Top 15 players for top-ranked LSU

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Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
(Photo: Terrill Weil)

You could not fault the LSU fauthful if they were caught humming “Ding-Dong, the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead” at Bryant Denny Stadium this past Saturday evening.

A collection of players who have stood out through the success of the Tigers in 2019 have been the leaders and linchpins of a rise to the top of the college rankings and the ending of the eight-game losing skid versus Alabama. These individuals have put forth an effort that has helped lift the team to a higher level.

I’ve listed, in reverse order, the top 15 players who helped LSU achieve their success so far in 2019:

15. WR Terrace Marshall (6-4, 200, So.) missed three games with injury but has been a force on the field. He has 24 catches for 378 yards and eight touchdowns. His coming out party was a six-catch, 123 yard game at Texas. The former Parkway standout would be the No. 1 receiver on most college teams.

14. LB Patrick Queen (6-1, 227, Jr.) is a versatile performer, and fourth leading tackler on the team with 43 stops. He had 40 tackles all of 2018. An extremely hard worker, he comes up with big plays with none more evident than the interception against Alabama right before halftime that helped LSU build a 20-point lead. He was a four-year starter at Livonia, running for 1,487 yards and 10 scores in his senior year.

13. CB Derek Stingley, Jr. (6-1, 190, Fr.) has four interceptions and nine passes defended as a Day One starter. He doubles as a dangerous punt returner and has flashed extraordinary potential.

12. RT Austin Deculus (6-7, 322, Jr.) solidified the right side of the line. The team allowed 35 sacks in ’18 but this season Burrow has been sacked 20 times in a much more pass-happy attack. Austin has demonstrated great effort on and off the field, playing more consistently as a result. He has made 11 starts in 2018 and nine this year. Able the squat over 600 pounds, he Will play somewhere on the line in the NFL.

11. DE K’Lavon Chaisson (6-4, 250, So.) has 37 tackles and a pair of sacks this season. He tore ACL in the 2018 opener but returned at full strength this year to provide a threat off the edge. More importantly perhaps, he has been a complete player able to cover and defend the run all over the field. He shined at Alabama with 10 stops and brought pressure. Chaisson wears jersey No. 18, which says a lot about how his teammates feel about him.

10. DB Grant Delpit (6-3, 203, Jr.) The 2018 All American is LSU’s third leading tackler with 45 stops while adding four pass breakups. He will be first round NFL draft pick. A leader and stabilizing presence at the back end of the defense, he had a season-high 11 tackles at Mississippi State earlier this season.

9. CB Kristian Fulton (6-0, 200, Sr.) has 23 tackles and nine PBUs. The future first round NFL pick is very aggressive and exudes confidence. He’s also played hurt for the Tigers this year and stood tall. The ballhawk had 11 interceptions as junior at Rummel in 2014.

8. DB Jacoby Stevens (6-1, 228, Jr.) Whatever you consider him to be from a position standpoint, he is just a ball player. The second leading tackler with 56 tackles alos has two sacks and two interceptions. He emerged in 2018 late, starting the final four games and had 14 tackles against Texas A&M. Stevens has been named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice this year.

7. WR Ja’Marr Chase (6-1, 200, So.) is physical, runs outstanding routes, has strong hands and is fearless. This season, he has 49 catches for 889 yards (18.1 average) with 10 touchdowns including eight grabs vs. Auburn for 123 yards, seven for 127 yards vs. Florida and six catches at Alabama for 140 yards. The Rummel alum has a bright future as a likely first rounder.

6. WR Justin Jefferson (6-3, 192, Jr.) has 62 catches for 898 yards (14.5/reception) with nine touchdowns including 10 catches for 123 yards vs. Florida. Underrated out of Destrehan, he is an outstanding route runner who has made huge leaps forward. He will play on Sundays.

5. DT Rashard Lawrence (6-2, 308, Sr.) is crucial for the Tigers. It’s not all about his stats. His contribution goes far beyond that. He could have bolted for the NFL last season but opted to return to LSU to enjoy the experience. His confidence level is sky high and the respect he has from teammates and coaching staff alike is the same. Twice named team captain in ’17 and ’18, he has been rotating up front and absorbed a big physical toll by taking on double and triple team blocking for the good of the team. The No. 1 ranked recruit in Louisiana back in 2016 thought hard about Ohio State before deciding on the Tigers.

4. ILB Jacob Phillips (6-4, 233, Jr.) is LSU’s leading tackler with 71 stop plus a sack. In 2018, he had 87 tackles. Known for jarring hits, he sets the tone for a defense which is still stout against the run. Phillips had nine tackles vs. Florida and seven against both Alabama and Auburn.

3, OC Lloyd Cushenberry (6-3, 315, Jr.) is living up to his top billing in the SEC at center. Surprised that he’s ranked this high on this list? Don’t be. He makes a huge difference. Voted worthy of the No. 18 jersey honor for reason (wears a #18 patch), the former Mississippi State commitment who took an 11th hour late offer from LSU is quiet but carries a big stick. His play speaks for itself over 33 starts to date. A true warrior, Cushenberry has developed into LSU’s most consistent lineman. He’s an honor student with a high football IQ and good feet.

2. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5-8, 209, Jr.) has silenced the all the doubts. Now raise your hand if you really thought we would be talking about him as one of the Tigers’ most crucial players at this point of the season. Every fan would say that John Emery, Ty Davis-Price or Chris Curry would be the starting running back by now. Clyde has 786 yards (5.8 yard average) and 11 touchdowns (tops in the SEC). He has added 28 catches for 202 yards and a score while showing off his receiving talent to exploit Alabama’s linebackers repeatedly. His 103 hard fought yards (5.2 average) and three touchdowns on the ground against the Crimson Tide capped a performance that almost stole the spotlight from the top Tiger on this list. He had 136 rushing yards vs. Auburn and 134 against Florida with two scores. He did what many of his recent predecessors at LSU could not do…run successfully against Alabama. His earns tough yardage following contact, breaking tackles and spinning away from defenders. He gives relentless effort on each carry and catch. He has balance similar to Dalton Hilliard and has started drawing comparisons to Darren Sproles.

1. QB Joe Burrow ( 6’4-216, Sr.) is no surprise here. The overwhelming Heisman favorite operates the top offense in the SEC. He’s now 19-3 as a starter. His 457 total yards of offense at Alabama (third most in school history) made an indelible mark in LSU history. He is the second leading passer in the country with 3,198 yards, 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions with a staggering 78.9% completion rate. He reminds me of former Heisman winner Roger Staubach, another tough and tremendous leader.

More on Joe ‘Burreaux’…

The heart beat of this LSU team is within striking distance of being the all-time single-season SEC passing leader. Kentucky’s Tim Couch (1998) had 4,275 yards and 36 touchdowns and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2013) had 4,114 yards and 37 scores. Burrow is 1,078 yards shy of overtaking Couch with three games to go.

With the success and national attention LSU is receiving, the future is bright. Plus, Ed Orgeron and his staff already have the top ranked 2020 class on the recruiting trail. The Tigers will also attract coveted grad transfers and portal transfers who now view the Tigers as a prime destination.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

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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