By seeing 14 of their players from the historic 2019 team selected in the 2020 NFL draft, the entire LSU coaching staff is certainly enjoying the fruits of their most recent labor.
LSU CB coach and Recruiting Coordinator Corey Raymond has seen a number of his defensive backs selected in recent years, including players such as Tre’Davious White, Donte Jackson, Greedy Williams and many more. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find another cornerbacks coach in college with a more impressive track record as of late.
The crown jewel of his 2020 group was Kristian Fulton, the 61st overall pick now entrusted by the Tennessee Titans to help a secondary that desperately needed to find a quality cornerback in this draft.
Fulton’s story is one of triumph, but it isn’t told without turmoil. Fulton was suspended for the 2017 season, and it was up to him to take full advantage of his second opportunity.
In our exclusive conversation, coach Raymond digs deep on Fulton, both as a player and a man.
JM: 2019 was Kristian’s senior season. He was one of the leaders of your defense. I spoke to him throughout this draft process, and he told me that he learned how far maturity can take you during LSU’s triumph to an undefeated National Championship. What was your take on his mentality this year and how he approached things?
CR: He pulled it together. He was the only senior in our room. He did well. I’m very proud of how he conducted himself this past season. He worked incredibly hard. One thing about Kristian, he’s not much of a talker. He’s a worker. He’s more of a do’er than anything. He’s not gonna tell you, he’s gonna show you. His effort is how he proves it to you.
JM: What can you tell me about his work ethic and how he prepares?
CR: The way he likes to prepare for a game is by studying a lot of tape. It goes back to his effort level. He’s a big student of the game. He wants to know and understand the defense. He comes off as a bit of a quiet kid, but he’s always working hard. He’s not a talker, he’s a worker.
JM: You’ve coached so many excellent defensive backs throughout your coaching career. What comes to mind when the name Kristian Fulton comes up within the history of the other players that you’ve coached?
CR: He’s one of the best off-ball cornerbacks I’ve ever had. We’ve had a lot of them, but he’s one of the best I’ve ever had to play off-man. He’s very good at that. He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached within that faucet of the game. I’ve had some really good ones, but he’s that good at playing off coverage. He’s very good at diagnosing combination routes. Even in press coverage, his anticipation is very good.
A thread on the #Titans selections of Kristian Fulton (@Kriss1_) & Darrynton Evans (@ItzLiveee). I give the Titans an A+ for these picks. I got to have some excellent discussions with both of these players a few weeks ago. Let's take a deep dive into my impressions of them....— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) April 25, 2020
JM: I find that interesting. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but he told me that you guys played man coverage about 90% of the time.
CR: That is correct. We played a lot of match-up coverage.
JM: Schematically, did you ask him to shadow certain receivers, or did you just line up and play?
CR: We shadowed receivers. We used to just line up and play, but we did a lot more match-up things within our defense as the year went on. We wanted to shadow certain players. It just depended on the match-up level of who we were going up against.
JM: What sort of factors helped you determine who Fulton played on?
CR: We tried to match him up with the quicker, faster receivers more-so than the taller, big-bodied receivers. Fulton is very quick. He’s a quicker cornerback that can really run. That’s who we matched him up against.
My favorite thing about LSU CB Kristian Fulton is his speed defending vertical routes. Here's a compilation of him matching up with the fastest player in the draft, Henry Ruggs #Titans pic.twitter.com/S7QqxOp55X— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) April 25, 2020
JM: He was suspended for the 2017 season for an error in judgment. What was his attitude like during the suspension? Did you see a change in him?
CR: He was very regretful for that mistake. He didn’t stop coming to practice. He didn’t stop working his butt off. It was hard on him. I had to coach him every day. It was more of a life lesson for him than anything. He learned that you can make a mistake that can really cost you. He had to get ready for his second chance. We all knew that he’d get another chance. We tried to convey that to him and keep his spirits up. His work ethic and level never wavered. He just had to take advantage of his second chance when it came.
JM: He certainly did that. The Tennessee Titans will likely ask him to play in the slot. They love to blitz from that position as well. How does he fit that role in your opinion?
CR: I love that fit. Before his suspension, he was actually slated to play in the slot for us. He was going to be our nickel corner that season. We had Donte Jackson, Greedy Williams and a couple of other guys that were going to play on the outside for us. We had tentative plans for Fulton to be our nickel.
JM: That’s a great tidbit. He played outside for you in 2019, but you do see him as a fit to play that nickel role?
CR: Absolutely. He can do both. Trust me on this one. By the time he’s finished, he’s going to be great at playing both inside and outside. He’s going to do very well in that spot for the Titans. I liked his ability to play both outside and inside.
JM: I love that. How do you like the overall landing spot for him with the Titans?
CR: I thought that was a good place for him. I’m well educated on how they like to play and the different combinations of coverages within their defense. I’m very familiar with what they do on defense and I think it fits who he is as a cornerback. We watch a lot of NFL tape. I’ve seen what the Titans do within their scheme and I think it fits him incredibly well. The Titans were the perfect landing spot for him.
JM: You mentioned that your game-plan on defense often asked him to cover the quicker receivers.
CR: He did it extremely well for us. He understands how to work his leverage and he can run with the best of them. He understands the different levels that come associated with that. He can read the quarterback as well.
Earlier you mentioned that the Titans like to blitz from their nickel corner spot. I noticed that on tape as well. That’s another thing about Fulton, he was a very good blitzer when he had him in the slot. I didn’t answer that question earlier but he’s definitely a guy that can blitz. His understanding of route combinations and formations is really going to help him. He does what he does because he studies a lot.
Kristian Fulton Positives:— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) April 25, 2020
+ Great confidence, never panics
+ Outstanding at locating and closing when the ball is in the air
+ NCAA best 20 forced incompletions
+ 44.9% comp rate allowed in throws to his coverage
+ Played a ton of press man in college, very comfortable there
JM: That’s great to hear. Were you surprised that he was still available late into the second round? I know I was.
CR: Yeah, that was very shocking to me. I didn’t really understand it but some guys see certain things differently. That’s the NFL for you. I can tell you this, everybody that enters the league from LSU has been battle tested. We put them in a lot of stressful positions. The league isn’t too big for any player that came from LSU because they’ve played against great talent. The NFL is of course a step up but we do everything we can to get them ready for that. That’s the reason that LSU players are able to adapt to the league. Fulton will be ready.
JM: We’ll see how things work out, but I feel like getting him with the 61st pick was a steal.
CR: Yeah, the value was incredible there. They’re going to like him a lot in Tennessee. He’s a worker. They’re going to appreciate that. He’s already back to work. He’s preparing himself as we speak.
JM: Assuming he stays healthy, what sort of projection do you see for his pro career?
CR: When you’re having a general conversation about good NFL cornerbacks, Kristian Fulton’s name will be among them. That’s truly what I see in his future. He’s going to be a very good cornerback.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today, coach. You’ve taken a deep dive into Kristian Fulton the player and man with me and I’m thankful for your time and insight. In closing, what was coaching the best college team of all-time like?
CR: It was a once in a lifetime experience (laughs). We accomplished some great things in 2019. Our achievements were a testament to the young men that we had inside of our building. Their attitudes both on and off the field are the reason we accomplished what we did. Kristian Fulton was a big part of that.