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SAGE RYAN 2024 PROFILE

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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW OUR X/TWITTER @LonnPhillips....

.....FOR A MAJOR SLICE OF THE ODYSSEY EXPERIENCE


Finally playing his preferred position of free safety, LSU's redshirt junior DB Sage Ryan is making big strides throughout his first Spring camp under new, yet familiar leadership.

Intercepting starting QB Garrett Nussmeier three times during a single practice, defensive coordinator Blake Baker has already mentioned Ryan during press conferences as a "turnover creator" and an impact player, while his retention on roster alone clearly spells out his importance to LSU's 2024 secondary.

At first entering the transfer portal, before changing his mind 5 days later last December (a saga of decisions & news broken by LSUOdyssey), Head Coach Brian Kelly knew Sage Ryan was a rare veteran defensive back on roster who he, and his staff, could rely on.

Making sure the former 5 star recruit remained in Baton Rouge, as well as understanding his value to the locker room, became a priority for Kelly, and his staff made every effort to retain their versatile playmaker.

Keeping him on roster also meant, finally, after 3 seasons stationed at nickel or cornerback, Sage would now be playing at his preferred position: free safety, in what is without question a pivotal upcoming campaign for Ryan's LSU legacy and NFL future.

Across 3 seasons, the former LCA superstar has been through it all as a Tiger:

As a freshman under Head Coach Ed Orgeron, Ryan fought off an injury while on the sidelines, however, due to his versatility, the natural safety featured in 2 consecutive starts at nickel following an injury to Cordale Flott, appearing from the jump against Florida and Ole Miss.

Over those 2 freshman starts, Ryan allowed 6 catches from 10 targets for 93 total yards, giving up 0 TDs, breaking up 2 passes, drawing 1 flag for defensive holding, and forcing 1 incompletion via coverage.

Ryan showcased plenty of promise heading into 2022, especially with his high school virtuoso special teams performances as a showtime returner, however, the LCA 4x state champion was once again deployed in an unnatural position at nickel throughout a highly transitional year for LSU's football program, admirably filling a vacant role for 203 coverage snaps across 14 games.

In that underrated, overlooked 2022 season, Sage created the most turnovers of any Tiger on roster with 5, recovering a pair of fumbles vs Southern (only the 2nd Tiger in the last decade to accomplish the feat in one game), forced 2 further fumbles (including his near game-changing force out vs Alabama that generated a 7 minute review process), and, on the final play of the season, #15 batted a pass into the air that was intercepted by Frank Wilson IV, who duly obliged by racing 99 yards for the touchdown, as the clock expired vs Purdue.


The Lafayette-born Tiger featured across 319 total snaps, added 23 tackles, 3 PBUs, allowing 23 catches from 34 overall targets, 340 total receiving yards (187 after catch), 2 touchdowns directly charged against him, while forcing 5 incompletions through coverage, all as he played out of position at nickel.

As we entered 2023, after LSU's successful jaunt to the SEC Championship Game the year prior, many expected the Tigers' defense to take a step up under Matt House, but instead, the entire defensive structure collapsed, leaving just a few Tiger defenders for the coaches and fans could rely on....and Sage Ryan was one of those handful of Tigers who battled every week to drag Matt House's drowning defense above the rising water.

Stuck at nickel & cornerback last fall, Ryan displayed his versatility when he became an extra blitzer off the edge, recording 4.5 tackles for loss in 2023 (as many as defensive linemen Maason Smith and Mekhi Wingo).

But without a formidable D-line, a lost and scattered safety duo continuously getting picked apart on the ground or through the air, as House deployed the wrong personnel or the right players in the wrong positions, all based around an entirely disastrous soft coverage zone scheme, 2023 stands as a doomed defensive season that ranks right at the bottom in program history. Not only due to historic lows in performances, points & yards allowed, or their ghastly, automatic 3rd down / red zone stop rate, but because their near criminal displays directly robbed Heisman QB Jayden Daniels and his juggernaut offense from competing for a championship.

For his part, Ryan became a solidified starter, providing steady consistency (a rarity for our 2023 secondary) even when making a handful of mistakes. Sage was called upon to put out fires left, right or center with his blazing pace, often remaining the lone Tiger tracking down his teammates' blown coverages and missed tackles.

Featuring in the most snaps of his collegiate career (691, the 5th most of any LSU defender), Sage appeared in every game for the 2nd straight season, supplying 42 tackles, 6 PBUs, 5 QB pressures, 4.5 TFLs, allowing 30 catches from 47 targets (just 1 behind Zy Alexander's 48), standing as the only starting Tiger defender (not counting D-linemen) who didn't allow a passing TD, before adding 5 forced incompletions through coverage.

Now in 2024, LSU's 4th year red shirt junior holds a vast amount of experience....the ups, the downs, the highs, the lows, and everything in between....all while playing a variety of positions. Sage Ryan has seen it all as a Tiger.....except the ultimate glory he's worked so hard towards since he committed on Halloween 2020.

But that may soon change:

With a fiery, aggressive-minded defensive coordinator (Blake Baker) who already believes in his abilities, the return of LSU Legend Corey Raymond, the DBU Icon who initially recruited him & earned his hard-fought commitment, and the rise of young safeties coach (also 2021 LSU LBs assistant) Jake Olsen, Sage Ryan has three core coaches who he's familiar with from his freshman year...coaches who currently have placed their faith in him.

Despite some struggles to find his on-field calling (due to his incredible versatility), plus a few errors that made him become an easy online scapegoat for 2023 defensive failures, as well as the temporary uncertainty of his off-season transfer dilemma, Sage Ryan's renegade, anticipatory playmaking throughout Spring, alongside his experience & abundant athletic pedigree, proves he is fast becoming a crucial cog in LSU's 2024 defensive spine....and following years of patience and perseverance, the stars may just be on the cusp of aligning for the former 5 star prospect.

by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

Copyright 2024 Uninterrupted Writings Inc


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This is a quality young man who we all should root for. He has not nearly fulfilled his amazing promise. This will be a year when we see if Sage’s football instincts can match his great physical gifts.

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