BATON ROUGE, La. — By trade, Kelvin Joseph is a 5-star cornerback.
When it comes to his team, that’s not exactly the case.
Joseph, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound LSU commit, shifted to safety for his junior season. Regardless of the stars beside his name and the “cornerback” label, it was a move that first-year Scotlandville (La.) High coach LaVanta Davis proposed to Joseph the day he got the job earlier this year.
Without hesitation, Joseph accepted the challenge.
“When I landed the job, I saw the God-gifted attributes,” Davis said of Joseph. “He’s able to go sideline to sideline. Last year, I saw a kid on special teams. I saw he had attitude, a motor, smart inside the classroom and smart on the field. When the lights come on, he plays the game real physical, aggressive and with an attitude, and that all led to the move to safety.
“He’s able to fill the alley so well based on our defensive scheme. He covers sideline to sideline, so to me, it was a no-brainer. That’s not to say we won’t play him at cornerback when needed.”
The shift to safety certainly has paid dividends.
For one, teams are unable to shy away from certain parts of the field. That was one of the coaching staff’s fears — that if Joseph was lined up on the left side of the field, for instance, opposing offenses could target the opposite side.
Playing in center field has made Joseph a factor on every snap.
“He’s playing safety this year and teams are still trying to avoid him,” said Kristopher Peters, an assistant at Scotlandville. “He’s been playing it all year and you just can’t hide from him at safety.”
Teams that have tried to hide from Joseph have been subject to quite the surprise.
Joseph has amassed 69 tackles, including 6 for losses, in addition to 9 pass breakups, 4 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns) and a fumble recovery in 10 regular-season games.
More importantly to him, he’s elevated his team to a 10-0 record and the No. 2 seed in the Louisiana Division I state playoffs, resulting in a first-round bye.
So long as his team continues to win, Joseph will play whenever and wherever.
“I don’t mind playing (safety). This gives me a chance to make a lot more plays and tackles, and not many (teams) throw my way, so sometimes I have to go into someone else’s place,” Joseph said.
The transition from corner to safety has not been a difficult one. Joseph spent time back deep for his 7-on-7 team, the Louisiana Bootleggers, which finished second in the Pylon National Championships in Dallas in July.
There’s that, plus the fact Joseph is physically imposing for a junior defensive back and boasts 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash. That’s the recipe for a mismatch no matter what position he plays.
“You’ve got to be able to play different positions. Wherever coach needs you, you’ve got to step up and be a leader and make plays,” he explained. “I just use my advantage over everybody.”
LSU assistant coach Corey Raymond caught one of Joseph’s games earlier this fall and made some recommendations to the prized 2018 defensive back. The coach and player communicate weekly.
“He gave me advice — to be patient on my breaks and when to come up to make tackles,” Joseph said. “I think about that every day.”
Recruiting spin: LSU holds commitments from three prospects in its ’18 class, two of which are defensive backs Kelvin Joseph and Nadab Joseph.
By trade, Kelvin is a 5-star cornerback and Nadab is a 4-star safety. But when asked, both players maintained a willingness to play anywhere in LSU’s secondary.
“It depends on what Corey wants to do,” Nadab told SEC Country. “If he thinks I’m better as a safety, I’ll do that.”
“In college, I want to go in and play wherever coach needs,” Kelvin said. “It doesn’t make a difference (what position). I just want to play.”
That degree of selflessness could pay major dividends with LSU’s 2018 haul, which could include multiple defensive backs as the team looks to reload after the likely departures of Donte Jackson, Kevin Toliver II, Ed Paris and John Battle.
In addition to the Josephs, LSU is making a strong push — and is in good position —- for the following junior defensive backs:
- Patrick Surtain Jr., 5-star CB
- Anthony Cook, 5-star CB
- Jalen Green, 4-star CB
- Corione Harris, 4-star CB
- Verone McKinley III, 4-star CB
- Jordan Moore, 4-star S
With the versatility and willingness to play “different” positions at the next level, LSU could reel in three or four more defensive backs in ’18 to replenish an elite secondary with stud reinforcements.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
Follow Sam Spiegelman for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tiger Stadium.