HOOVER, Ala. – It’s official: LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne won’t be able to hide from anybody any more.
The Tigers’ junior was voted to the pre-season All-SEC first-team defense voted on by the horde of media covering the league’s Media Days. The three-team unit was released Friday, the last day of the three-day circus that officially marks the start of the new season.
Claiborne led LSU with five interceptions last season and held up well as the Tigers’ “other” cornerback on the side opposite All-American Patrick Peterson. The Shreveport native helped solidify a pass defense that led the SEC, allowing only 169.8 yards a game through the air and 15 touchdown passes.
“Morris definitely has the potential to be the next great LSU cornerback,” said Peterson, the fifth pick of the first round by Arizona in the 2011 NFL Draft. “He got a lot of experience last year and did everything he could do to put our defense in a position to be as good as we were. Quarterbacks tried to pick on him a little bit and that definitely helped him because he took advantage of it. He made plays when they did that, and that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
“He was a great student and he let everything me and some of the older guys told him to soak in. The most important thing is he had fun and that’s what you have to do in this game.”
Claiborne has a chance to have plenty of fun on a young but brimming-with-potential defense that was well-represented on the media’s All-SEC teams.
Senior weakside linebacker Ryan Baker was tabbed for the second team after ranking second on the Tigers with 83 tackles in 12 games last season and leading the team with seven sacks.
Up front, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo both earned spots on the third team, along with cornerback/nickel back Tyrann Mathieu.
Peterson said he expects the play-making Mathieu to have a similar impact – if not much more – as a sophomore after registering 57 tackles, 8½ for loss, 4½ sacks, two interceptions, five fumbles forced and three fumbles recovered.
“Now it’s time for Tyrann to step in and be the kind of player LSU cornerbacks are known for,” Peterson said. “Wherever (Tigers defensive backs coach Ron Cooper) puts those guys, they’re both going to do great things.”
The LSU offense was also recognized, with right tackle Alex Hurst on the second team and quarterback Jordan Jefferson voted to the third unit.
In the predicted order of finish, the Tigers were picked to finish second in the West Division behind Alabama and right ahead of Arkansas. South Carolina got the nod in the East Division ahead of Georgia.
The Crimson Tide was pegged as the overall champion, with the strength of the West Davison evident as LSU got the second-most votes for the overall championship and Arkansas was third.
SEC predicted order of finish
1. Alabama (111 first-place votes) 925, 2. LSU (30) 790, 3. Arkansas (23) 717, 4. Mississippi State (1) 455, 5. Auburn 406, 6. Ole Miss (2) 214
1. South Carolina (114) 931, 2. Georgia (38) 794, 3. Florida (12) 731, 4. Tennessee (2) 496, 5. Kentucky (1) 340, 6. Vanderbilt 215
1. Alabama (98), 2. LSU (29), Arkansas (18), South Carolina (14), Georgia (4), Florida (2), Ole Miss (2)