› Last season: 10-3 (5-3 SEC)
› 2019 opener: Aug. 31 vs. Georgia Southern in Baton Rouge (7:30 p.m.; ESPNU)
› Fun fact: LSU has been to a bowl every season this century and is 12-7 in those games.
› Coming Sunday: Ole Miss
One of the more recent traditions in Southeastern Conference football is LSU awarding its No. 7 jersey to a deserving player.
Long recognized with successful NFL quarterbacks such as Bert Jones, John Elway, Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 7 jersey is not confined by position in Baton Rouge. Former LSU cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu wore No. 7, as did former running back Leonard Fournette and former receiver D.J. Chark within the past several seasons.
This year's recipient is junior safety Grant Delpit, who should fit right in with his elite predecessors.
"Grant is an outstanding football player, and he represents our program in a first-class fashion both on and off the field," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "Grant has worked extremely hard and has continued to develop and be a leader for our football team. He's very deserving of becoming the next LSU player to wear No. 7."
Delpit, who was born and raised in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 forced his family to move to Houston, won last season's Jack Tatum Award as the top defensive back in college football. He led the SEC with five interceptions, finished second in the league with 14 passes defended and wound up amassing 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
The 6-foot-3, 203-pounder compiled so many key plays that recollecting them can be difficult, and that's by design.
"When I make plays, those are like regular things to me, and I'm ready for the next play," Delpit said last week at SEC Media Days. "If I make a tackle for loss, I'm like 'OK, it's third down now.' I know it's going to be hard topping what I did last year, but I've seen guys have great sophomore years and slump as juniors.
"I'm not going to be that guy. I'm going to go out there and give it my all."
Delpit's monster season last year resulted in him becoming the ninth unanimous All-American in program history, placing him among the likes of the legendary Billy Cannon as well as Morris Claiborne, Glenn Dorsey and Peterson.
LSU had the 1-2 punch of Delpit and cornerback Greedy Williams in its secondary last year, but Williams elected to bypass his remaining eligibility and the Cleveland Browns picked him in the second round of the NFL draft in April. The departure of Williams would be significant for most programs but not "DBU," which returns Kristian Fulton, Todd Harris, Eric Monroe, Jacoby Stevens and Kary Vincent, and has added freshman Derek Stingley, who is projected to start at the cornerback spot opposite Fulton.
"I think this is the best group of defensive backs I've ever coached in 35 years," Orgeron said, "and I think Grant Delpit is the best defensive player in the country coming back this year."
Delpit does sense the pressure for the defensive backfield to perform well given the talents of those who have come before, but he also considers that normal.
"We have to uphold the tradition every year," he said. "We can't get timid. We can't get complacent. We have to go out and play our game every week, because the other team is going to give us their best."
LSU is coming off a 10-3 season that was capped by a Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida and included four triumphs over teams in the top 10 at the time. The Tigers lost for the eighth consecutive time to Alabama and dropped a seven-overtime marathon at Texas A&M, but Orgeron appears to have a legitimate top-10 team with its eyes set on moving up.
The schedule includes an early trip to face the Texas Longhorns, and then it's another year in the SEC West in which LSU could battle Auburn and Texas A&M to determine the role of Alabama's chief challenger.
"As a team, I don't think we need any extra motivation," Delpit said. "Those three games that we lost burned a hole in our chests. We've got another big schedule this year, but we're ready for Georgia Southern in game one."
This likely will be Delpit's lone season wearing No. 7 for the Tigers. He is widely projected in current mock drafts as top-10 selection in 2020.
"I can't say that I don't pay attention to those things, because I do," Delpit said. "It's always in my face. When I was a little kid, I would always watch the draft, and now that's about to come through for me.
"At the same time, even though I love the respect, I can't pay attention to it. If I don't make plays this season, all that stuff is out the window."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.