TOP10 TIGERS OF 2019/2020 (#10 THE STORY OF MICHAEL DIVINITY'S TURBULENT, INSPIRATIONAL SENIOR YEAR)
Updated: May 24
How could one even begin to count these doods down?
You all may know who #1 will be, although #2-10 could be a variety of different Tigers, from freshmen phenoms to ridiculous receivers, unstoppable runners or physically dominant defenders, LSU possessed the greatest unit in college football history last year...and it's been quite the undertaking of detective work to uncover the deepest mysteries, most shocking secrets, and craziest statistics yet seen...but my my my, like anything with this team, this has been fun.
MICHAEL DIVINITY JR
22 Total Tackles (17 Solo)
5 Tackles For Loss (2 vs Miss State, 1 vs Auburn, 1 vs Florida, 1 vs Texas)
(We give him 0.5 sacks for helping Delpit finish off Trevor Lawrence in the title game)
1 Forced Fumble vs Miss State.
10 tackles, 8 as a solo artist, 7 QB pressures, and a sack vs Texas
KEY STAT: 17 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF in four appearances vs Top 10 teams
Why would a guy who played only 6 games be in a Top 10 LSU players of 2019/20 list? This makes absolutely zero sense.
There were a litany of LSU Supernauts out there balling out in every single game, representing the school and themselves with a swaggering fervor...
So...why would a guy who missed 60% of the season be included?
Whether on the field or the sidelines, Michael Divinity Jr was integral to the locker room unity, bolstering their inherent chemistry, and became the man tasked with constantly checking the pulse of their raging, fearless hearts.
Divinity, a senior leader alongside Rashard Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Lloyd Cushenberry III (among others) started the 2019 campaign back to his best, showing an improved muscle mass, jump off the line, and an unbeatable swat move, becoming yet another DE/LB hybrid specimen from defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
As LSU began the season with dominant displays, the defense slowed down considerably vs Texas and Vanderbilt, allowing 38 and 37 points, though the points total can be deceiving.
Although LSU's veteran / youth meat grinder mix on defense were fooled on occasion by the Texas RPO attack, overall they were serviceable, yet it was Divinity's individual display which had me floored as a viewer.
Early in the game, our Tigers held Ehlinger's Longhorns to a duo of consecutive 4th and goal stands in the red zone (during a bonkers 1st quarter) due to Michael Divinity & K'Lavon Chaisson's dual pressures, QB / RB hits, and desperate tackles in the backfield.
Despite the warrior-mentality, this underrated LSU defense didn't have a chance to find a rhythm or an overall chemistry quite yet, suffering a myriad of injuries during both high-scoring games vs Texas and Vanderbilt.
While they sadly lost DB Todd Harris for the season to an ACL in the 1st quarter vs Northwestern State, the other problems were touch and go issues the LSU defense would deal with for the entire regular season:
Adding safety Grant Delpit's season-long ankle or lower leg frustrations to the list, Michael Divinity went down to a leg injury vs Vandy, right as D-linemen Rashard Lawrence, Glen Logan, and Siaki Ika all had ankle injuries too; even on offense Terrace Marshall & Justin Jefferson were banged up, Marshall sitting a few games nursing a fractured foot.
Divinity, while out injured, became suspended for unknown breaches of team violations, and credit to Coach O or his staff for refusing to let that information leak, protecting the young man.
But we have reached out for comment from Michael himself, hoping he'll shed whatever light on the situation he can:
We received no answer, however when we turned on the car, the first song that came on the radio blared out a signal loud and clear:
"....cause I got high..."
It had to be right?
We began digging.
LSU's program allows up to four positive marijuana tests before a mandatory half-season suspension, and though we all may disagree with the legal and/or illegal uses or needs of the plant, LSU has their rules and come on man, Coach O is letting you smoke the reefer THE NIGHT BEFORE A TEST 4 TIMES BEFORE SUSPENSION...if you can't at least have the wherewithal to refrain for a day or two, punishment is necessary.
It's not even about marijuana.
Divinity was a senior leader, a guy who always played his ass off against Bama, Florida, Auburn, and stood as one of the few Tigers defenders who survived with their pride intact after the exhaustive 7 OT bloodbath a year prior in College Station, a game he seemed to excel in as time went on.
This is a leader who punished Texas and Auburn in the trenches, only to leave his crew hanging before the ultimate tests in the season....at least that was how Divinity grew accustomed to being depicted.
The truth is in fact more inspiring and revealing of Divinity's true spirit:
Our NFL-bound New Orleans-native participated in nearly every practice he was allowed, took his place on the sideline with pride, cheered his teammates on while also contributing as their eyes and ears, much like an extra coach.
Coach Orgeron gave him the promise: "You will play in the national title game if you stick it out and stay with the team..." but with or without it, Divinity stayed firm in the foxhole alongside his teammates.
Though you could see the obvious pain of missing more games in his collegiate career, this time the absences felt like a knife.
During his best statistical season and as he felt healthy enough to play, he had to watch...
However, just as anyone who loved their teammates would, Michael coached up the D-line, many looking on in stunned disbelief and admiration when he encouraged or pushed the bruised, beaten and battered LSU front seven during the disappointing performance vs Ole Miss.
Divinity pulled up a chair, sat in front of a gassed Chaisson, Lawrence, Shelvin, Ika, Patrick Queen, and Fehoko and challenged them in a calm, chilled out demeanor, demanding more from guys he'd called "his brothers" for 3-5 years at that stage.
As #45 returned to practice later in November (mostly a decision from Orgeron and D-line coaches Bill and Bruce Johnson to strengthen the competitive drive as well as reward Divinity for his leadership), LSU's defensive practices became more solidified...and in turn, from the Arkansas game forward, no team scored any points of consequence against these rampant Tigers until the CFP National Championship Game.
When Divinity, a New Orleans native stormed on to the Superdome field in the title game, he recognized he'd been a storyline all week:
Is Divinity ready? Can he contribute?
Though he failed to register an official statistic in the game, like many of the plays which decided the LSU v Clemson bout, Divinity's effective pass-rushing goes beyond the numbers.
Constantly barreling through the Clemson right or left edges, Dave Aranda set Michael Divinity up as a pure blitzer, forcing Trevor Lawrence into four incompletions directly from his pressure as well as finishing off Delpit's 1st quarter sack on Sunshine.
Chaisson and Divinity both became the fulcrum of Aranda's "contain the big gain" game plan vs Clemson, the edge rushers using every ounce of their energy to push straight forward and around, manipulating Clemson's protections as they created lanes for the breathtaking side to side speed and punishing authority of Queen, Delpit, and Stevens.
Watch that game tape and you'll quickly understand why LSU's 2019 defense was:
A. Incredibly underrated
B. Insanely disrespected
C. Ludicrously misjudged
D. Taken for granted
We may not have eaten a human face on every play, however we never allowed any offense comfort or understanding of our blitzes or coverages, leaving opponent's frustrated, quarterbacks psychologically / physically rattled, and coordinators vexed....all worse than the hardest of hits.
Even against Tua, who amassed 400+ yards in the air vs LSU's secondary, his rhythm was disrupted to the point of throwing 19 incompletions, many on key 3rd downs...even the threat of getting hit by 3rd stringer Ray Thornton forced Tua Tagovaiola to fumble the ball into Ray Ray's hungry hands.
Due to this relentless pressure from our three man front clogging the middle of every opposition offense, quarterbacks had to go long or to the side on us, our all-world corners Fulton and Stingley forcing continuous tough throws while our safeties Jacoby Stevens and Grant Delpit refused to bend in behind.
LSU's #2 ranked opposition completion percentage is a telling statistic:
Just as yards per play illustrates statistics telling the tale (for once) offensively, the Tigers' bullish, brutal front seven and secondary continuously clamping down on quarterbacks handed the ball back to the greatest offense in college football time after time...an offense so high octane it only needed less than 7 minutes to amass 35 points vs the #1 ranked defense of Florida...
Not only did Divinity's renaissance force the real Tigers to "please stand up", his mentality became more infectious than being in the backseat of a limo with Rudy Gobert and Tom Hanks, empowering our criminally underrated 2019/2020 defense towards championship-consuming orbit.
Divinity may not be an immediate Tigers legend, but his personal relationship and dedication to LSU will reverberate in the years to come:
The unknown words of Michael's sideline / locker-room leadership may never be heard, yet their significance cannot go unnoticed when it coincided with our defense completely turning around their misfortunes from mid-November onwards...Divinity standing alongside his teammates on the podium in full pads, holding the trophy and sealing his rollercoaster journey in Baton Rouge as a key entity of the 2019 LSU Tigers.
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
#9 COMING NEXT!
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