BATON ROUGE, La. — It’s the classic case of a prisoner’s dilemma, just in a defensive backfield.
Let’s say you have three cornerback recruits who all want to go to LSU. If all of them go there, none of them will get the playing time they want. If none of them go there, none of them will be playing college football where they want to play. But if one holds out while the others go elsewhere, he gets the best of both situations: playing time and dream school all in one.
That’s exactly the situation LSU cornerback Kelvin Joseph found himself in the Class of 2018 recruiting cycle.
“Everybody wants to come in and play in college right off the bat,” Joseph said. “Everybody else went to other schools. I just stuck by myself and it’s good for me.”
The Tigers didn’t land 5-star prospect Patrick Surtain Jr. or 4-star cornerback Mario Goodrich. But they did sign Joseph, a 4-star safety from Scotlandville Magnet High School, just a 20-minute drive down Interstate 110 from LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge.
The lone defensive backfield signee in LSU’s 2018 class, Joseph will transition from safety to cornerback when he enrolls over the summer. That isn’t much of a surprise. The Tigers are deeper at safety than any other position with John Battle, Grant Delpit, JaCoby Stevens, Eric Monroe and Ed Paris all competing for first-team reps. Cornerback, on the other hand, is a little more desolate. Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver II are headed to the NFL, leaving Greedy Williams as the lone returning starter. Behind Williams is a host of inexperienced youngsters headlined by Jontre Kirklin and Kary Vincent Jr., an eligibility question mark in Kristian Fulton, a converted wide receiver in Mannie Netherly and a graduate transfer who won’t arrive for another two months in Stanford’s Terrence Alexander.
On top of the numbers game, Joseph has experience playing cornerback. At various points during his recruiting process, LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond coveted Joseph as a sideline corner, a nickel corner or a nickel safety, all of which are places the Tigers may be in need of bodies.
“He said he could see me at every position,” Joseph said of his talks with Raymond. “It wasn’t a big deal for me. I just want a chance to play, and I’m going to show them when I get there that I can ball.”
With the lack of depth LSU has at cornerback, “want a chance” might be the wrong choice of words. Joseph might not have a chance to play; he might have to play. When confronted with that point, Joseph batted off the concept of pressure, saying added responsibility isn’t something he’s afraid of. He just wants to play the way he knows how to.
Joseph said he is ready to work for his opportunity. If Raymond and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda put him on the field early in the season, he’ll do his best to take advantage of his playing time.
Because Joseph is aware of the perception around LSU’s secondary this season. And he’s going to do what it takes to change it.
“It’s going to be like we’re going to be more slept on,” Joseph said. “They think we’re coming out for a down season. It means young players are going to have to step up.”