FARGO — Former North Dakota State linebacker Jabril Cox hasn’t played a game at Louisiana State, the defending Division I FBS national champion, but he’s already earned respect around the Southeastern Conference.
Cox was named to the preseason All-SEC second-team defense at linebacker earlier this week as voted on by the media. He won three FCS national championships with the Bison before transferring to LSU this past offseason. He’s focused on showing he belongs in arguably the top conference in college football.
“I just felt I had to prove myself coming from a smaller school and going into the SEC,” Cox said during a recent virtual interview. “It’s a different ballgame. They’re going to be a lot of doubters, a lot of people saying ‘He’s not ready.’”
(Below is a highlight package for Cox, while he played at NDSU):
Cox is set to take the field for the first time with the Tigers at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, when LSU hosts Mississippi State to start the regular season. It will be televised on CBS.
“Jabril Cox has been phenomenal," LSU head coach Ed Oregeron said on his radio show earlier this week. “He’s very fast. ... He’s already one of the best players on our football team, a great young man.”
The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Cox had 258 tackles, 14 sacks and 32 tackles for a loss in his three seasons with the Bison. NDSU posted a 45-1 record during that span. Now, he’s making the transition from one national champion program to another. LSU went 15-0 last season, including a 42-25 victory against Clemson in the national title game.
Orgeron said Cox has been more action than words during fall camp.
“I’m more of a doer than a sayer,” Cox said. “Coming in, I knew there were already leaders on the team so I wanted to take the backseat and listen to them.”
Cox is listed as one of the team’s three starters at linebacker for LSU’s opener against Mississippi State.
He has familiarity with LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who took over that role this past offseason. Pelini previously was the head coach at Youngstown State, which played against NDSU multiple times during Cox’s three years as a Bison starter.
Pelini runs a 4-3 defensive scheme, similar to what Cox played in at NDSU.
“Pressure was one of our main friends we loved to bring,” Cox said. “Coach (Matt) Entz, he was heavy on defense, just bringing the pressure and blitzes, something that both these squads very much enforce.”
Cox said entering the transfer portal or entering the NFL Draft were two options he started to consider during his final season at NDSU, a 16-0 campaign that ended with a 28-20 victory against James Madison for the FCS national title.
“Going through the 2019 season it was in the back of my mind of either go enter the draft or go into the portal so after the season I had to talk with my family and we felt that the best decision was to enter the portal,” Cox said. “Going into the portal, I never thought LSU, one of the main schools especially winning the championship, would come calling.”
Cox said LSU gave him the vibe of having a family atmosphere, similar to NDSU. That was one of the reasons he decided to play with the Tigers.
“The work ethic, the getting better 1% each day, that’s something that I took from NDSU and brought it here,” Cox said. “If you’re a harder worker, it’s going to go a long way.”
LSU lost three linebackers from last season’s team and all three are in the NFL. K’Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen were first-round picks in this past NFL Draft, while Jacob Phillips was a third-round selection.
“Right there off the bat it was an eye-opening thing for me to see that I could come in and compete and try to win a starting spot,” Cox said.
While some notable college players have decided to opt out of this season due to COVID-19 concerns, Cox said that wasn’t an option for him. LSU star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is an example of a key player that decided to opt out and also declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“I never considered opting out. It’s all in God’s plan and me coming here was a blessing as a whole,” Cox said. “If I would have (opted) out, I wouldn’t have been able to get better at football, I would have been taking the whole year off. Staying and playing football is what I really wanted to do.”