.

Through his epic accomplishments at LSU, Lavalais controlled his own destiny, ensuring he would never be remembered for working at a prison or for SAT scores....

....Chad Lavalais is remembered for overcoming all the odds while dominating college football and the SEC's trenches for three straight seasons....all as Nick Saban built a mini Bayou Dynasty.

DE MARCUS SPEARS

Standing tall as one of the definitive legends from LSU's first championship since 1958, before becoming a nationally recognized face of ESPN "analyism", Marcus Spears is an eternal Tiger without question.

Not only due to his high sack rate, turnover creation, and timely playmaking, Spears' legacy is rooted in his wonderwall athletic build; In fact, Spears arrived in such a versatile state, then-LSU Head Coach Nick Saban was left wondering whether the Southern Lab basketball / football star would help LSU more at tight end or defense at edge rusher.

Because of this dilemma, Spears' debut campaign was essentially an experiment, Saban playing Marcus at tight end for 10 games, catching just a few passes for 20 yards....yet, Marcus was still selected to the All SEC Freshman squad.

Marcus finally lined up on defense in year two, a position he would hold for the entirety of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons as one of the best defenders to wear purple and gold.

Appearing across 48 games, playing a direct role in LSU's 2003/04 National Championship, it turns out Saban made the right call, utilizing Spears as his primary pass-rushing DE and defensive leader up front, a decision which was swiftly rewarded by Marcus delivering LSU's first National Championship in 45 years.

On the Superdome turf, Spears climbed high to defend a pass from Heisman-winning QB Jason White, batting the ball to himself and returning the interception for a touchdown....providing one of the greatest defensive plays ever in a National Championship game.

If you believed Spears' playmaking majesty stopped there, you are sorely mistaken.

As a defensive end, it's simply incredible that Spears recorded 4 interceptions over his final 3 seasons, including a pair of picks in 2002, buoyed by consecutive years returning an interception for a touchdown during LSU's 2003 and 2004 years.

On the ground or in the backfield, no quarterback or skill position threat would ever be safe from his turbulent menace, landing inside the program's top 10 for tackles for loss (7th, 34.5) and sacks (7th, 19.0) while racking up LSU's 4th all time single season sacks mark at 9.

Collecting 152 tackles, 60 pressures, 34.5 TFLs, 19 Sacks, 6 PBUs and 4 INTs (returning 2 for touchdowns), Spears disturbed offensive linemen, disrupted entire protection schemes, destroyed quarterbacks and made it all look easy, in the process becoming an LSU Legend for time and all eternity.

LB AL RICHARDSON


One of our past generation's most heralded and beloved Tiger defenders, linebacker Al Richardson was an absolute tackling machine....a ball carrier turbine.....

Not only is he LSU's single game & all time career tackling champion, he also remains LSU's 2nd ranked single season tackler, obliterating anyone headed his way in an era defined & settled by on-field brutality.......just watching some of these games from 1979-1981, I must say daaaaaaaamn, Al dropped some bodies.

Placing twice in the top 10 with his 129 and 150 tackle seasons from 1980-1981, Richardson was a serpentine wall across the middle of any gridiron, even proving formidable in coverage (5 INTs).

Alongside LSU Legends Rydell Melancon and Lawrence Williams, Richardson helped forge what many LSU scholars regard as "the program's ultimate 20th Century linebacker trio".

In 1981 alone, Richardson supplied his career & program 2nd best 150 tackles, while Lawrence Williams tossed in 144 of his own, all as Rydell Melancon (LSU's all time leading sack artist at 25) obliterated quarterbacks for 10 sacks, still 3rd on LSU's single season list.

Leading one of the most savagely dominant linebacking units in SEC history, Al Richardson may be forgotten by some factions of college football, but not by us.

Despite the existence of so many elite LSU linebackers since he graduated, we couldn't ignore one simple fact: Regardless of how 21st century athletes are stronger, faster and even better prepared now compared to Al Richardson's halcyon heyday, almost every one of his records still remain unchecked 40 years later.

LB BRADIE JAMES


One special Tiger.....and sadly one who's accomplishments are glossed over.

The leader of a growing defensive unit (featuring Ryan Clark & Mark Roman among others) under Gerry DiNardo and playing a final season with Nick Saban, Bradie led a productive & shut down defensive unit and is widely considered one of the best LSU linebackers of his era.

There's a reason for that kind of Tiger reverence, which anyone can find inhabiting his every snap at LSU:

Starting all 4 seasons, Bradie James racked up 418 career stops during his career, including three straight seasons with 100+ tackles, good for 2nd all time on the LSU Tigers' career tackling list.

As a senior, he recorded a kneecap-shattering 154 stops, breaking Al Richardson's all-time single season tackling record of 150, including racking up 10+ tackles in 20 of his 46 total appearances.

Bradie James simply instituted a nonstop bloodbath every time he took to the field, annihilating opponents with such efficient consistency, he had to be on this list.

The game I remember the most from Bradie James?

LSU's 2000 Peach Bowl vs Georgia Tech....

In the lead up to the Peach Bowl, which would turn out to be his final LSU game, Bradie James lost his mother to breast cancer. Of course due to her death, he missed the entire week of bowl preparation practices.

Many wondered "will Bradie James even play?"


Regardless of his intense grief or lack of practice reps, Bradie went from 0 to 100 during the game, playing every snap as he recorded a rampaging performance, dedicating an unforgettable MVP outing to his late mother.

Grabbing a sack & recovering 2 fumbles on his way to an emotional Defensive MVP honor, James' LSU career ended in the same way it began: with a palpable fury.

Since his LSU career, James was drafted by the Cowboys and enjoyed a longtime 9 year career, including 8 years for Dallas.

In 2008, Bradie recorded a ridiculous 202 tackles, becoming just the second Cowboy defender ever to hit the 200 tackle threshold. Though James was snubbed with zero Pro Bowl selections, the former Tiger always remained a widespread fan favorite, even starting Foundation 56, a "faith-based organization dedicated to expanding and enhancing the quality of life for women, men, and their families who have been impacted by breast cancer."

Foundation 56 donated more than a million dollars to communities in South Louisiana and North Texas.

Leaving behind a legacy of physical dominion on the field and incredible philanthropy / community activism away from the game, James is a Tiger to teach your children about:

Throughout his career, James may have been unlucky when it comes to individual awards or honors......but at the same time, there was never a lack of respect coming his way from all who met or watched him play, backed by a constant, paralyzing fear emanating from his opponents.

Loved, Respected and Feared....the ultimate trio for an LSU linebacker's legacy.


LB DEVIN WHITE


Believe it or not, I've actually heard some college football fans argue that "Devin White did not have a solid enough college career to warrant a spot as one of LSU's three greatest linebackers ever".

I have never heard that argument from an LSU fan....

There were actually a few groups of rival fans typing away furiously on forums or Twitter "Devin White was overrated", citing how he could have returned for LSU's 2019 G.OA.T season as a sure fire captain and leader of Dave Aranda's defense, instead trading ultimate, unforeseen Tiger glory for a certified top 10 selection.

As White was chosen 5th overall by the Bucs, earning a Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl victory in just a few short years later, I believe he made the right call.

The decision plagued him, in fact, Devin had set his mind to stay....until many around the team, including Coach Ed Orgeron told him to declare for the Draft.

Although he narrowly missed LSU's epic 2019 season by mere months, White went out on top as a Tiger, coming off back to back 100 tackle seasons, winning both a Fiesta Bowl and the 2018 Butkus Award, it's not like White left with his mission unfulfilled.

In fact, when you go back and watch his career, searching anywhere and everywhere for as much footage as can be found, Devin White is without reservation, question or doubt one of Louisiana State University's three greatest linebackers ever.

Influencing the game as both a midfield patrolling tackler, pass rusher or run stopper, White also owned as much side to side athleticism as most 2000s Division I safeties, flying from one coast to the other to smash ball carriers into a netherworld of pain.

White was also adept in coverage, breaking up 9 passes over his last 2 seasons & also hauling in an INT; He was known for solid coverage against either receivers or tight ends, additionally batting throws at the line of scrimmage or punching out a football from an opponent's grasp....these qualities enhanced Devvo's grandiose NFL Draft stock, fitting him inside the top 10 and climbing.

But Devin White wasn't about himself.....he was & still is as selfless as they come:

Guiding & encouraging every teammate, including the next generation (Damone Clark, Patrick Queen, etc upon etc), White's leadership rivals his playmaking as far as his most remembered attribute at LSU, galvanizing a defense which often had their backs against the wall during his three years as a Tiger.

A total braveheart, Devin White's time at LSU is being replayed over and over again by every generation of young linebackers......right now, in some house, gym, locker room or dorm in America, an underrated linebacker just finished his workout with some nightly Devin White film study, going to bed tonight inspired about what is possible.

S/DB TYRANN MATHIEU


Some would argue Mathieu is the greatest Tiger to ever play for LSU, and I would say alongside Cannon, Burrow and Faulk, you have your greatest four players.

So, we can fairly say Tyrann Mathieu, formerly known as The HoneyBadger, is unequivocally LSU's Greatest defender of all time.

The way he made fans feel, then and now, will always remain a transcendental force...it was exciting to be a part of it....waiting all week to see freshman #14 battle next to a star-studded secondary guiding him on the path....his astonishing, unforgettable sophomore campaign of 2011....so many moments of outrageous infinity from LSU's Greatest #7.

The return vs UGA during the 2011 SEC Championship Game wasn't just an unbelievable display of alien skill, LSU were down 11 early and needed a spark.

Instead of a spark, Mathieu lit the whole damn Georgia Dome on fire.

The strip, scoop and scores vs Oregon and West Virginia, batting a pass to himself before returning it for a score vs Kentucky....the field was his playground where we were all just spectators....especially opponents.

When you judge who happened to be the truly great Tigers, I look at this one factor....will there ever be another Joe Burrow? Hell no.

Another Glenn Dorsey? I haven't seen him.

Another Kevin Faulk? Nope.


There will never be another LSU defender as electrifying, as stupendously instinctive, or as ruthlessly inspiring as Tyrann Mathieu.....but when you see him, pleeeeeease let me know.


DEEPER ANALYSIS OF MATHIEU


S LARON LANDRY


Named a Thorpe Award semifinalist, 2006 All-American, while taken 6th overall by Washington, LaRon Landry capped off an ultimate LSU career by becoming a nationwide beacon of DBU greatness.

Over his 52 Tiger appearances, starting 48 straight games, Landry excited Death Valley like few defenders before or since. Watching Landry descend upon an opposing quarterback via the safety blitz turned into one of the greatest sights in mid 2000s college football.

Leading a stifling LSU defense in tackling during 3 of his 4 seasons, including his freshman year, LaRon delivered a National Championship, an SEC title, and a Sugar Bowl win from 2003-2007 as he caught 12 interceptions, produced the program's 2nd most pass break ups (40), racked up 315 tackles, 8 sacks, 15 QB hits, and blocked 2 kicks, a punt & a field goal during his first start.

Perfect segue....

As far as development, Landry was an instant gratification LSU Tiger:

By the time LSU kicked off their 2004 BCS National Championship game vs Oklahoma, Landry had already convinced then-Head Coach Nick Saban that he possessed extraterrestrial, game changing abilities.

Saban duly obliged, starting Landry in the championship game as a freshman.

From that night's wondrously brutal showing until his final snap, LaRon assumed control of a bewildering LSU defense, a lightning hot group replete with talent, including a young Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, safety apprentices Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor, Claude Wroten & Kyle Williams at their most savage, Jonathon Zenon locking it down on the outside, Ali Highsmith patrolling the front, hell even Jacob Hester caught an interception during Landry's reign.

As far as pure influence, Landry could easily be placed in an all time defensive top 5....when measuring his overall impact by not only his top 10 pick ascendancy, but his direct impact on the success of fellow teammates, LaRon is one of the truly legendary defensive Tigers who deserves total enshrinement by the program.

CB COREY WEBSTER


One of the great unsung cornerbacks in LSU history, as far as being named among the typically thrown around DBU brand names of Peterson, White, Claiborne, Stingley etc, Corey Webster is also right at the top for all time Tiger corners for my list.

Hauling in 16 interceptions over his 3 LSU campaigns (still 3rd all time in SEC history & 2nd all time at DBU), Webster captured 7 picks over consecutive years in 2002 & 2003, including a National Championship INT against Heisman-winning QB Jason White.

Producing 4 multi-INT outings across 4 seasons, another game highlighting Webster's typical brilliance arrived with his "standard-creating" hat trick of INTs vs 2001 SEC Player of the Year Rex Grossman, including a savage, historic pick six.

Webster always seemed to turn up when the lights were shining brightest, creating turnovers against the strongest opponents: leading with his aforementioned title game INT, Corey also picked off 3 passes vs Florida, 3 vs Arkansas, 1 vs Alabama, and 1 vs UGA over his career.

Leading all LSU defenders with 50 career broken up passes, appearing in 48 contests, ranking as the 2nd all time interceptor in Tigers history while snatching a critical INT en route to victory in a title game, even scoring a TD on offense, Corey will always be on the Mount Rushmore of DBU...not merely by reputation or plaudits...but regarding his massive influence on the future of ball-hawking, WR-consuming secondary play at LSU.

There may be bigger names with bigger individual trophy cabinets, but Webster reigns as one of the truly singular titans within DBU's storied history.

At the NFL level, the 2nd Round pick continued to prove he was a pure top 10 talent over his lengthy career, winning a pair of Super Bowls in New York (beating the undefeated Patriots in one of the most miraculous Super Bowls of all time, before winning another vs Brady's Pats in 2012), spreading the word about LSU's phenomenal DBs by the snap, recording 371 tackles & 20 career interceptions at the NFL level.

Over two Super Bowl-winning playoff runs, Webster created 2 interceptions, 5 batted passes, 12 tackles, and 2 fumble recoveries as the Giants went from Wild Card underdogs to Super Bowl Champions.

Corey's historic overtime interception on Brett Favre during the 2007 NFC Championship game became the Hall of Fame-bound QB's final pass in Green Bay colors.

Four years later, Webster remained as valuable as ever, posting 11 tackles, 3 PD while creating yet another crucial late-game turnover during a classic overtime NFC title game, this time recovering a 49ers fumble to force the extra quarter.

We select Corey Webster as one of two greatest ever LSU cornerbacks.


CB MORRIS CLAIBORNE


Shutting down an entire side of the field for LSU from 2010-2011, Morris Claiborne's Thorpe Award-winning legacy at DBU is strong enough to catapult him alongside Webster as the best cornerback pair in LSU history.

Picking off 5 passes as a sophomore standout next to DBU Legend Patrick Peterson in 2010, analysts believed he merely profited from his counterpart's "no fly zone" on the other side, receiving far more opportunities to make plays on the ball.

But Claiborne banished those beliefs when intercepting 6 passes the next season, appearing in huge moments for the Tigers throughout LSU's SEC-winning, National Championship appearance in 2011.

Pulling off exquisite solo tackles on the outside with the same frequency as he rejected passes his way, Mo Claiborne formed one quadrant of an elite, all time collegiate secondary, lining up next to Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and opposite Tharold Simon / Ron Brooks, a group perhaps second only to 2001 Miami.

The unanimous All American picked up his Thorpe Award during that year's ceremony, additionally named Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year in tandem with Tyrann Mathieu.

His numbers may not touch Chris Williams or Corey Webster's voluminous output (only 11 picks compared to Williams' program-leading 21, or Mo's 23 PBUs next to Webster's 50) yet when you really go back and look at who could line up against any receiver on the day and dominate, you have to go with Mo Claiborne.

Although his lack of big numbers can also be explained by his overall lack of game time as a Tiger, just 2 seasons as a starter fronted by a freshman year marked by 7 cameo appearances.

Claiborne made every snap count, conjuring 8 performances of multiple pass breakups as well as consecutive years of 5+ INTs from rare targets, evolving into an opportunistic machine, shadowing any receiver's every move, forcing sacks, incompletions out of bounds or errant throws due to his relentless coverage.

Let's remember something clearly here: Mo neve