By Morgan Prewitt
As the 2015 football season approaches, the DIG Sports staff decided to take a look back and rank the top ten LSU players of the Les Miles era (2005-present). The Tigers have had 64 players drafted into the NFL with Miles at the helm, and the program led all schools with 38 former players on active NFL rosters during the opening weekend of the 2014 season.
From quarterbacks to cornerbacks and several positions in between, our list starts off with a member of the secondary who helped solidify LSU’s reputation as “Defensive Back University” aka “DBU.”
No. 10 Eric Reid
Career Highlight: Interception in the 2011 Alabama game.
Eye-Popping Stat: Recorded six tackles, including a tackle for a six-yard loss, and recovered a fumble along with his game-changing interception in the Alabama 2011
NFL draft: 2013 / Round: 1 / Pick: 18 / San Francisco 49ers
It’s November 5, 2011. The top-ranked Tigers are tied 6-6 at No. 2 Alabama with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the “Game of the Century.”
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron lines up as a receiver in the wildcat, and wide receiver Marquis Maze takes the direct snap in the shotgun on LSU’s 28 yard-line.
Maze drops back before chucking it deep to wide-open tight end Michael Williams. LSU safety Eric Reid spots the blown coverage, runs Williams down and wrestles the ball free for an interception on the one yard line, giving the Tigers the spark they needed to defeat the Tide 9-6 in Tuscaloosa.
Although the interception alone immortalized him as a Tiger legend, Reid earned his place among LSU’s long line of hard-hitting safeties, such as LaRon Landry and Chad Jones, and anchored the defense with his leadership throughout his career with the Tigers.
After stepping into a starting role in the last three regular season games of his freshman season, Reid started 26 out of the next 27 games during the next two seasons, missing only the 2011 regular season finale against Arkansas due to injury.
Reid consistently dominated the center of the field with his speed, physicality and old school mental approach to the position. His ability to challenge wide receivers in coverage and step up to stop the run helped fuel LSU’s defensive dominance during Reid’s time in Baton Rouge.
Reid, along with First-Team All-American defensive backs Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, Morris “Mo” Claiborne and safety Brandon Taylor formed the most talented secondary in college football history.
Reid and Mathieu led the NFL talent laden secondary with 76 tackles apiece while the group as a whole tallied 274 tackles in 2011 season. The Tigers’ defense finished ranked second in the nation in total defense, averaging 261.5 yards allowed per game and only 15 touchdowns in 14 games.
Despite LSU’s defensive struggles in the Tigers’ 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, Reid had a career night with a team-leading 11 tackles.
After Claiborne and Taylor left for NFL Draft and Mathieu was dismissed from the program in August 2012, the responsibility of leading the secondary fell to Reid, who embraced it wholeheartedly.
Reid was voted a permanent captain by his teammates in 2012 and his new leadership role showed on the field as he increased his production. In 2012, Reid finished third on the team in tackles with 91 and second in passes defended with nine after notching just eight in his first two seasons.
Previous members of the LSU secondary, such as Patrick Peterson, Mathieu, and Claiborne had captured the postseason accolades for the past two years, but it was Reid’s turn in 2012.
The Geismar, Louisiana, native was named a First-Team All-American by the AFCA Coaches and other organizations. Reid also earned First-Team All-SEC honors for the first time in his career in 2012.