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2020 Schedule Challenges: USF
Sixteen players from LSU’s 2019 national championship-winning team were invited to the most recent NFL Combine. Offensive wunderkind Joe Brady joined the Carolina Panthers after bringing 21st century offense to Baton Rouge. Following four seasons as LSU’s defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda took the open head coaching job at Baylor.
Amidst all the turnover in Tigerland, one important piece returns for his sophomore season: Derek Stingley Jr.
Stingley Jr. was named starting cornerback and punt returner by LSU head coach Ed Orgeron before playing a single college snap. He joined the Tigers after Rivals declared him the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2019, the only corner to receive that distinction in the site’s history.
That was the hype. His level of play surpassed it. Stingley Jr. tallied six interceptions and 21 passes defended in 15 games. He earned consensus All-American honors and was unanimously named the SEC newcomer of the year.
He was elite even among other more established players. In PFF’s ranking of the 101 best college football players in 2019, Stingley Jr. ranked fourth behind teammate Joe Burrow, Ohio State’s Chase Young, and Oregon’s Penei Sewell. Players Stingley Jr. ranked ahead of? Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Isaiah Simmons, and Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
After one of the most decorated freshman seasons of all time, Stingley Jr. comes back for year two. When Texas travels to Baton Rouge, it will not bring with it any prolific, proven receivers. Junior Brennan Eagles is the only receiver on the entire Longhorn roster with over 500 career receiving yards. Even if Texas were to add someone from the grad transfer market, this problem would still remain. Stingley Jr. has covered everybody.
For taller, outside receivers like Eagles and Marcus Washington, Stingley Jr. can neutralize their height with his own 6-foot-1 frame and freakish athleticism showcased in his 42 inch vertical jump during his high school days. Collin Johnson learned that lesson versus Stingley Jr. in September when he was limited to three receptions for 49 yards.
For the faster receivers like Joshua Moore and Jake Smith, Stingley Jr. can keep up with them, too. He posted a 4.30 forty in high school and has gone toe-to-toe with other burners like Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb.
Texas’ punter, Ryan Bujcevski, will need to be wary of kicking to Stingley Jr. He only had 17 return opportunities in 15 games last season, but that was likely a result of teams knowing not to test their luck punting to the star freshman.
Breaking in new offensive and defensive coordinators, replacing a significant portion of the first 22 from last year, and turning the page from Joe Burrow to Myles Brennan are several of the changes taking place in Baton Rouge that work in Texas’ favor.
But Stingley Jr. remains in the purple and gold. As long as he’s there, he’ll be a problem for opposing receivers, quarterbacks, and coordinators. Come September 12, Texas will have to figure a way to overcome the Tigers’ eraser at corner.