Meet LSU’s Latest Additions: Defensive Backs

LSU has always been known for being DBU because of the number of great cornerbacks and safeties that have gone through the program. The Tigers would love to keep that tradition going in the Brian Kelly era and there are plenty of guys in this year’s signing class that could all step up in being the next great name to come out of this defensive back factory.

The Tigers picked up nine defensive backs from either the high school class or transfer portal. Six of the nine pickups were cornerbacks giving the defense tons of options including four of those corners being transfers.

The biggest name to arrive to Baton Rouge actually came from a SEC West rival in Denver Harris, who transferred to LSU from Texas A&M. The former five star prospect was one of the biggest free agents available in the transfer portal as the 6’0, 185 pound cornerback is as talented as anybody at his position in the nation. As a product from North Shore High School in Houston, Texas, Harris was an Under Armour All-American that had an incredible prep career winning three state championships in a four year span.

Harris originally chose to play for the Texas A&M Aggies and was one of the signees that helped give the Aggies the number one recruiting class. In his only season in College Station, he only played five games due to a seven game suspension, but showed why he was so highly recruited when he did play last season. When Harris did come to Baton Rouge after entering his name in the portal after one year at A&M, Brian Kelly and the LSU coaching staff did their due diligence.

“We did a lot of research. This was not a decision where said this is just a great player. We did our due diligence and met with him several times. He had a lot of people speak on his behalf and a number of interviews with Coach House and myself. We felt with the culture that we had put together here that he would make it.” 

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Denver Harris

When Denver Harris, he has shown that he can be an SEC shutdown cornerback, and he will have three years of eligibility remaining. The Tigers also got some other DI Power Five transfers as well. Coming from Syracuse, Duce Chestnut is making the transition from playing in the ACC to playing in the SEC.

The 5’11, 200 pound cornerback is a physical player that had plenty of success with the Orange as he was a freshman All-American and was a runner-up for being the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year with 43 tackles, three interceptions, 3.5 tackles for loss, and eight pass breakups. He followed up with just as impressive of a sophomore season with 40 tackles, one interception, and one pass breakup. Now, the two time All-ACC selection comes to Baton Rouge with not only 24 games of playing experience at the DI level, but also some versatility as he can play either cornerback or nickel.

JK Johnson is the third Power Five transfer and the second one in two years to come from Ohio State after Sevyn Banks joined the Tigers last season. At 6’0, 180 pounds, Johnson was the most recent player at the cornerback position that decided to take his talents to Baton Rouge. Originally coming out of De Smet High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Johnson was highly recruited as a four star prospect and was actually coached by current cornerbacks coach Robert Steeples, which ended up being one of the biggest reasons for Johnson to choose the Tigers out of the portal.

The former number one player in Missouri chose the Ohio State Buckeyes out of high school where he played in 15 games while starting five of those games during his two years in Columbus. Johnson joins a new, but deep cornerback rotation and has been getting some looks with the first team during spring practice.

The final transfer to join the Tigers at cornerback happens to come from Louisiana in former Southeastern Lion Zy Alexander. After announcing a lot of his college games on ESPN+, Alexander has always shown his ball hawking ability. During his All-America career at Southeastern Louisiana, the former Loreauville High School quarterback has really blossomed to being one of the FCS’ top defenders.

In his freshman season, Alexander made an instant impact leading the team with six interceptions and earning 1st Team All-Southland Conference honors. The 6’3, 185 pound cornerback looks to up his game after moving up to not only from the FCS to FBS, but the Southland Conference to the SEC after posting 97 tackles, 12 pass breakups, and nine interceptions in 31 games. With his size and ball skills, Alexander can make a natural transition into playing in the SEC.

LSU also went through the high school class and signed three talented freshmen at the position. It is headlined by five star freshman Javien Toviano. At 6’1, 199 pounds, Toviano is one of the top defensive backs in the entire nation rated as a top five player at his position by multiple recruiting outlets. Coming from Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, Toviano capped off his prep career by leading his team to a 10-2 record and a second round appearance in the playoffs.

He finished with 105 tackles, 19 pass breakups, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles. The Under Armour All-American chose the Tigers on December 15th and chose the Tigers over Texas, Texas A&M, and Michigan. Taviano is certainly making his case to be one of the defense’s biggest rising stars as he has already shown that he can play either cornerback or safety in the spring.

Ashton Stamps was one of the first players to commit in the 2023 class, especially from in-state coming from Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, Louisiana. Prepping at the same school as LSU standouts Ja’Marr Chase and Kristian Fulton, Stamps was rarely targeted in the Catholic league and was a shutdown cornerback for the Raiders. The 1st Team All-State selection still made plays by having 65 tackles, nine pass breakups, and even registered two blocked field goals.

Ever since getting an offer from LSU, Stamps has been fully committed to playing for the Purple and Gold. At 6’0, 170 pounds, the three star signee is a technician plays with great eye discipline and has tremendous ball skills. Like Toviano, Stamps brings a lot of versatility to the table as he can play cornerback and safety.

The third incoming freshman to sign with the Tigers at cornerback is Jeremiah Hughes. At 6’0, 190 pounds, Hughes came from national football powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a three star prospect, Hughes was one of the top players from the state of Nevada and helped the dominant program win its 13th state championship in 15 years.

Hughes was exceptional in creating turnovers as he had seven interceptions and three pass breakups last season. He has tremendous upside as the Arkansas native is physical and possesses track speed. Hughes made his college decision in July as he chose the Tigers over Arkansas, Washington, Utah, and Colorado.

At the safety position, LSU did not pick up any players through the transfer portal, but the Tigers did sign two players from the incoming freshman class.

One of them is an early enrollee in Ryan Yaites. From John Guyer High School in Denton, Texas, the 6’1, 208 pound four star prospect was ranked by On3 as a top 20 safety in the nation. Like many other freshmen that Brian Kelly and the rest of the coaching staff signed.

Yaites finished his high school career by leading his team to the state semifinals with 63 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and two interceptions. Yaites was a long time commit to LSU as he picked the Tigers over the likes of Michigan State, Auburn, and Mississippi State back in April of 2022. The Under Armour All-American is an early enrollee and is taking advantage of the reps in spring practice.

Joining Yaites in the summer will be local Zachary High School product Kylin Jackson. The 6’2, 196 pound All-State safety was one of the biggest hitters that you will find anywhere around the country. Playing for one of the best high school football programs in Louisiana, Jackson helped lead the Broncos to an undefeated Class 5A State Championship as a junior with 74 tackles, 11 pass breakups, an interception and a fumble recovery.

After originally starting his career at East Feliciana, Jackson went to play for Zachary where he was a three year starter. The four star safety chose to commit to the Tigers before the beginning of his senior season and chose LSU over Texas A&M. He capped off his incredibly productive career with 72 tackles, five tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two blocked kicks, and an interception.

With big name transfers and highly recruited freshmen coming in, it looks like the DBU tradition will still be alive and well in the foreseeable future.

This concludes the “Meet LSU’s Latest Additions” series, but there is going to be plenty of more LSU football so make sure to keep up to date with everything going with the Bayou Bengals right here at Gridiron Football USA!