Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Mills' suspension adds uncertainty at safety
By David Ching
Safety already ranked among the most unproven positions on LSU’s roster. Jalen Mills' arrest and indefinite suspension on Wednesday only adds to the uncertainty.
Mills was arrested early Wednesday and charged with second-degree battery in connection with an incident last month in which he allegedly punched a woman in the mouth at a Baton Rouge apartment complex. Certainly, Tigers coach Les Miles will allow the legal process to play out before determining Mills’ long-term punishment -- if punishment is necessary once all the facts are in -- but this summer just became enormously important for LSU’s crop of young safeties.
The suspension of junior safety Jalen Mills means a talented but unproven freshman DB class might have to make a significant impact for LSU this fall.
Jamal Adams -- ESPN’s No. 2 safety and No. 18 overall prospect in the 2014 recruiting class -- is the name most LSU fans have circled as the Tigers’ next great safety. Adams, fellow ESPN 300 prospect Devin Voorhies and three-star signee John Battle will attempt to learn the ropes at a position that has plenty of candidates, but little on-field production.
Even during spring practice, Miles was unwilling to name a starter at the position because of the talent who had yet to join the roster.
“I don’t think that decision will be made until the freshman class comes in. We’ll be in two-a-days and kind of decide who the best guys are,” Miles said in March.
Mills led LSU’s defensive backs with 67 tackles and three interceptions last season and has started all 26 games of his college career. The rising junior shifted to safety at the end of the 2013 season to address depth issues that arose when the Tigers suffered a spate of injuries at the position.
The good news for LSU is that those injured safeties -- senior Ronald Martin (38 tackles, one INT) and junior Corey Thompson (23 tackles) -- should be back when the Tigers open camp in August.
Martin started seven games last season and seemed to be in line to reclaim a starting job during spring practice. Thompson -- who started five of his last six games before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Texas A&M -- missed the spring while recovering from the injury.
Sophomore Rickey Jefferson (six tackles) will also figure into the competition after getting a crash course at the position late last fall.
Everyone expected Mills to provide some stability at safety after 2013 senior Craig Loston left the roster. Perhaps Mills will still do that, depending on what happens with his legal case. But since his future remains cloudy for now, veterans like Martin and Thompson have to take charge and be prepared to possibly take over starting jobs while the freshmen settle into their new surroundings.
“It’ll be interesting to see the young guys come in, make a name for themselves,” Thompson said during the spring. “It’ll be fine. We’ll all get together and work out, do some drills together and get into fall camp, teach the young guys how to do it and they’ll be good from there.”