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Insider

Young DBs vulnerable? Don't bet on it

9/2/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. -- If you're looking for a vulnerability in No. 3 LSU's defense, you don't have to go much further than the scoring summary of Saturday's 41-14 win over North Texas:

"UNT: Brelan Chancellor 80 pass from Derek Thompson (Olen kick)."

Then, later:

"UNT: Chancellor, 15 pass from Thompson (Olen kick)."

Do the math. LSU lost Morris Claiborne, Ron Brooks, Brandon Taylor and Tyrann Mathieu from last year's secondary. LSU starts a true freshman at cornerback. So the young secondary is blowing coverages and giving up touchdowns, right? They might be in trouble against Keith Price and Washington, right?

Sound theory, except for this fact:

"The two touchdowns were both my fault," said junior pre-season all-American free safety Eric Reid, the one returning starter from last year's Tigers secondary.

"I put us in a bad position and allowed the receivers to get open."

He said he tried to undercut Chancellor's crossing route on the 80-yard touchdown and guessed wrong. It was a similar story on the 15-yarder.

"I need to correct it," he said.

So, if the two touchdowns that accounted for all the points and 95 of the Mean Green's 216 offensive yards, how did the youngsters do?

True freshman Jalen Mills quietly registered four tackles and was not noticeably picked on. Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins played his share of snaps, but didn't register any stats and appeared to have good coverage when North Texas threw at him. New strong safety Craig Loston had six tackles, leading the secondary.

LSU didn't use its nickel and dime packages as much as it usually does, as North Texas often kept tight ends and running backs in the game to protect against the Tigers' dangerous pass rush. So the snaps were limited for some of the young defensive backs as the Tigers played a lot of base 4-3 defense.

Coach Les Miles said he thought Mills covered well.

"He's a real competitive guy," Miles said.

Of the mistakes by Reid, Miles said they are "easily correctable."

A few more observations:

Dinged up: LSU played without all-American punter Brad Wing and running back Spencer Ware, both nursing minor injuries.

Ware was held out of the Tigers' last two scrimmages in August and did not appear Saturday as Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard excelled. Miles said Wing was "nicked" this week at practice so true freshman Jamie Keehn who like Wing hails from Australia, replaced him.

Keehn showed pretty good athleticism when he retrieved a snap from true freshman Reid Ferguson that went through Keehn's hands over his head, then turned around and punted it, rugby style, for 38 yards.

Surprise start: Two of LSU's three preseason all-Americans didn't start. Defensive end Sam Montgomery was replaced by senior Lavar Edwards, but unlike Wing's absence, Montgomery's benching was simply a coaching decision by Miles.

"It was a reflection of Lavar's really improved and ... is working hard at it and really wanted it," Miles said. "We really respected his efforts."

Montgomery played but did not record a statistic. Edwards had a tackle for loss.

No sacks, what gives?: There has been much made of LSU's defensive line and the tandem of Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo at defensive end.

Playing a Sun Belt Conference team Saturday, the Tigers recorded no sacks.

But the stat is misleading as UNT played very conservatively, often keeping base personnel in the game even on passing downs in an effort to have extra blockers.

And the line did create plays. Tackles Anthony Johnson and Bennie Logan batted down passes. Mingo, Johnson, Jermauria Rasco and Edwards had tackles for loss and Mingo and Johnson both were credited with quarterback hurries. So the defensive line had a dominant impact that perhaps was not reflected by sacks.