JaCoby Stevens will wear LSU’s coveted No. 7; Chris Curry, Damone Clark will wear No. 18

LSU has a new No. 7 and two No. 18s.

The coveted No. 7 jersey, worn by the player considered to be the team’s top playmaker, will be worn by safety JaCoby Stevens — a player who elected to return for his senior year and has recently been at the lead of the team’s social justice demonstrations against racism.

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Running back Chris Curry and linebacker Damone Clark will both wear No. 18, a number that is a sign of leadership.

Multiple players wearing the number has become a tradition under LSU coach Ed Orgeron. In 2017, former defensive lineman Christian LaCouture and fullback J.D. Moore were the first LSU players to both wear the number.

The instance will now happen a third time. Last year, center Lloyd Cushenberry and outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson both wore No. 18.

Stevens, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound Tennessee native, will switch from the No. 3 jersey he wore when he started at free safety in all of LSU’s games during its 2019 national championship season.

Star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was awarded the number during the offseason, but the number became available when the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner opted out of the upcoming season and declared for the 2021 NFL draft.

Stevens was thought to be a candidate to wear No. 18. He emerged as one of the team’s leaders last season, and, after he decided to return for his final year, he was involved in several community actions.

He filled sandbags before a storm hit Baton Rouge, recommended LSU players register to vote in the wake of national protests against racial inequality, and urged people to wear masks in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Stevens helped organize the football team’s peaceful march through campus in early September, assisted in the school’s Hurricane Laura relief effort and spoke in front of the majority of LSU’s athletes and coaches when they marched together last week in solidarity for racial justice.

“These issues existed before I was born — before all of us were born — and they exist now,” Stevens said earlier this month. “The best thing we can do is try to fight and change it.”

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Stevens was also one of LSU’s top defensive playmakers in 2019, and he’s expected to lead a secondary that will once again be active in new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini’s 4-3 scheme.

Second on the team in tackles (92) and sacks (5), Stevens recorded nine tackles for loss, three interceptions and six pass breakups last season, when he was a three-time SEC Defensive Player of the Week and named second team All-SEC.

More All-American have worn No. 7 at LSU than any other number: Bert Jones (QB, 1972); Trev Faulk (LB, 2001); Ali Highsmith (LB, 2007); Patrick Peterson (CB, 2009); Tyrann Mathieu (CB, 2011); Leonard Fournette (RB, 2015); Grant Delpit (S, 2018-19).

Before Curry saw significant playing time, he gained fame behind the scenes as a wrecking ball. Orgeron has compared the 5-foot-11, 216-pound sophomore to former NFL star Marshawn Lynch on multiple occasions. Curry showed his strength publicly when he steamrolled a teammated in LSU’s 2019 spring game.

Curry started against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Peach Bowl semifinal, in place of starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who suffered a hamstring injury during bowl practice. Curry was the game’s leading rusher with 16 carries for 90 yards.

“Every run was exciting,” Curry said then. “Like, ‘Oh man, it’s right here.’ Boom. I’m trying to make everybody feel me, lay heavy on everybody.”

On Tuesday, Orgeron named LSU’s running backs when he was asked the strengths of the team. Curry, who has 46 carries for 191 yards in his career, is expected to split carries with sophomores John Emery and Tyrion Davis-Price, plus true freshman Tre Bradford.

“I feel confident about our running backs,” Orgeron said. “These guys are showing us some physicality, some ability to make people miss, catching the ball out of the backfield.”

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Clark, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound junior, has been a breakout linebacker in the waiting. As a true freshman, Clark backed up and learned from former Butkus Award winner Devin White, and, last season, Clark ranked sixth on the team in tackles even though he was backing up former starters Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen, both now in the NFL.

Clark, a Southern Lab graduate, is considered a thumper, a linebacker Orgeron has indicated will be a force in LSU’s defensive front. He was given 100 percent practice grades during the 2019 preseason, prompting presumptive praise from Orgeron.

“I’m telling you now, Damone Clark is a guy you’ve got to watch,” Orgeron said then. “He’s coming.”

Clark recorded 50 total tackles, four tackles for loss and 3½ sacks, and, when he started at outside linebacker in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, he recorded five tackles.

Scott Rabalais and Wilson Alexander contributed to this report.

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