When a team identifies its leaders, they are often quarterbacks or veteran contributors. When Ed Orgeron was recently asked to name an “unexpected leader” for his team, he went with true freshman CB Derek Stingley Jr.

“Derek Stingley for us has been phenomenal, had a phenomenal year,” Orgeron said. “He leads by example. This summer on Saturday and Sunday, his dad is a coach, go 1:00, go work out, look on the football field, him and his dad are working out with the DBs. Tremendous work ethic, tremendous young man.”

All that work has shown up on the gridiron. Stingley leads the SEC with 21 passes defended (6 interceptions, 15 pass breakups), which ranks him No. 3 in the country.

All three coaches at the College Football Playoff press conference cited young contributors (Ryan Day missed the press conference):


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Q. You talked about a couple of leaders for your team. Who would you say are guys, regardless of classification, that have been unexpected leaders?

DABO SWINNEY: I’ve got a freshman, D tackle, that’s starting for us, true freshman, named Tyler Davis. I don’t think you really expect a true freshman to come in, do what he’s done. I’ve had very few true freshmen start at D tackle, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins.

This young man has come in and been amazing. He really is a leader right out of the gate for us. He’d be one guy on our team that I expected him to be a good player, you just never know how it’s going to transition until you start coaching guys. Then also his ability to lead as a freshman is pretty special to watch.

LINCOLN RILEY: I would say our two young safeties, Delarrin Turner-Yell, and Patrick Fields. They’ve been instrumental in the improvements we’ve made defensively. Done a great job with Coach Grinch and his system. Very impressive at a young age.

The three young defensive backs figure to have their hands full when LSU and Oklahoma bring their high-powered passing attacks to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl on Dec. 28.