TOP 10 TIGERS OF 2020: #5 DEREK STINGLEY JR

Updated: Mar 17



#5.

DEREK STINGLEY JR

Sophomore

2020 STATS

7 Appearances (All Starts)

12 Catches Allowed

30 Total Targets

8 PDs

27 Tackles (19 Solo)

2.5 TFL

1 FF

1 FR

Direct TD Saving Plays: 4

Forced Incompletions: 10

(3 on 3rd Down, 2 in the Red Zone)

Penalties Against: 1 PI

1 TD Allowed

(Devonta Smith one handed grab)

-11 Stops After Teammates' Missed tackles



2020 BREAKDOWN

vs VANDY 0/2, PDs 1 (uncredited officially), red zone PDs 1, forced incompletions 0, 1 PI, 3 tackles after gains of 10+

vs MISSOU 5/5 (2 comp before injury), 1 PD, 0 forced incompletions, RZ PDs, 1 TD saving stop while hurt, 3rd Down stops 1, 1 first down allowed

vs SOUTH CAROLINA 0/3, 1 PD, 1 3rd down stop, 3 forced incompletions (2 on 3rd down), 1 tackle after a gain of 20+

vs AUBURN 2/3, 1 PD, allows big gain to Seth Williams, 2 forced incompletions (1 on 3rd), a brilliant smash mouth TFL on Tank Bigsby, 1 TD saving forced fumble (stripping Seth Williams)

vs ARKANSAS 1/1

vs A&M 1/6, 3 forced incompletions (1 in RZ), 3 PD, 3rd down tackles 2,

vs ALABAMA 3/7, 1 red zone PD, 1 TD allowed (Smith catch of the year),

2 forced incompletions, 1 TD saving tackle, allowed gain of 49 to Smith from the slot


Critics showered LSU's incoming junior Derek Stingley Jr with praise throughout LSU's 2019 title-winning run, wasting no time ordaining #24 as the greatest freshman of all time...and he was:

Ripping off 6 interceptions (2 vs Georgia in the SEC Championship Game), 1 FR vs Clemson to seal the Championship & plenty of other magical highlight reel antics, Derek topped his legendary freshman year wearing a title ring as the G.O.A.T team's defensive anchor.

Stingley was just that good....then, during the 2020 offseason, media cheap shots came ringing out against the cornerback's '19 performance vs Alabama: the critics who put this young man on a pedestal were now the sharks swimming in the water, hoping for his Shakespearean downfall.

Opposing quarterbacks weren't going to give him the chance to top 2019 anyway, so Stingley was entering this pandemic campaign facing unfair pressure to begin with; regardless, he understood this as the price of being great. He accepted the impossible expectations and dove headfirst into the deep end, maturing as a player throughout the crunching grind of 2020's abyss.

He came into the pandemic year hot on the heels of his epic practice duels between himself and all-world receiver Ja'Marr Chase, those reps becoming the stuff of Tiger Legend.


The legend is true...what a bunch of unfathomable excellence between these two titans of aerial warfare.

Watching the duo square off is one of the greatest things ever...

I have a 114 minute compilation of Stingley vs Chase practice / scrimmage footage spanning from 2019-2020, and I still maintain it's the best assembly of football reps I've ever witnessed (once LSU ODYSSEY gets the all clear to post this footage, it will be posted here at the site & on our YouTube channel. Subscribe to get the notification when that's posted, among a bunch of other exclusive videos).

Then, only a month before the season's start, mass changes altered the makeup of LSU, from Chase's own opt out to a complete schedule overhaul. For Derek, things became all too surreal & intense....only hours before the first game of the year:

On the eve of opening week against Mississippi State's air raid offense, the All-American corner was rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night, suffering from "an allergic reaction to medication" as his father said on Off The Bench.

After becoming the first freshman to start every game of his debut campaign for LSU, Derek missed his first outing in purple and gold straight outta the gates as a sophomore...and sadly for Derek and all of us who love to see him play, it wouldn't be his last absence of 2020:


He returned vs Vanderbilt as the Tigers tried to put back the pieces after the Miss State debacle; as expected, Derek's reintroduction was a massive boost for LSU's under fire secondary.

Derek Mason's Commodores were no match for Myles Brennan, Terrace Marshall or the Tigers' defense, Orgeron's young men playing one of their better games of the season. From only two attempts thrown his way, Stingley nicely deflected a near touchdown pass away on 3rd down & goal.

Vanderbilt were obviously freaked out by #24's powers...although our next opponents, Mizzou's HC/OC Eli Drinkwitz and freshman QB Conor Bazelak, weren't afraid of the all world DBU representative whatsoever.

In a shocking display, debutant starter Bazelak tossed for 300+ yards as Missouri racked up 497 overall & scored 45 points on LSU's now exposed / humiliated 2020 unit...

While many players can share the blame for the poor performances in Columbia, a psychologically damaging advantage was gained by Eli Drinkwitz's offense once Bazelak found a rhythm against Stingley, completing 5/5 passes on the cornerback...although with a caveat:

Derek was hurt running into the sideline 1st down marker, injuring his ankle horribly as his body whipped around on the tackle. Before this painful episode, Bazelak went 2/2 on #24 with a few first down gains after Stingley's soft coverage was exploited....


Through the challenges (and pain), Derek competed to the hilt, smashed Missouri receivers, made heroic last man stops and played as long as his ankle's future health would allow.

It was an embarrassing game for the entire Tigers' defense...and for once a quarterback went right at Derek and cashed in for some massive success. Although Bazelak didn't complete a touchdown pass or a gain longer than 15 yards on America's #1 CB, the effect was felt...

...DBU was under attack and needed salvation...

Following a few extra weeks off due to re-scheduling and Covid-caused situations, LSU's game at home vs South Carolina finally occurred. While debutant starting freshman QB T.J Finley, wide receiver Terrace Marshall and sophomore running back Ty Davis-Price erased Will Muschamp's defense for 52 points and nearly 300 yards both on the ground & in the air equally, Stingley took over on defense with another showstopping, jawdropping, history-popping performance:

Denying a receiver a single reception for his second game of the year, LSU's defense weren't perfect vs South Carolina...still, they played dominant football for 4 quarters led by Stingley's defiant fantasia, forcing a trio of 3rd down stops himself through tackles (1) or forced incompletions from his blanket coverage (2).

On the road at Auburn, the game was headlined as a rematch of last year's titanic duel between the #1 cornerback in America vs Auburn receiver Seth Williams (a 1st-2nd round NFL Draft talent)...and these two did not disappoint whatsoever, providing fireworks and nonstop popcorn appeal.

In the game, Auburn's Bo Nix completed 2 passes against Derek...yet somehow Stingley pulled off one of the coolest defensive plays of the year:


Seth Williams jousted with #24, gained enough space with a shove, and reached up to snag a catch inside the red zone, turning to his left on his way in for a score....but as he turned away from Stingley, the trailing cornerback reached out as far as he could with one outstretched hand & punched the ball out from behind.


Just like many crazy plays for the Tigers in 2020, the ball bounced all over on its way into the end zone, Stingley chasing it down and recovering possession for an LSU touchback. On review, the referees couldn't ascertain whether the ball touched the line or not: in fact, it appeared to crazily bounce three times inside the end zone only half of a centimeter from white chalk, all before popping straight up for the All American cornerback to haul home.

Throwing one swing of his fist, the best DB in college football ripped a touchdown away from Auburn in the most satisfying fashion, robbing Seth Williams of his first TD vs Derek across their 2 game series against each other. Later on, he'd read, react and blast RB Tank Bigsby to the ground, destroying him for a rare TFL deep in the backfield.

The Denham Springs powerhouse earned the LSU defense's only few satisfying plays on that Halloween afternoon. Just like any great horror film, there was no escape for the Tigers on the day, surrendering the most points in the LSU-Auburn history (48).

Next up was a road trip to Arkansas, a weird game in which Feleipe Franks targeted Derek Stingley once overall and completed the pass, taking advantage of the corner's atypical soft coverage for a 5 yard pass. Immediately upon catching the ball, LSU's DBU hero was there to stop the receiver before the marker, holding Arkansas to a 4th and 1 attempt.

Later on when we witnessed him heading in and out of the medical tent, it became obvious there had been a reoccurrence of the corner's ankle problem. “I talked to Jack Marucci and Derek couldn’t go back in the game,” Orgeron said to the media, “We’ll find out."

Despite the worries, Sting came back vs A&M and played his best game of 2020: giving up 1 catch from 6 attempts, breaking up 3 passes (season-lead), pulling off big 3rd down stops, forcing Kellen Mond incompletions...Derek was a force as LSU's defense enjoyed their most dominant outing of the year, too.

Though due to a frustrating lack of offense (alongside Finley's turnovers), their defensive effort was wasted result-wise...losing 20-7...

Then came the Alabama bout: Derek was ready to take on Devonta Smith...

He wanted this match up...especially after all the off season talk.

During their first meeting, Stingley surrendered a long bomb touchdown to Smith after an LSU coach distracted him prior to the snap (as seen below), the first of 2 TDs thrown against Stingley on the day (only 4 allowed in 2019)...

....this was revenge.


Yes, the National Champion corner recovered a fumble deep in the red zone vs Saban's Tide, nearly picked off a red zone pass from Alabama's freshman QB Bryce Young and made some other gutsy tackles / stops over 60 minutes vs the 2020 champions, yet the night will be remembered for the 1st touchdown pass Stingley allowed in 13 months:

Biletnikoff / Heisman-winner Devonta Smith's leaping, one handed extraterrestrial touchdown catch, mano e mano vs Stingley was one of the most incredible catches ever....while Stingley's frustration boiled over (although the catch's brilliance cannot be denied, Smith quite clearly pushes off) .

As Devonta racked up 230+ receiving yards in the first half, Pelini or Corey Raymond refused to move their best cornerback on Smith...and before #24 ever marked Devonta, the Louisiana defector already had 184 yards. Now, once Devonta was in the zone, Derek was finally matched on #6, only to take an offensive interference no-call on the chin as the future Heisman-winner posterized Stingley for the first time in his career.

It was the play which won Smith the Heisman trophy....at least in my book.


Once again, Jr was challenged by 2020's back and forth, topsy turvy wave of good news, bad news, but watching that kind of play happen against the best corner in America (in a rivalry game of that magnitude) hurt Tigers fans....

Sadly, we all know who it hurt most...

The young man himself...as he hobbled out there on one ankle to compete, running 50 yards across the field to make last man tackles to prevent touchdowns (putting his guaranteed 1st Round pick future in jeopardy).

In total, Devonta Smith caught 3 passes against Jr, however Derek wouldn't go down bowing to the Crimson Tide: he went out brutalizing every Alabama player within his reach for some "parental discretion advised" hits we're not used to seeing from Stingley. In the second half when Derek was finally positioned on Smith every down, Devonta failed to catch a pass.

Oh well...the Louisiana receiver already had 230+ yards in the first half against us...but we were far from alone during 2020: A&M, Ohio State, Florida, UGA, so many were torched by Smith this season...and when Derek covered 2020's best receiver, he only gave up two explosive plays.

After the way it ended against Alabama, if you told me Derek Stingley Jr would be shut down for the rest of the season to let his ankle properly heal, I would've been angry and demanded to know why they were taking games away from this young man. Instead, the sophomore was fine with the decision and sat out vs Florida and Ole Miss willingly, only flying to Gainesville to ensure LSU had enough players dressed out to qualify for the game.

Derek's presence puzzled anxious fans who demanded to understand why he wasn't out there playing...and of course, criticism poured in from waves of negative LSU haters or bandwagon Tigers fans, lighting Derek up, adorning him with nicknames like "The Quitter Expressway" through online forums or Twitter comment threads.


So many questioned why, if he was dressed, did he not play????

Actually, those angry fools should finally realize the truth:

Due to the severity of his ankle injury, Stingley was never going to play in either game after Alabama, he was merely dressing out so LSU would have the numbers to avoid forfeiture.

Why he received so much crap for the Florida / Ole Miss sideline scenes made no sense then and it really doesn't make sense now...

Overall, when you really look at Stingley's second season at LSU, I would count it as a success against the odds, an experience which will make him a better player:

The future NFL great's tackling had always been solid, however 2020's 7 appearances became the stage for his most gutty tackles, stretching & diving around the edge to get any piece of the streaking receivers / running backs.

There were moments in which Jr defied athletic reality or the integrity of physics as he pulled off some of these tackles...these weren't sexy moments for most DBU fans to chew on, yet these are the plays current or former DBs (such as myself) really appreciate. If Stingley doesn't make half of those tackles, LSU allow far more scoring plays and perhaps instead of 124th, Pelini's 2020 defense becomes the 128th dead last national defense....

Though the official statistic says "4 Direct TD saving plays", it feels like more....

For the media critics who couldn't wait to sink their teeth into #24's sophomore "slump", every time they seemed to gain ground in their hatred of the Denham Springs legend, he would pull some rabbit outta the hat and force them to bend to his will.

Much like 2020's intense disappointment coming directly after 2019's G.O.A.T squad, the season following a freshman catching 6 INTs, starting every game and winning a National Championship was always going to pale in comparison.

Perhaps it was an impossible task, one Pyrrhic victory after another while playing against your own teammates' individual errors as well as covering #1 receivers (watch Stingley's interactions alongside Cordale Flott in 2020 to know exactly what I mean, specifically the scissors routes teams ran on us).

Trying to have the least targeted cornerback in America top 6 INTs (from 94 targets) the year prior...how in god's name was Derek supposed to repeat this herculean DB feat in only 30 total targets and 8 fewer games than 2019?

Stingley Jr caught 6 interceptions in 2019...needing only a 5 game span to accomplish this...who knows what could've been possible without injuries or this evil pandemic removing extra games...


Sure, it's extremely surprising Sting ended the year without a single pick (dropping an easy one from Bryce Young vs Alabama) but remember: he missed a trio of contests, he played through injury in two other games....so what you have is basically half a season's worth of usable, meaningful data.

Regardless, this is a DB who's 2 seasons at LSU are already legendary:

He's been flagged for pass interference on a microscopic 3 occasions from 107 total targets, directly contributed in creating 9 turnovers, allowed only 5 touchdown catches, broke up / defended / dislodged 36 total passes, dropped 6 more potential INTs (Stingley could've caught 11 INTs in 2019 alone), and after 2020's 12 catches surrendered from 30 targets, Jr actually improved upon last year's 3.8% opposition completion percentage (now sitting at a wild 2.5%).

Well....it looks like the best cornerback in America still had the last laugh...


Now the question isn't whether Stingley is the best CB / DB in the country, we know he is...the question certainly won't be "is he losing his touch?", we proved that wrong using overwhelming data and the eye test....

The biggest question coming into 2021:

Does Stingley play offense now?

Will Orgeron unleash him as he promised back in 2018?

The original handshake promise between Coach O & Coach Derek Sr outlined a plan for Jr: his first two seasons he'd play solely at DB with some special teams responsibilities, then when his junior year arrived, the decision would be up to Sting...

Well....that time has come, ladies and gentlemen...

I get why many Tigers fans were terrified of #24 in full flight....it's not what he can do, the locals know exactly what this guy can do....it's the dangers of losing him because of an unnecessary injury:

LSU needed Stingley Jr at cornerback to help win a National Championship in 2019 and without him across the desolation of 2020, LSU become the first ever 3-7 defending National Champion.

Now in 2021, Corey Raymond's DBU Factory have reinforcements which could make #24's (or #7's) three-phase junior year not only possible but mandatory:


Stacking the DB depth, LSU have another #1 CB on their roster....upcoming sophomore Eli Ricks fresh off a Stingley-esque 4 INT freshman year, taking 2 into the endzone, intercepting 3 passes when Stingley wasn't on the field; game-changing CB Jay Ward: 3 INTs, 2 vs Ole Miss, 1 TD RET, 1 FF, 1 blocked field goal, 4 red zone PDs; then, another junior Raydarious Jones who remains unproven while experienced, rising CB Dwight McGlothern who played incredibly well vs #6 Florida, thrown into the red zone on his first play and breaking up a would-be touchdown pass from Heisman candidate Kyle Trask, he was solid vs Kiffin's Ole Miss and Arkansas; 2021 5 star safety Sage Ryan (fully capable of starting at nickel); DB Cordale Flott will be eager for revenge, possessing more than enough talent to come back from his poor sophomore year; meanwhile 2021's class contains high octane coverage help through the strong aerial play of versatile safeties Derrick Davis Jr or Matthew Langlois, not to mention CBs Damarius McGhee, the 13th overall corner in America.

I get it....Derek Stingley Jr getting knocked out for the year on a punt return would be devastating...

I understand how debilitating it would be to lose the best WR-magnet in college football when catching passes or taking end arounds on offense...

But as we found out last year, Derek's season was sent into jeopardy due to a 1st down marker on the sideline....it can happen at any moment, at any time on a football field...

So, do Tigers live in fear of injuries?

No!

So, why should we cut half of this young man's capabilities out of our arsenal?

I don't see Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson or Terrace Marshall at WR, I only see powerhouse Kayshon Boutte followed by a lot of unproven, untested young Tigers or guys we're not even sure will be on the roster (Koy Moore, Jaray Jenkins, Trey Palmer, Alex Adams supported by 2021 superstars Deion Smith, Chris Hilton & Jack Bech)....

Don't buy the words of anyone telling you the 2021 Tigers shouldn't utilize Stingley on offense, in fact with Stingley as a random option (inside the red zone especially) no defense could touch our passing attack, further opening running lanes for Ty Davis-Price & John Emery....I'm talking purely as a decoy, if you wanted to err on the side of caution.

Even if he never touches the ball offensively, merely standing out there to disrupt, terrify or confuse defenses, I can see Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz wanting to experiment...call it whatever you like, I say "how could you not give this guy the football?"

If 5 years from now we all look back at Stingley Jr's time at LSU, only capable of wondering what he would've been like to see on offense, then we've not only cheated ourselves out of potentially the most entertaining all-around Tiger force since Joe Burrow or Tyrann Mathieu....we'd be cheating Derek out of a chance at the Heisman.


2019 STATS

-6 INTs

(2 vs UGA in SEC Title Game)

-1 fumble recovery vs Clemson

-94 targets, only 25 completions

(4.2% opposition completion rate)

-28 defended / dislodged / deflected passes

-4 TDs Allowed

(2 vs Bama, 1 vs NWState, 1 vs Florida)

-5 Dropped INTs

(NW State x2, Vanderbilt x2, Arkansas)

-12 Tackles on gains of 3 yards or less

-Flagged 2x

(got away with 2 vs GSO & UGA)

-Forced 3 Flags Played in 15 Games


BLACK LIVES MATTER

by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC


SHOUTOUTS: DEREK SR, Thank you for talking to the fans every week on Off The Bench. We really appreciate it. Thank you for being the parent you are, sir.



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