Updated: May 23
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Considering the litany of fantastic players who honed their craft at DBU, every single one of the players on this list were top drawer, world class, era-defining young men...so to feature at the top isn't merely the DBU Metric in full flight...our own opinion factors in the final two more than ever before.
When you see DBU Composite scores lingering below the standards of other LSU greats on this list (miniscule amounts of TD points costing guys big), we have to override the score and make sure the best fit somewhere deep in our Top 5.
Yes, a lack of special teams or defensive touchdowns were never going to keep certain players from this list (Jamal Adams for example)...or from their rightful spots (remember, 1 point for contributing directly to a defensive or special teams TD, i.e blocked kick, deflected pass or forced fumble).
Other than #1, all the rest were chucks of the dice, my placement based on opinions driven by memories and facts, then, proper time and effort were given and the puzzle began to take shape and make sense...numbers shuffled, places were switched, the order became a topsy turvy undefined mishmash of balderdash...yet somehow, we blindly set up the parameters and followed these rules down the line....
And what we've generated is not only accurate, it's hard to argue against....regardless of opinion, preference etc...these composites don't just acknowledge stats and official figures...they geaux beyond the numbers...deep into the root of what made these players truly great...quantifying their true value to their respective LSU eras.
Now we delve straight for the heart of the matter...the core of LSU attitude...the primal edge of DBU's sacrosanct crusades....you know this man....you love this man...and oh my gawd have I looked forward to writing about him for some time:
(Starting 48 straight)
1 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1 SEC TITLE
1 SUGAR BOWL
6th Overall Pick (2007 NFL Draft)
2x FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC
2006 JIM THORPE AWARD SEMIFINALIST
12 INTs (2 vs Arkansas 2004)
15 QB Hits (5 vs John Parker Wilson alone)
315 TOTAL TACKLES (10+ tackles in 7 games, 2 games of 9)
40 PASSES DEFENDED / DEFLECTED (2nd all time behind Corey Webster)
-(7th all time tackler 315 tackles, tied with Ryan Clark, and 3rd all time in INTs at 12)
(Led the team in tackles as a freshman and again as a junior & senior in 2005 and 2006)
1 BLOCKED PUNT
1 BLOCKED FIELD GOAL (in his 1st start)
Hey Brody Croyle....remember me?
LARON LANDRY INCOMING....
Hey anyone, remember Brody Croyle???
LaRon Landry doesn't....
That pile of Bama stinkage was yet another of the many nameless, faceless victims of the future 6th overall pick...much like John Parker Wilson or that sad Arizona quarterback...There's a long list of superbly talented football players who were summarily wrapped in body bags by this draconian supernaut....some were never heard from again.
Landry wasn't just a dynamic force on defense, he changed the very complexion of an offensive scheme, shifting every opponent's focus away from their strengths...
#30 always made offenses uncomfortable....especially quarterbacks.
LSU will (most likely) never have a safety more incendiary or as naturally gifted in all aspects of true DB-ing as this untouchable, ethereal overlord:
The Hahnville High graduate was robust in the tackle, equally as venomous at the line of scrimmage as he was athletic in the air, and frequently quick to respond in coverage....
LaRon was a wizard...a true star...
Landry had it all during a show-stopping, jaw-dropping 4 year all access pass to kicking major ass....joining Shawn Burks as the only other Tiger to lead the team in tackles in three separate seasons (Burks was a linebacker...what does that tell you about Landry's ability to make up ground?).
Before #30 even played a down in those iconic home whites, Landry was already known as one of the truly all time great high schoolers to ever hail from Louisiana, openly declared the greatest by so many, including Nick Saban's 2002 proclamation that LaRon Landry would be "the next truly great defensive player at LSU" after only a single visit to Hahnville (a comment Saban made to Sports Illustrated before he'd even witnessed LaRon make a tackle...is it recruiting demeanor to get the quote out there or was Nick telling the truth??? Just roll LaRon's tape and see what his cornucopia of destruction tells you).
The Pro Bowl safety's highly prized recruitment nearly landed him out of state (Miami went hard for Landry, a destination which would've forever sealed the already unbreakable bond between #30 and his later mentor, fellow safety Sean Taylor)...but when it came to signing on the dotted line, Larry Coker was never getting this Louisiana titan...
Everyone knew where the Metairie native would end up going to school....but few could tell what position he'd play:
As a dual threat QB at Hahnville, LaRon threw 16 TDs and 1,639 yards, rushed for 12 TDs as well as 693 on the ground....somehow, he also found the energy to captain the defense, too, playing at corner and safety while he recorded 8 interceptions during his glittering senior year.
Sadly, Landry could only shoulder the entire load just so far, carrying Hahnville to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, delivering an 11-2 record....yet his performances left an indelible mark on anyone who saw his atomic chrome majesty.
Saban will always be considered a Tigers villain, justifiably so, yet credit must be given to Satan's (sp???) program-shaping recruiting principles.
Saban saw athletes for what they really were: raw balls of clay waiting to be moulded into their final masterpiece shape...players desperate to find a home on the field while proving capable of doing it all...and Louisiana will always be the Louvre of pure collegiate / professional footballing talents.
Landry's devastating pace and magnetic / gravitational pull towards the ball sparked Nick Saban's imagination, just as Corey Webster's expert hands and aerial dueling prowess set his course from receiver to the 2nd all time statistically righteous DB in LSU history (in only a two year period).
As he watched the Hahnville QB/CB/S, Saban felt the tenacity, speed, murderous hits and overwhelming football IQ from Landry, carefully considering whether he'd help the team more on defense or as a dual-threat QB...
"LaRon had the size, the speed and the competitiveness to be an in-the-box safety with the attitude of a linebacker, or a roving safety with ball skills, which is how we pictured him," Saban said, "he could probably even play some wide receiver for us. Truly great players do it all."
But this is Saban....
Of course, looking for every "defensive QB" he could find, Nick made LaRon a fixture of the defense, moving him from corner to free safety to better utilize his footballing instincts.
This decision would pay massive dividends and deliver LSU's first real national title and first overall since 1958 as well as producing the fourth highest draft pick in Tigers history:
In a stunning freshman campaign (still ranking as the greatest defensive debut in Louisiana State's history) Landry issued 80 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 4 passes deflected, 2 interceptions and a blocked field goal during his first ever appearance (this demonstrative block announced #30's medieval presence, immediately catching the eye of Nick Saban's staff and launching him to the starting free safety slot).
During fall 2003, #30 ran rampant, impressing with his devastating hits over the middle, dislodging completions thanks to his nasty hands, yanking interceptions out of the air on impulse alone, and instinctively blitzing from a variety of angles.
Starting at free safety in the 2004 BCS National Championship game (one of 9 different starters who played a different position the year before) alongside DBU listmate Corey Webster at corner, the mere threat of the freshman befuddled Oklahoma's Heisman QB Jason White.
Jason never threw a pass towards the freshman throughout the game, completely avoiding his left side of the field;
Due to Landry / Webster's blanketed coverage, D-linemen Marquise Hill, Chad Lavalais and Marcus Spears consumed Jason White for 5 sacks and 10 pressures themselves (16 pressures & 7 sacks total as a defense), the free safety delivering 4 tackles (1 solo), 1 QB hit and 1 hurry while the Heisman winner did anything he could to avoid the phantom freshman phenom.
Next season, Landry entered his sophomore year already with a national title on his finger...and while it would be his final title for LSU, his own abilities would increase during a season where his evolution was far and away the best thing about 2004/05:
Bolstering Saban's staff options, young assistant coach Kirby Smart came in for his first SEC job, coaching the DBs under Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp. Alhough he was gone before the season was finished, coaching in a mere 7 contests, Smart became an invaluable piece to the Landry puzzle, advancing the elite safety's game further thanks to Smart's All-SEC experience as a safety playing for UGA...in return, Landry, Craig Steltz and Brandon Taylor made Smart look like a genius...and he breathlessly took the first job offer back to UGA (Smart coached for 5 different teams in 2 different leagues, a new team & position title each year: a true indicator that Smart's success lies in the players who moulded his reputation).
Yes that's right...every "top" SEC coach used to be on an LSU staff at one point, and from 2003-2004, Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart were all on the same staff....a combined 7 national title victories and 8 overall appearances...bizarre.
After a transitional 2004/05 (in which LSU lost to three ranked opponents and finished with 9 wins), LSU's head coach Nick Saban (isn't that just f***in weird to read?) flew for Miami in succinct disgrace, opening the door for one of the true icons of LSU's last 50 years:
Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.
Pelini knew exactly how to use Landry, building on his seminal attributes and versatility, utilizing his playmaking to the utmost; the retna-distorting playmaking of DBU's greatest safety established the blueprint for later elite / jack-of-all-trades cats like Jamal Adams, Grant Delpit and Tyrann Mathieu to flourish.
Under Bo's stewardship, Landry grew more aggressive, lambasting any and all opponents within his vicinity, blasting QBs on the blitz or forcing deer-in-the-headlights incompletions (forcing 17 incompletions via his pressures in 2005 and 2006 combined...remember: he's a safety...he's running 20+ yards on most blitzes).
Not merely a coverage guy in behind, let alone a pure line of scrimmage hunter, #30 looked for a conquest anywhere at anytime...
If you played safety as I did, DB-ing from the hard knox backyard brawls to the helmets and pads of youth football, we all wanted to be LaRon Landry.
The parallels are too much: my older brother Eric was a junior cornerback & part-time starter on the 2004 state title-winning team at Utah's Davis High....simultaneously, LaRon Landry started to influence all of us as kids....
If young boys and girls from across the country were trying to be like #30, just imagine the imprint his legacy had on his home state: We don't have to imagine, we can see the names and their own accomplishments: Delpit, Adams, Steltz, Mathieu, Reid, Taylor, the names geaux on and on....
Then, as we watched him picked as the 6th overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft by our favorite NFL team, we witnessed him grow alongside the late great Sean Taylor, forming a bruising Pro Bowl-flaming partnership......
.....Taylor and Landry became an axis of DB evil... as ahead of their time as they were beyond the mental capacity of the opponents they faced....still, horror happens in life and this partnership ended far too prematurely following #21's mid-season murder in 2007.
As a tandem in Washington, Landry and Taylor would've become one of the all-time great safety combos...but it was tragically not to be....and Taylor's death had a large impact on Landry's psyche and further development, curtailing what could've been.
Instead of running the show like Ed Reed and Taylor at Miami, Clark and Polamalu in Pittsburgh, Ronnie Lott or Dwight Hicks on San Francisco's Super Bowl teams of the 80s or Chancellor and Earl Thomas in Seattle, in Taylor's tragic absence, Landry became an all-or-nothing stopper, forced into the role due to the Skins' dysfunctional front office surrounding him with C-team talent on defense.
Despite the sad finality to his legacy in D.C, I will never forget his performance vs the Seattle Seahawks:
Throughout the 2007/08 season, the Redskins were an abysmal 5-7 after Coach Joe Gibbs screwed up a late game field goal when he was penalized for trying to call a double timeout vs the Bills (attempting to ice the kicker, the original kick was from 51 yards in the wind. After the penalty, the kick became a manageable 36 and he didn't miss).
This wasn't just a rematch of the 1992 Super Bowl, that contest was marked by the Sean Taylor murder the week before, and with the #21 seen on every seat and on the chest of every fan in the sold out crowd (Taylor's family in attendance), the game was supposed to be his wake....his buddy Landry playing as if Sean possessed his very soul.
Although in typical Redskins fashion, when a loss is at its most inappropriate, the last second field goal from 36 went in, crushing and devastating the fans, Taylor's family & the team....Fed-Ex Field felt like a ghost town...and other than Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals or Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, I've never been so gut-punched as a fan in all my life...there may have been worse defeats, but there would never be a worse collective moment of hopelessness, sadness and bleak devastation.
However, LaRon Landry and London Fletcher boosted the defense into unexplainable greatness, devastating opponents for 4 straight wins, enough to qualify for the playoffs: it would be the Skins second straight playoff trip to Seattle and of course, they were considered underdogs.
The game went from bad to worse for Washington, yet Landry's 2 interceptions on Matt Hasselback (then called the "best QB in the NFL") brought the Skins within victory....only for Seattle to pour it on in the final quarter and pull away clear victors...
But when we saw the image at the conclusion, Landry on the bench, head bowed, alone, hiding the tears, clearly exhausted after giving everything: we knew how much Sean Taylor meant to Landry...his death haunted #30.
Though he left Washington after an exquisite 5 seasons, he made the Pro Bowl once again in 2012 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, still....every time when the Sunday after Sean's death in late November came around, Landry was there to pay ultimate tribute to his fallen brother.
All in all, LaRon Landry has to be the #2 DB of DBU's illustrious history...his influence wasn't only in his legacy, the safety's teachings to safety Craig Steltz and Brandon Taylor built #16 and #18 into a tandem of ruthless cohorts themselves, Steltz becoming the "Landry" of the 2007 national title-winning team the season following #30's senior campaign.
And while influencing past and present greats, Landry also made it cool to stay all four years at LSU...setting records which may never be broken and positioning himself in multiple categories of the defensive record books...3rd all time for interceptions, 7th all time in tackles, 2nd all-time in passes defended...he was even a freshman Academic All-American, too...what couldn't he do?
We'll never be like you, LaRon...but we can try, right?
TD POINTS: 2
TITLE POWER: 4
LSU GRADE: 10/10
NFL GRADE: 7/10
COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 38
OUR SCORE: 42.5
1 POINT PER TURNOVER INVOLVEMENT
1 POINT PER BLOCKED PUNT/KICK
1 POINT PER NEW YEAR'S 6 BOWL WIN
1 POINT PER TITLE GAME APP.
1 POINT PER SEC TITLE
2 POINTS PER DEF. TD
2 POINTS PER SPECIAL TEAMS TD
2 POINTS PER NATIONAL TITLE
2 POINTS PER SUPER BOWL
+ LSU GRADE
+ NFL GRADE
= COMPOSITE DBU SCORE
-OUR SCORE CAN OVERRULE
2 BIG TIME EXCLUSIVES COMING EARLY NEXT WEEK, YOU WILL NOT WANNA MISS!
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
COPYRIGHT 2020 UNINTERRUPTED WRITINGS INC LLC