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Countdown to camp: Tough act to follow

7/12/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

Ron Cooper was steadily preparing LSU defensive backs for NFL futures. Think Patrick Peterson. Think Morris Claiborne.

So it was only fair that Cooper got a chance to go to the NFL too when he left his job as LSU's secondary coach in February to take the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Corey Raymond, the former LSU player and assistant coach, was lured back to Baton Rouge from Bo Pelini's Nebraska staff to replace Cooper. And make no mistake, he's got some serious work to do to keep the ball rolling.

Raymond's resume is solid. After playing at LSU from 1988-91, he had a six-year NFL career and coached at both New Iberia (La.) Senior High (his alma mater) and cross-town rival New Iberia/Westgate before coming to LSU as an intern in 2006. He served two years at Utah State coaching corners, then a year under Pelini, before getting the call to come home.

So when one checks Raymond's resume, you see strong Louisiana high school ties for recruiting, major college secondary coaching experience and some NFL playing experience. Plus you see what he inherits -- Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid would be good starting points for any secondary coach -- and it looks like things are in good shape.

But look just beneath the surface and you see where the new secondary coach has some work cut out for him.

Start with the departure of Claiborne and safety Brandon Taylor to the NFL, coupled with the off-season departure of three underclassmen -- safety-corner Ronnie Vinson, safety Sam Gibson and cornerback David Jenkins -- to transfers and all of a sudden, there is some noteworthy attrition.

Sure, the Tigers replaced Peterson with little trouble. Sure, safeties seem to grow on trees on the LSU campus. But you can't assume that will always be the case.

Part of the reason why the underclassmen left is they were outplayed in the springs by the likes of cornerback Jalen Collins and safeties Micah Eugene and Ronald Martin. But the Tigers are a couple of key injuries away from relying heavily on unproven players. Meaning Raymond has some serious coaching to do in camp.

And through it all, Raymond will have the unenviable task of, at least from the outside, being compared to the man he replaced. Cooper was looked at as one of the nation's premier DB coaches (he was named DB coach of the year by FootballScoop.com). If the secondary doesn't play to a remarkably high level, some will automatically blame it on a coaching downgrade.

So welcome to LSU, Corey Raymond, for one of the best places for a defensive backs coach to work. And welcome, Mr. Raymond, to one of the toughest acts to follow for an assistant coach.