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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron coaches against Auburn in the first half, Saturday, September 15, 2018, at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Al.

Ed Orgeron has seen plenty of talented defensive backs in his coaching career, from Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu during his stint as defensive line coach at Southern Cal, to his recent years at LSU with first-round picks like safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Tre'Davious White.

As far as a collective group, Orgeron said the defensive backs on LSU's 2019 football team may top all the ones he's seen in his 35 years of coaching. 

"This may be one of the best secondaries I've ever been around," Orgeron said in an interview on 104.5 ESPN's "Off the Bench" Thursday morning.

LSU lost cornerback Greedy Williams, a finalist for the Thorpe Award in 2018, to the NFL draft; but out of the five listed defensive back positions, LSU returns four defensive backs that started in at least four games, including unanimous All-American safety Grant Delpit, who will wear the team's coveted No. 7 jersey this season.

Kristian Fulton, a 6-foot, 192-pound senior corner, may have departed for the NFL had he not suffered a foot injury that required season-ending surgery — and a permanent screw in his left foot — in a Week 10 win at Arkansas.

Pro Football Focus College rates Fulton its highest-graded cornerback in the Southeastern Conference for the 2019 season, and the database recorded that Fulton only allowed 17 catches on 42 targets during the 2018 season.

Junior nickel safety Kary Vincent, whom Orgeron called "one of the fastest guys in the country," started in six games last season and runs on the LSU men's track team's 4x100 meter relay squad, and JaCoby Stevens, a former five-star and No. 1 overall safety recruit, is set to take over the "quarters" position in which he started in the final four games in 2018.

The only new face set to break in with the team in 2019 is true freshman corner Derek Stingley, the nation's No. 1 overall recruit, and it hardly seems like a new face anymore although he has yet to play in an actual game.

Stingley arrived early enough on campus to practice with LSU during its preparation for the Fiesta Bowl — defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said Stingley looked like "the best" corner on the field — and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Dunham School grad recorded an interception in the LSU spring game.

"We feel that we're going to be very strong on the back end," Orgeron said.

Delpit will join Orgeron as a representative at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, from Monday to Thursday, July 18, along with returning starting quarterback Joe Burrow and center Lloyd Cushenberry.

Orgeron said Thursday morning that Cushenberry was chosen to speak at media days because "he was our most consistent lineman last year, a leader up front."

"We need to be solid up front," Orgeron said, "and Lloyd is our best player right now on the offensive line.

Cushenberry and right guard Damien Lewis started in every game for an offensive line that struggled at times in 2018. LSU was tied 106th nationally with 35 total sacks allowed and was tied 110th nationally with 89 total tackles for loss allowed.

Orgeron said LSU has "got to get better at pass protection," in 2019, when the Tigers' up-tempo, run-pass option offense will debut under offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and first-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady.

Brady said the new offense intends to use four-wide receiver sets often and send running backs out of the backfield on pass routes. In order to run those sets, LSU can't use extra tight ends and running backs to help pass block, as they did in 2018. The Tigers will have to rely only on their offensive line in five-man protections.

"We've got to protect the passer a lot better next year with just our offensive line," Orgeron said. "We can't use a tight end, use a (running) back... These tackles are going to have to block these great defensive ends. They have to do it."


Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.