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Notebook: Loston embracing switch

3/15/2012

BATON ROUGE -- With All-American Eric Reid locking down the free safety spot, Craig Loston understands why there will be a position change.

The junior, now three years removed from committing to LSU as the nation's top safety, is finally looking at a starting position with the Tigers, although that requires he move across the defensive formation to strong safety.

Disappointing as that might be for most players, halfway through the spring session, Loston is just happy for an opportunity to see the field more often. Although he is the Tigers' most experienced returning safety (apart from Reid), Loston said he isn't taking that chance for granted.

"I still have to work like I'm not [the starter]," he said. "I need to make sure I'm doing the things I need to do to hold off everybody else and help the team."

That would be an encouraging sign for LSU coaches and fans. When Loston enrolled in school, many thought there was a chance he could contribute immediately. However, injuries have limited him during his career. He received a medical redshirt for his true freshman season following a wrist injury, and other hangups have kept him off the field during his career. Loston also said he missed time during the BCS Championship because of knocks to his ribs.

"Different injuries, with the surgery on my finger, and I suffered a rib (injury) late in bowl practice ... I tried to play through it, but it just wasn't happening -- too much pain," he said.

That could be one of the big differences between this season and others. Moving toward the end of the third week of spring ball, Loston has yet to find himself limited by injuries.

"I'm healthy and I'm trying to stay healthy. I'm trying to make sure I stay that way going into this year. That's my main key is to make sure I stay out of the green jersey," he said.

If he is to take over for departed senior Brandon Taylor at strong safety, Loston has to handle the transition in responsibilities that come with it. That might be a challenge, since Loston gained his five-star reputation in high school partly because of the ballhawking opportunities that the free safety spot afforded him.

"It's more that you're around the big guys a lot (at strong safety)," he said. "You play closer to the line mostly and you end up covering more as a strong safety. That's the big difference."

Loston said the new position still affords him some freedom to go after balls, but at the SEC level, it requires much more caution.

"You've got to pick when you want to do it, and if you do pick it, you want to make sure you're right," he said. "That's one difference from here and high school. In high school you can gamble a little bit more because there's nothing really to sacrifice. On this level you can't really gamble, so you've got to make sure you're doing the right thing."

Landry progressing: With the continued focus on the improvements in the Tigers' passing game, LSU finds itself with a plethora of talented receivers hoping to stand out. Among them is sophomore Jarvis Landry, who made a name for himself by delivering bone-jarring hits on special teams last fall.

That aggression seems to have carried over to the spring season, as Landry has earned himself the nickname "Pit" for his pitbull-like feistiness during training.

"[Russell Shepard] came up with that because of my knack to be aggressive all the time -- especially on offense," Landry said. "Being a receiver, you don't find too many receivers that are physical."

Because the Tigers involved so few receivers in the passing attack in 2011, Landry and all of his fellow underclassmen entered the spring still needing to prove their abilities. The lack of proven commodities seems to be leading to some strong competition.

"We all possess the same traits, so I leave it up to the coaches to put me in position to make plays and do the things that I do well," Landry said.

Tigers not much for March Madness: On a day where it seems the world stands still for college basketball, there was not much love for the NCAA tournament Thursday at the LSU football facility.

Of about half a dozen players asked, not a one said he filled out a bracket for the tournament. Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu came the closest by saying he "might or might not have" completed a bracket -- he couldn't remember.

Defensive end Barkevious Mingo said he probably wouldn't pay attention until the Final Four.

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger didn't fill out a bracket, but he at least had a winner in mind.

"I don't watch too much basketball, because we're [at practice most of the time]," he said. "Duke is going to win, though."

So much for March Madness.