LSU is essentially at the midpoint of preseason camp as it returns to the practice field for two workouts Monday.
The Tigers took Sunday off as the coaches digested the film from the team’s first scrimmage Saturday in preparation for cleaning things up on the practice field.
LSU is 12 days removed from the day it reported to camp and 14 days shy of the start of its first game week of the season.
Coach Les Miles said the team is about where teams usually are at this point in camp. The Tigers have gotten in a lot of good work but they have a long way to go to be ready to play a game, which they will do for the first time when they meet North Texas on Sept. 1 in Tiger Stadium.
But there has been one unusual development during the first half of camp, and it will remain a hot topic during the second half.
One position that seemed set in stone during the first week of training camp suddenly has become a competition, one with bright lights shining on it.
The dismissal of All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu last Friday for violating team and university policy has left a starting cornerback position up for grabs. Mathieu’s departure also left a vacancy at punt returner, but it seems that sophomore wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is going to be the primary replacement there.
It’s less clear who will join junior Tharold Simon in the starting cornerback tandem when the season begins. There’s also a trickle-down effect at nickelback that has to be sorted out by the end of the month.
Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins and true freshman Jalen Mills seem to be in a tight battle to succeed Mathieu, and true freshmen Derrick Raymond and Dwayne Thomas also are competing for playing time.
“We’re going to see who is the best (at cornerback),” Miles said after Saturday’s scrimmage.
Miles said the Tigers have multiple options when it comes to nickeback, from where Mathieu made many of his highlight-reel plays during the last two seasons. Last season, Mathieu would move from cornerback to nickelback and Simon came in at corner alongside Morris Claiborne when LSU played its nickel scheme.
It’s possible the Tigers could play a linebacker or a safety at the nickel position and leave Simon and whoever the other starting corner turns out to be on the other side.
“Right now we’re looking at two young guys (at nickelback),” Miles said while choosing not to identify them. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
LSU has two more scrimmages coming up — one on Thursday and another on Aug. 21 —- which will help sort out the secondary situation. He called the process “kind of an ongoing audition.”
Some players are better suited as potential pass rushers and in run support and others are better suited to pass coverage. Miles said he ultimately expects to have a nickelback who will be able to handle all situations.
Miles said the plan to is to put the best players on the field no matter how the pieces might be arranged.
“They’ve got to be football players,” he said.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger said the offense is doing its part to accelerate the development of the young defensive backs, which began with Saturday’s scrimmage.
“We’re looking for the young guys to make plays,” Mettenberger said. “We’ve got kids fresh from high school going against guys like Odell, James Wright, Russell Shepard. It’s a big learning curve.
“We’re going to throw at them and make them make some plays. They need to get in the playbook and learn the plays. There’s not a lot of time to get ready to go. So we’re going to go after them every day to make them better day in and day out.”