Goal for Tigers’ decorated DBs: keep getting better
HOOVER, Ala. — When LSU took its turn at Southeastern Conference Media Days, the secondary was a second thought.
Much of the focus was on Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers’ starting quarterback with all of 11 passes to his name. A throng of reporters and cameras surrounded him, while in the opposite corner, safety Eric Reid held court with a much smaller group.
Not many questions were asked about LSU’s secondary, because not many questions exist.
Despite the fact that the Tigers only return two starters in the defensive backfield, they’ll enter the season regarded as one of the nation’s top units.
After all, those two returning players are pretty good.
With Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu at cornerback and perhaps the top safety prospect for next year’s NFL draft in Eric Reid, LSU has the right building blocks to withstand the losses of corner Morris Claiborne (a first-round draft pick) and strong safety Brandon Taylor.
Claiborne’s replacement, sophomore Tharold Simon, is already regarded as a top cover man, and coach Les Miles mentions him in the same breath with the secondary’s stars.
“Tyrann Mathieu, Tharold Simon, Eric Reid, those guys will be on certain postseason awards, and (they are) guys that played in big games, been through the gamut in this conference and understand how to make big plays,” Miles said.
No one knows how to do that better than Mathieu, the reigning national defensive player of the year.
In the last two seasons, he has accounted for 14 turnovers — eight fumbles recovered, two fumbles forced and four interceptions. He has also scored four times, twice each on fumble recoveries and punt returns.
That has drawn praise from other coaches and players at the SEC’s media summit, including South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders, who called Mathieu’s knack for finding the ball “unbelievable.”
Mathieu wasn’t around to comment on that himself, as LSU chose to leave its most recognizable player in Baton Rouge, perhaps because of his outspoken nature.
This summer, he made waves with a Twitter spat with Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, of which Miles said, “I can tell you that no game is won on a Twitter page.”
Mathieu’s personality is just fine with the much quieter Reid, who tied Mathieu for the team lead in tackles (76) and is happy to let his counterpart do most of the talking.
“I’m not a big vocal guy. He’s definitely our vocal leader,” Reid said. “He gets everybody excited, and when he makes a play, it’s almost immediate that somebody else is going to make a big play. We feed off of his emotions and it works well for us.”
Reid will have to get more vocal this year.
With Taylor gone, Reid is somewhat of a field general in the secondary, an especially important job with Simon and strong safety Craig Loston debuting as starters.
“I have to step into a role of getting everybody lined up,” Reid. “I have to make sure everything is prepared, because as long as we’re on the same page, we’ll be fine. That’s what coach says.”
Indeed, there isn’t much worry of a collapse in the LSU secondary.
After allowing just seven passing touchdowns last year, Reid says the goal is simple.
“Mastering your craft,” he said.