The start of the 2017 season was a new beginning for the LSU Tigers. They had fully moved on from former coach Les Miles and were committed to having Ed Orgeron lead the team. But the Tigers would struggle in Orgeron’s first full season with the team. They would go 9-4, finishing 3rd in the SEC East, and 4th in the whole conference. Their season would finish in disappointing fashion, losing the Citrus Bowl 21-17 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
What was more staggering was LSU’s mediocre defensive performance. As a total defense, the Tigers were ranked 12th in the nation, 24th against the run (126.4 yards/game) and 20th against the pass (185.3 yards/game).For a school that prides itself on stout, physical defense, last year’s unit was one of the reasons why LSU was not a contender for a playoff spot. In a highly competitive SEC that showcases the best defensive talent in the country, the Tigers needed to double their recruitment efforts and acquire top defensive talent that will elevate the team to successful heights.
Derek Stingley Jr. had sports and athleticism in his genes. His grandfather, Darryl Stingley, was a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, whose career was unfortunately cut short due to a spinal injury. Stingley’s father was a baseball player, drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, and his mother was a dancer. Born into humble beginnings from Macron, Georgia, Stingley Jr. was immersed into the entrenched culture of football that captures the identity of the state.
From the age of four, the budding football star would learn the ropes of the game from his Dad, who coached in the local arena league. He would practice drills and plays with the players, quickly becoming a keen and passionate student of the game. At 6’1, 190 pounds, Stingley Jr. would commit to playing cornerback at Dunham High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, very close to the coveted Tigers Stadium known as “Death Valley.” His 64 tackles, 11 interceptions (25 career at Dunham) and 6 pass breakups not only wowed his coaches and scouts across the nation but it earned him all-state honors.
With impressive stats in high school and combine, where he posted a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 42 inches, the corner earned the spot of being the top prospect for recruitment. No wonder many experts are already comparing him to former LSU corner and current Arizona Cardinals Patrick Peterson.“He is a great great player, but more importantly Derek is a great kid,” former LSU and NFL defensive back Ryan Clark said. “His parents have done a wonderful job with him. … On the summer circuit, Derek showed he could do things with his speed, ability to jump and body control that no one else can do.”
For any top recruit, the decision process is lengthy. There are visits to schools. Coaches make their pitch to try to lure the player to their team. While many schools were competing to land the top prospect, Stingley Jr. decided to commit to LSU, located in the same city as his high school.
“It feels right,” Stingley said of the decision. “After a long process of talking with coaches and visiting schools, I’m happy that it’s over and my decision is final.”The top prospect is committing to LSU at a time where the team needs depth at the cornerback position. They will most likely be losing All-American corner Andraaz Williams next season to the NFL draft and senior Ed Paris will be graduating.
Stingley will make an immediate impact for LSU. His speed is explosive and his physicality will prevent opposing wide receivers from breaking free to get open. For a team that needs to reduce the number of passing yards, it gives up, having Stingley Jr. will be able to fill that void. He also can out-jump anyone, which will lead to more takeaways for the defense.
From Patrick Peterson to Tyrann Mathieu, the LSU Tigers have been a model team for breeding top talent in the secondary. While the pressure will be high for Stingley to perform, he will have the hometown crowd and his family to support him, as he begins the journey to become the next defensive star.