Standout cornerback Vildor leads Georgia Southern into opener at No. 6 LSU

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Kindle Vildor practice

We were given a short peek at college football this past weekend with a couple of FBS games, but next weekend will be the start of the 150th anniversary season in full bloom.

No. 6 LSU entertains Sun Belt Conference member Georgia Southern on Saturday evening in what will be a contrast in styles between the talented Tigers and their triple-option oriented foe.

Senior Kindle Vildor, the premier player for the Eagles, may be the top overall player in the Sun Belt. Never heard of him? You will know the talented cornerback soon.

“I’ve watched (LSU) games from last year, their bowl game (UCF) and saw them against Georgia,” Vildor said last month at Sun Belt media day. “I’ve watched film on them all summer, so we know what they do. It will be a big game for us. We want to show everyone that we can compete with one of the top teams in the country.”

Vildor and his defensive mates know that they’ll be tested by the 28-point favorites out of the SEC, maybe even moreso than during their trip to Clemson last year when the eventual national champs prevailed 39-7.

“LSU is really explosive on offense, with a lot of big time players,” Vildor said. “They have good receivers and a real good quarterback (Joe Burrow). They’re really big up front. I know that they are going to try run the ball. We’re going to be ready to show what we can do.”

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Vildor is one of the top cover men in the country. He was named second team All-America and the Sun Belt Player of the Year on defense in 2018. Vildor displays excellent ball skills with seven interceptions and 22 passes broken up the past two seasons.

“It’s instinctive,” Vildor said. “I continue to watch film throughout each week, knowing what the offense’s tendencies are. When you watch film, you recognize what’s coming and you can play faster. It also helps my reactions.”

Vildor has allowed fewer than 50 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed and had no penalties called on him in 2018.

“I try to play clean football,” Vildor said. “If you play with good technique it’s easy to go out there, make plays and penalty free. You’ve got to know when to cheat and get away with it. When the ref can’t see it. I think that I’ve mastered that.”

Vildor’s favorite NFL player is 13-year veteran cornerback Brent Grimes. “I’m a big fan of his,” Vildor said. “I think that his skill set is similar to me. Just be a technician on the field and fundamentally sound.”

Realizing a life long goal is within reach, Vildor is currently projected to be a third-day NFL draft pick next spring. Draft analysts call him a ball hawk.

“A childhood dream of mine (has been) being in the NFL, playing on Sunday with the big boys,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work hard and when the opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”

Vildor hopes to gain a spot in the Senior Bowl to up his stock but the College Park, Georgia native also understands the value of academics, holding a 3.0 GPA.

“Without school you can’t play ball,” Vildor said. “Growing up my mom always made sure I was on top of my school work because if I wasn’t, she wouldn’t let me go to practice. It all just carried over to college, that same mindset. I make sure that I take care of my academics.”

Stepping into a loud, packed Tiger Stadium on opening weekend is another chance to impress for Vildor and the entire Georgia Southern roster can’t wait for the chance.

“It’s going to be fun in front of 190,000-plus screaming fans,” Vildor said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s like a childhood dream in front of a huge crowd.”

The underdog opponent of an LSU team with great expectations and a huge test the following week at Texas would not mind being overlooked.

“They’re a big school, they might underestimate us, feel like we’re just a small school,” Vildor noted. “I feel like that might give us an edge going into the game, to show everyone that we can shock the world.”

Georgia Southern’s upset hopes were set to take a big blow this summer when starting quarterback Shai Werts was facing a suspension earlier this summer after speeding and misdemeanor drug charges. But those charges were dropped.

Werts has returned to the team and is expected to play. He started 13 games last season, running for 908 yards with 15 touchdowns and passing for 987 yards and 10 more scores with no interceptions. Werts expertly operates the Eagles’ triple-option attack that is sure to give LSU some challenges. Georgia Southern may have some early success moving the ball, but things will be challenging once they reach the red zone with their limited passing game.

Georgia Southern is a quality program, and they will not be intimidated in Baton Rouge. The Eagles and Vildor have plenty to prove to the doubters.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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