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Insider

Countdown to camp: Subs in the secondary

7/26/2012

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:

The basics of LSU's secondary are pretty obvious.

Monstrous cornerback Tharold Simon is going to start on one side of the Tigers' defense. Preseason All-SEC safety Eric Reid is going to anchor the last line of defense. If he can keep himself healthy, veteran Craig Loston should hold down the strong safety spot. And fellow All-SEC selection Tyrann Mathieu seems to have an early bead on the other starting corner spot.

Those four are the big names. Who comes after them is a bit more fun to debate.

Thanks to a rash of transfers from Ronnie Vinson, Sam Gibson and David Jenkins, the Tigers are dealing with significantly less depth in the secondary than they're accustomed to.

That's not to say there isn't talent. We saw youngsters like Jalen Collins and Micah Eugene get plenty of work with the first and second teams during spring football. The word about the pair since as far back as December bowl practice is they are ready to contribute at a high level.

Eugene is likely the first man up at safety if Loston can't stay healthy, as he practiced there all spring before missing the spring game. Collins is likely the No. 3 corner -- he started with mixed results for the Tigers' purple team in the spring game, going against Zach Mettenberger and the starting receivers.

It remains to be seen if Collins or fellow safety/corner backup Ronald Martin has a shot to earn a starting corner spot, freeing up Mathieu to continue his role as a blitzing nickelback.

If not, there's no shortage of speedsters who can fill the nickel role. Martin played sparingly as a true freshman after injuries sidelined Reid. There's also an opening at dimeback, the role that Ron Brooks so successfully converted into an NFL draft pick last year.

There aren't anywhere near as many veterans in the 2012 secondary as last year, but perhaps one of the few old hats like Rockey Duplessis could find playing time in a supporting role, similar to Brooks.

I mentioned him yesterday, but with as many as six defensive backs seeing playing time for the Tigers, it's likely that 2012 signee Dwayne Thomas will have a chance to make an impact. Thomas is one of three freshman corners coming into the team this fall, along with Derrick Raymond and Jalen Mills. We've seen freshmen earn playing time in the recent past, and that could once again be the case this fall.