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Insider

Young DBs step up with loss of Mathieu

8/12/2012

After all his contributions, it's easy to forget that Tyrann Mathieu was once an unheralded true freshman. His dismissal from LSU's roster leaves the Tigers with just one experienced cornerback. It also leaves a massive hole at nickelback -- the spot where the Honey Badger caused the majority of his chaos.

So who takes over in these two spots?

1. CB Jalen Collins: Take a gander at the roster and find a better replacement cornerback than Collins -- there isn't one. The Olive Branch, Miss., native is only a redshirt freshman with no in-game experience, but that makes him the second-most experienced corner on the team behind Tharold Simon. The rest of LSU's corners are straight from high school. Collins impressed last spring, but he was picked on often during the team's spring game in April. On a defense this talented, he'll be the weak link by default, but the Tigers have a good history of youngsters stepping up.

2. S Ronald Martin: One of the few young defensive backs on the team with playing experience. Martin filled in late last fall when injuries sidelined Eric Reid and Craig Loston. Miles pointed to a number of different spots from which he could pull his next nickelback, and we've seen safeties play this role in John Chavis' defense before -- Danny McCray comes to mind.

3. LB Lamar Louis: With the Tigers' amount of incoming talent, Miles mentioned at LSU's media day that one of his new linebackers could grab a spot as a nickelback. Louis gets the nod here for multiple reasons. First, he enrolled in school in January and has had a full spring of practice in addition to a full summer of conditioning. He's got a head start on most of his competition. Second, he's slightly undersized at 6-foot, 220 pounds, and he was athletic enough to play running back in high school. The position calls for speed, which could give Louis an advantage.

4. CB Dwayne Thomas: If you believe the hype coming out of high school, Thomas is good enough to step in and factor out wide as a true cornerback. That wouldn't be that surprising, since Tharold Simon accomplished the feat as a freshman in 2010. If not, Thomas could have a say at either nickel or dimeback. It would certainly be fitting, since Thomas sports the same number -- No. 13 -- as departed corner Ron Brooks, who excelled as a dimeback in 2011.

5. S Corey Thompson: At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, the freshman passes the eye test. The Missouri City, Texas, native said at media day that he's still coping with the faster pace and deeper playbook at the college level. But he has looked impressive in the limited glimpses reporters have been allowed this fall.