Why Derek Stingley Jr. should take a pass on lining up at receiver
Derek Stingley Jr. is a grown man capable of making adult decisions.
He’ll certainly have plenty of them in his football future. There’ll be the decision as to whether he should try to jump a route or play it safe in a potential game-deciding moment. He’ll have to decide if he wants to leave Baton Rouge for the NFL at season’s end. There could even be the decision about who he hires as his agent to inevitably get him that all-important second NFL contract.
That’s a lot to put on someone who turns 20 on June 20. But considering what we’ve seen from Stingley in 2 eventful years at LSU, that’s all within reach.
Apparently, there’s another key decision in the star cornerback’s future. Does he want to play a little receiver?
Ed Orgeron recently told Bobby Hebert and Kristian Garic of SportsTalk that he would like to see Stingley play wide receiver, too.
“That’s up to him. We’ve discussed that. He may try a little offense in fall camp, see how it works,” Orgeron said. “Obviously we’d like to use him, but that’s totally up to him. I gave him that opportunity and him and his daddy agreed. He’s spent 2 years playing corner. He’s ready.”
If I’m Stingley? I tell Orgeron I’m flattered, but no thanks.
As fun as it would be to try and become a 2021 version of Champ Bailey or Charles Woodson, Stingley has enough on his plate as a corner and return specialist.
It’s not that Stingley can’t become an intriguing option at receiver. We know the ball skills are there. We’ve seen the guy run better routes than the receivers he covers. We know that he played there a bit in high school and averaged a casual 28.3 yards per catch with 8 receiving scores.
(I watched a play from high school where Stingley lined up in the slot and the defense just forgot to cover him. It was a 99-yard touchdown. Imagine forgetting to locate Stingley on a high school football field.)
It makes perfect sense why LSU, which needs to find some pass-catching options to take pressure off Kayshon Boutte, would go the creative route by seeing how much Stingley could catch the attention of defenses, even if for just a handful of plays a game.
In theory, that’s some good wholesome fun. In reality, there’s a bit more to that.
Stingley is coming off a disappointing season in which he battled injuries, and when he was healthy, he wasn’t nearly the game-changing player he was in 2019 when he took the college football world by storm. LSU had the worst pass defense in FBS last year. That’s been well-documented. Not all of that falls on Stingley — a good amount of it fell on Bo Pelini — but it’s still the most glaring weakness that LSU must fix if it wants to have a bounce-back season in 2021.
Sure, Stingley is going to get preseason All-America buzz and he’s in the top 5 of all the way-too-early 2022 mock drafts. He deserves that. At the same time, having high expectations doesn’t guarantee anything. We still have to see it.
This isn’t about a lack of interceptions. And yes, Stingley saw 2 fewer targets per game (per PFF). Stingley still saw his PFF grade drop from 91.7 as a true freshman who saw the second-most targets in FBS to 72.1 as a sophomore.
If I’m Stingley, I’m doing everything I can to make sure 2020 looks like a one-off. I’m refining my craft, I’m watching extra film, I’m making sure my diet and conditioning are right.
That’s probably another part of this that’s worth mentioning — the conditioning. I’m not saying that what Bailey did in the ’90s was unimpressive. Only an all-world athlete could pull off playing receiver and corner like Bailey. But I’d argue now with more widespread emphasis on up-tempo, high-volume passing games in the SEC, that demand would be different for a corner to go both ways in 2021 compared to the late-90s.
Again, that’s not saying Stingley couldn’t have some success doing it. But given what’s at stake at this point of his career and coming off the forgettable year he had in that disastrous defense, there are bigger fish to fry. His draft stock isn’t suddenly improving by playing offense, either. It goes beyond just the potential injury risk, which would still be there.
If I were Stingley, I’d be focused on making sure I’m on the same page as new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, who hopefully won’t have a defensive system that collapses when a man runs in motion like his predecessor had.
Now if I’m Stingley and those first 5-6 games are at a Jim Thorpe Award level, I’d probably have a different reaction if Orgeron asked me if I wanted to work out a bit with the receivers. If nothing else, that’d be a nice little way to break up the grind of a long season.
But it would still have to be just a play here or a play there. Lining up at receiver for an entire series doesn’t seem like the best move.
What Stingley does at the cornerback position is too valuable to risk that. At least when he’s right. Fingers crossed that Stingley is just that in 2021.
If he is, LSU might not need to put him in at receiver in order to get Heisman Trophy consideration. Of course, Woodson was the last defensive player to win the honor and Michigan famously made an effort to play him in all 3 phases. That could be at the root of Orgeron’s comments, or it could simply be something he’d like to experiment with in hopes that it can provide a spark and at the very least, make a defense prepare a little differently.
That’s totally understandable. What else would be totally understandable?
Stingley punting on catching passes.