There’s an old adage among football coaches: wide receivers who can’t catch become safeties.
Perhaps that’s unfair to players like Grant Delpit, who, in another world, would utilize his 6-foot-3, 201-pound frame on the other side of the ball. But the sophomore safety – one of LSU’s top returning defenders and, alongside Greedy Williams at corner, one of two all-but-surefire starters come Sept. 2 – doesn’t take exception to the aphorism.
The numbers don’t lie, and neither does the film.
In the past two seasons, LSU’s secondary has dropped 24 interceptions, which is why new safeties coach Bill Busch broke out the bristles on Sunday during ball drills. As the Tiger defensive backs leaped to catch errantly-thrown passes, staff members swatted at their hands and helmets with brooms meant to mimic the difficulty of making a catch in-game.
Some of the most fun I had today…#LSU safeties
Ed Paris (21) making sure we see his #JumpMan powers.
Eric Monroe (30) having a ball, declares the broom is “an SEC broom.”
3 JaCoby Stevens
9 Grant Delpit
26 John Battle
31 Cam Lewis
33 Todd Harris
36 Derian Moore pic.twitter.com/UXcOFqEwnO
— Jerit Roser (@JeritRoser) August 5, 2018
“We dropped 24 in the past two years,” Delpit says, shaking his head. “That’s crazy. Even if we catch half that, six and six, that can change a season.”
Delpit isn’t shy to say he dropped his fair share. He tallies the number at four from his freshman season. Drops against Syracuse and Ole Miss stick out in his mind, perhaps because they’ve been played on a loop in the locker room to keep ball security top of mind for the Tigers, who ranked just 70th in the nation in takeaways in 2017.
So this freshman Safety Grant Delpit looks kinda amazing here. That's a ton of ground to cover. pic.twitter.com/4zQc9ZYHf3
— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) February 24, 2018
“When I heard 24, I was surprised,” he says. “That’s a lot. 24 picks over two years, that could definitely take you to Atlanta. Interceptions change the game, and interceptions can change seasons.”
More Reps, More Coaching
The addition of Busch to the staff has been a game-changer, Delpit says. While Corey Raymond had to divide his time between the safeties and corners last season, Busch, who joined LSU from Rutgers, where he was co-defensive coordinator, works full-time with the safeties and has an analyst, former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, to help off the field. The result is more specific drill work and instruction at one of LSU’s deepest positions.
“Coach Busch came from a DC job, so he knows what he’s talking about,” Delpit says. “He’s high energy. He’s always talking. I just try to take what he knows and put it on the field. We get a lot more reps, a lot more coaching. We also added a lot more analysts, so Coach (Kevin) Coyle, he helps out a lot.”
It also means more ball drills in the summer, which Delpit hopes means fewer drops come this fall.
“We do ball drills every day,” Delpit says. “We didn’t do a lot of ball drills last year, so that’s something that’s changed with Coach Busch. Just trying to catch the ball. It sounds easy right now, but when you look up in the lights, in Tiger Stadium, 100,000 people, it’s tough.”
Growing His Game
Delpit wasted no time finding the field as a freshman, playing 733 snaps at the top of the Tiger secondary. He tallied 60 tackles, one interception, and eight passes defended, ranking third among SEC freshman defensive stars with a 77.6 grade from ProFootballFocus.
His strength was as a down-hill tackler. According to ProFootballFocus, Delpit’s grade against the run was 82.8 (anything above 80 is considered “very good;” above 85 is NFL-level production). Against the pass, that figure dipped to 58.6. Though most fans would consider Delpit’s first season a promising start, he only saw room for improvement.
Grant Delpit is a damn baller. Reads the h-back on the "KEY" and then becomes a human missile to get the tackle for loss. What a guy pic.twitter.com/UX2kW7xVJh
— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) February 18, 2018
“I wanted to see my game grow,” he says. “I had a couple of missed tackles, limit the big plays. That all starts on the practice field. You go hard in practice, it won’t be hard in the game.”
Time to Breakout
The biggest area Delpit aimed to improve was mentally. Seeing the field so soon was both a blessing and a curse. No one wants to sit, but being thrown into the fires of the SEC can be daunting. Delpit more than cut muster, but he holds himself to a higher standard.
“My freshman year, the big stage got to me a little bit,” he says. “Just seeing everything, how everything works, practice, workouts, I feel like if you just work hard in the spring and summer, the fall’s going to be easy.”
A shoulder injury suffered in the spring required surgery, but Delpit says he’s back to 100 percent and will be a full go when the Tigers put on pads for the first time this fall on Monday.
“Year two should be my breakout year,” he says. “It should be our breakout year as a defense at LSU. I feel like a lot of people are overlooking us. We’ve got something to show.”