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There is Only One Grant Delpit

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Every once in a while, a truly unique, singularly gifted player comes along that forges a tale all his own.

“I believe Grant is the best defensive player coming back in college football this year, no question about it."
~Ed Orgeron

Sometimes college football analysis can feel repetitive. The names change, but a lot of the stories stay the same. However, every once in a while, a truly unique, singularly gifted player comes along that invigorates the imagination, sparks the synapses, and forges a tale all his own.

A player like Grant Delpit.

“I believe Grant is the best defensive player coming back in college football this year, no question about it,” LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron told the assembled media in Hoover. “He is tall, smart, he’s a great young man. I believe he’s one of the best defensive players I’ve ever been around.”

Bounding with confidence befitting of DBU’s latest and greatest, Delpit agrees.

“Yeah, I think that is a great choice,” he grinned. “I have all the confidence in Coach O and Coach Aranda, because they put me in the right place to make plays.”

Hardly hyperbole, for the hyper-productive defensive back, the numbers bear that out. In the marginal OAYP rankings, a score at or greater than 1.0 qualifies one as a ‘superstar’. By that measure, Delpit’s 2.71 must qualify him as a superhuman.

From OAYP’s safety rankings:

Grant Delpit is not of this world. He can play center field like Andruw Jones, strap up receivers like any number of NFL cornerbacks that LSU has put in the league over the years, come up in the box like a heat seeking missile, and even rush the passer when Dave Aranda’s feeling particularly cruel. He may also be able to fly, breathe underwater, and shoot laser beams out of his eyeballs. His power is limitless.

Delpit led the SEC in interceptions last year, and finished second in total pass defended. Those nine breakups were the sixth most among FBS safeties in 2018, he had even more quarterback pressures than batted balls -- 13 to be exact, which was fifth. Factor in his 9.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks, both of which led all SEC defensive backs, and there’s no debate as to who the best safety in the entire country is.

Keep in mind, those marginal scores are only relative to the SEC, which boasts a pair of other ‘superstar’ safeties, and plenty of depth to boot. When the national numbers are factored in, the Bayou Bengal could see that mark soar into the 3.0 range.

Even as currently constituted, his marginal OAYP his almost a full point higher than the next closest SEC defender’s, and exactly .99 points higher than the #2 safety.

There’s something to be said for all-around players with no real weaknesses, even if they lack elite traits. That’s not Delpit, though. He isn’t good at everything. He’s great at everything. Perhaps, if for no other reason than crippling mental paralysis at the prospect of having to pinpoint his single best attribute, versatility itself is his greatest asset.

For that, he cites a number of others who donned the purple and gold as his influences.

“In high school I would watch Tyrann Mathieu highlights from his crazy sophomore year. You know -- strip sack, scoop it up, touchdown. I just remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to get to LSU and do that. More recently I watched guys like Jamal (Adams), Patrick Peterson’s coverage, guys like that. You can’t be exactly like those guys, but I just tried to watch their film and pick up on some of the things they do,” Delpit explained.

Now, as if pulled from a fairytale or a Hollywood screenplay, Delpit will don the very same coveted #7 jersey that a pair of the aforementioned did.

“Joe (Burrow) was wearing nine so good I just had to switch numbers,” he laughed. “No, it’s definitely a blessing for the coaching staff to choose me to uphold that tradition.”

Amidst a seemingly endless sea of highlights from which to choose, one play from the 2018 season stood out in particular to Coach Orgeron as to illustrate the unmitigated brilliance that makes his star defender so special.

“That play he made against Georgia, on the field goal,” Orgeron began. “He was going to block the field goal. He felt the tight end release. He came out of his rush, covered the tight end, saw that Devin White was covering him, went to tackle the kicker and caused a fumble.”

Delpit saw the deception before it began.

“I knew it was a fake from the beginning,” he recalled. “I saw the tight end release vertically -- I didn’t know if he was running a route or blocking -- but then the holder tried to flip the ball. They tried to take one of our plays that I’ve seen a hundred times. I tried to get my width and they came right to me. He kind of gave me a little stiff arm action, but I just reached back to get the ball.”

You can see the Mathieu, the Adams, the Peterson in him, but none quite encapsulates the entirety of his skill set. There have been other recent examples of similarly versatile defensive backs from other programs as well -- Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick -- but those don’t quite fit, either. Orgeron offered another suggestion:

“He reminds me of Troy Polamalu. Troy could do that stuff, plus Troy could rush, Troy could cover. Grant is taller, has a little more reach than Troy. He’s a lot like Troy.”

It’s uncommon to see a coach heap that sort of praise, and corresponding pressure, on to one of his players -- comparing him to an eight time Pro Bowler and four time first team All-Pro -- but Grant Delpit is uncommon.

Yet, even Coach Orgeron had to hedge on his own comp, thanks to Delpit’s remarkable length.

There are shades of numerous legends, Hall of Famers, and Heisman finalists throughout Delpit’s game, but no lone entity that captures it all in all of its glory.

Not only is he the best defender in college football, he’s a player unlike any before him.

There is only one Grant Delpit.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP