Updated: May 23
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
For decades, LSU's playmaking DBs weren't just stud corners and brawling safeties who we loved to watch wreck and ruin SEC rivals...they weren't merely our heroes or center of attention:
They became our quarterbacks before Burrow, Mettenberger, Russell, Hodgson or Wickersham: the frequency of their created turnovers were always left to decide contests in the pre-2018 era...
Names like three-time All-American Tommy Casanova (one of only three Tigers to have their number retired), Willie Teal leading the Soul Patrol, superfreak Cedric Donaldson singlehandedly taking down Florida, Dwayne Thomas' merciless instincts, Jerry Stovall, Mark Roman, Eugene Daniel, Curtis and Brandon Taylor...
The names are etched in our minds forever...we were raised believing "defense truly won championships"...yet we only started winning titles once DBU opened its doors.
Our offense existed and profited solely due to the field position our DBs' earned (via interceptions, punts / kickoffs, fumble recoveries or 4th down stops), these post-turnover free-for-all's becoming an invaluable and too often relied upon facet of our pre-2018 Tigers....(ya know, before we hired a guy like Coach Orgeron who had no problem reaching for the stars, grabbing one of em and throwing it at Saban).
DBU grew out of a two generation-spanning fight-for-your-life / ride-or-die synthesis of badasses with their backs against the wall, defending for their lives against a score (and their own offense's playbook) inevitably stacked against them, a refereeing crew who were usually on their backs throughout...just looking for any reason to throw those flags (PI, holding or targeting, these lunatics with their hands on the trigger always found a way to try and spoil it for our guys)....
Instead, the graduates of DBU persevered and adapted their game...remaining one step ahead.
If college football were a singular, defense-only game, LSU would have 35 national championships by this point...and we can't forget the overwhelming debt we owe each and every one of the members of DBU...they're all important, you wouldn't believe the torture of leaving names off this list.
22 defensive backs drafted in the NFL (37 total who've played professionally), six #1 picks, 7 Pro Bowlers, 4 All-Pro, 3 DBs in the NFL Top 100, 2 in the NFL All Decade team, averaging 4.16 years per career in NFL....with a few more in 2020 nearing 1et-3rd round selections...
How could we possibly separate one from the other, especially at the top?
As much as we have our favorites, we needed to do this list justice...in the only way we could do this:
THE DBU METRIC...a system of calculation not defined by statistics, but a DB's overall impact and influence in swinging games towards LSU's favor...whether that be low opposition completion percentages, defensive touchdowns or game-changing sacks, fumbles or special teams shenanigans...
This takes our individual opinion out of the equation to a degree...so please...don't blame us...completely...😂
We present... The 10 Best of DBU:
DBU IS NOW IN SESSION TOP10 DBs of DBU PART I :
9 (I) CHRIS WILLIAMS
(Started all 11 games from 1977-1980)
21 INTs (All time Leader)
FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC
1981 NFL DRAFT 2ND ROUND (49TH PICK)
2 PUNT RETURN TDs (As Freshman)
We had to give love to our DBU forefather and all time interception leader Mr. Chris Williams, a man who's record still stands since the late 70s.
Grabbing 8 in 1978 and 6 in 1980, both good for 1st and 7th place ties on the all-time LSU single-season interceptions list,
Chris is hardly heralded by today's media, yet he remains a heroic inventor of DBU.
Best known for his crucial interception during the narrow 15-12 escape by #1 ranked USC, the Trojans racing out of Death Valley covered in the foam of their own aghast mouths, tripping over the soiled pants at their ankles thanks to Chris cutting off half of the field.
Williams' INTs were universally praised, even forcing opposing QBs into a state of frozen awestruck Garfunkel:
Picking off a single-game record 3 passes vs Rice (a mark shared with Grant Delpit, Corey Webster, Craig Steltz among others tied on a hat trick of INTs) during his pick-em-all-off circus act throughout 1978...the greatest single-season of pure intercepting genius in SEC history....
After 42 years, the record still stands...which is worth his placement on this Top 10 list alone.
Yet it was the secondary group he anchored, dubbed The Soul Patrol which became a precursor to the high octane antics of the 21st century DBU collective:
Featuring fellow deathstar safety Marcus Quinn and corner Willie Teal, The Soul Patrol battered and bruised anyone within their vicinity amidst the latter 70s into the red dawn of the Mullett / Spandex-memorial 80s, 1979 being their apex.
Though he suffered a stunted NFL career in Buffalo (21 games, 1 full season, 3 INTs, 1 fumble recovery), Chris's mark of 21 INTs hasn't been passed in nearly half a century...and Williams existed in an era before the bravado of DBU...hell, we had trouble even locating footage of the guy, let alone his complete statistics.
We've found enough footage of Chris Williams to recall the stories we grew up hearing; admittedly, the competition at quarterback he faced was nowhere near today's level.
Fellow DBU grad Tre'Davious White faced far tougher competition and less frequent targets his direction by smarter quarterbacks...still, there's a reason Williams' record has stood throughout the SEC for 42 years:
While Chris was fantastic, easily one of the best LSU DBs (he's in the Top 10 for hell's sake!!!), these late 70s QBs were throwing ducks...
Against modern QBs, possessing his elevated skill set, we'd project 12-15 total career interceptions for Williams, still good for 2nd all time.
One of the best of any era...Williams deserves his spot without question, doubt or surrender.
TURNOVER POINTS: 21
TD POINTS: 4
LSU GRADE: 9/10
NFL GRADE: 3/10
COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 37.0
OUR SCORE: 33.5
We tie him alongside one of the greatest enigmas of DBU history...the electric church of:
48 games (45 starts)
111 TOTAL TACKLES (56 SOLO)
1 INT RET. FOR TD
34 PASSES DEFENDED / DEFLECTED
While his accomplishments in purple and gold may look slim to some, Tre'Davious White was such a playmaking force and well-equipped leader we gave him the #18 and he stole our hearts:
He possessed Peterson / Stingley's "Never Throw it That Way" untouchability, a helping of the Honeybadger's playmaking abilities, the ball-hunting instincts of Corey Webster, as well as the athleticism of Mo Claiborne or Eric Reid all in one cornerback package...signed, sealed and delivered in the opposition's blood.
Now he's been demonstrating his full potential in heinous, dominant form at the unlikeliest of places for a kid from Shreveport to end up: Buffalo...
Where the buffaloes roam...so does Tre'Davious, picking off an NFL-leading 6 passes in 2019 on his way to his debut Pro Bowl selection, the 27th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft has more than made good on the promise he showed at LSU.
As one of our most talented guys to play out their full tenure, he departed after all four years, starting 11+ games as a freshman...nothing left on the table...
Where the late 70s meets the 2010s, Tre'davious and Chris Williams couldn't be separated: one for his untouchable INT record after 40+ years and the other for their indelible stamp upon DBU's towering recent history.
TURNOVER POINTS: 9
TD POINTS: 8
LSU GRADE: 9/10
NFL GRADE: 10/10
COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 36
OUR SCORE: 35.5
8. JAMAL ADAMS
FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC
66+ TACKLES PER SEASON
209 TOTAL TACKLES
5 INTs (4 IN 2015)
16 PASSES DEFENDED / DEFLECTED
9 CATCHES DISLODGED VIA HIT
2x PRO BOWL SELECTION (with NYJets)
Why would Jamal Adams rank so high?
I think he's being cheated low...and there's nothing I can do about it...but what we can do is take on the system...much like Jamal's full on rager a few years back in Baton Rouge and in New York at present.
Just look at the range of playmaking this cat produced:
He picked off 4 passes in a single season at strong safety, defended the line of scrimmage as if he were an extra linebacker or defensive end, broke up passes like a true all-around DB, cut the throwing lanes into shards as if he were a corner, pummeled receivers and tight ends over the middle with gusto...Jamal was always a prism of painmaking...an unceasing disruptor in the way he read the play before the snap, a vagabond of death in the middle of the field...sensing the danger, making a play...close your eyes and bang...there's Jamal...nothing was out of the realm of possibility for #33.
Other than the natural talents of Grant Delpit, there isn't a Tigers safety in the last decade and a half who's been more carnally exacting in their devastation upon offenses.
We loved to watch him crucify SEC rivals whilst clad in purple and gold...and even though he currently plays for one of the ugliest franchises in the NFL, we still tune in to see the young man pulling off incredible sassmagic at the highest level.
We defy the composite score concerning #33:
Despite our DBU Metric favoring direct turnovers, championships and overall career accomplishments over pure talent, Jamal Adams' consistent influence upon the creation of turnovers will forever be far greater than the numbers can quantify...
Adams' pure effort affected nearly every play, his heavy metal football IQ becoming a weapon our former Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda relied upon inherently.
Judging from a 3 game sample size (to give you an idea of how he approached each and every minute on the field), we witnessed Jamal complete 9 individual 3rd down stops, four on 4th down, intercepted a pass vs Alabama, dislodged the ball via vicious hits on four occasions, deflected 6 passes, forced two fumbles (one which directly led to a scoop and score by Arden Key, while the other he not only forced with a sledgehammer tackle vs Southern Miss, he recovered the ball with only the end zone in front of him...however, his feet became tangled and he fell over after exerting such intensity and energy).
As a continuum of maverick desecration, Jamal was the master of puppets behind LSU's linebacking corps, preventing 11 direct touchdowns individually during his time on campus...
A hybrid of Miami / Skins legend Sean Taylor's excessive telepathy and LaRon Landry's decisiveness, we only rank Jamal lower due to the Composite DBU score which favors official turnovers and direct TDs etc...
However, make no mistake:
Jamal transformed into a weapon of the likes every current and future college safety will be emulating for eternity....who are we kidding, he was born this way.
TURNOVER POINTS: 11
TD POINTS: 1
LSU GRADE: 9.5/10
NFL GRADE: 9.5/10
COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 31
OUR SCORE: 35.5
#7 & 6 SOON!
SOMETHING BIG & EXCLUSIVE ON lsuodyssey.com THURSDAY MORNING...
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
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