LSU opponents might be steering clear of cornerback Morris Claiborne on a regular basis, but he’s still making enough of an impact this season to hang around for a notable national defensive award.
The Jim Thorpe Award Association announced a list of 15 semifinalists Monday and Claiborne was in that group for the award that recognizes the best defensive back in the country each season.
|Claiborne has three interceptions and seven pass breakups to go with 30 tackles this season|
Claiborne was one of seven SEC players in the list of 15. Peterson claimed the Thorpe award last season and Tennessee safety Eric Berry won it the year before.
As a junior, the 6-foot, 185-pound Shreveport native has blossomed into one of the top cover cornerbacks in the country. He stepped into the role vacated by Patrick Peterson, the No. 5 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and has for the most part forced opposing quarterbacks to look elsewhere when they go airborne.
When QBs have come Claiborne’s way, he’s made them pay with three interceptions – two against Mississippi State to help fuel a stifling defensive performance and another against Tennessee that he returned 89 yards and lit a fuse for the Tigers.
Besides the picks, Claiborne has also broken up four other passes and has recorded 30 tackles.
With Claiborne effectively taking away a side of the field, fellow cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Tyrann Mathieu have gotten plenty of opportunities in pass coverage. Simon has nine pass breakups in seven games and Mathieu has been able to roam as the nickel back and deliver one big play after another.
Alabama safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick are also on the semifinalist list.
The 2011 winner will be revealed on Dec. 8 as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards in Orlando, Fla.