By LES EAST
September 07, 2012
One of the most commonly asked questions before LSU’s season opener was how the Tigers’ young defensive backs would handle their responsibilities.
True freshman Jalen Mills started at cornerback, and when he moved to nickelback, redshirt freshman Jalen Collins played corner.
Sophomore Ronald Martin, who played sparingly last season, and redshirt freshman Micah Eugene are on the second team at safety.
As it turned out, none of the young defensive backs were responsible for any major breakdowns in the 41-14 victory against North Texas on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Surprisingly, junior free safety Eric Reid, the only returning starter in the secondary and one of LSU’s best players, was apparently responsible for the two big breakdowns: touchdown passes of 80 and 15 yards.
Reid took the blame for both plays after the game.
“I personally can get better,” Reid said. “We just need to get back to the drawing board and make sure we get better in coverage. We just have to stay focused, and I have to get better.”
Reid and the youngsters will face a greater challenge from Washington’s passing attack this weekend in Tiger Stadium.
“We know they can throw the ball,” Reid said.
“I know we can make those corrections and improvements. We’ll go back into practice and I’ll be ready.”
Coach Les Miles seemed unconcerned about Reid, who also made an interception.
“I know the guy who made the mistakes,” Miles said, “and he’s very correctable.”
Copeland gets carries
Running back has been one of the deepest positions on LSU’s team for the past two seasons, but who knew fullback J.C. Copeland could contribute as a ball carrier?
Copeland, a converted defensive lineman who weighs about 270 pounds, has played almost exclusively as a bruising blocker for two years, carrying just twice for no yards coming into this season. Against the Mean Green, though, he had four carries for 33 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown.
“Our big fullback is a load,” Miles said, “and he got in there pretty good.”
Boone breaks out
Wide receivers James Wright and Kadron Boone have been used primarily as blockers during their first two seasons, but Wright figures to be a more frequent passing target this season as he starts at the position Rueben Randle had last year.
On Saturday, though, Boone had a greater impact than Wright as a receiver, grabbing a 34-yard TD from Zach Mettenberger and finishing with two catches for 46 yards. Wright had two receptions for 15 yards.
The Tigers made five trips inside the red zone Saturday, but scored on only three of those possessions, as Mettenberger threw an interception from the 7 and Drew Alleman missed a 30-yard field goal.
That’s half as many failed red-zone trips as LSU had all of last season when it scored on 57 of 61 red-zone possessions.
Punt return roll
Odell Beckham Jr.’s 70-yard punt return for a first-quarter touchdown gave the Tigers a punt return for a touchdown for the third time in the last four games dating to last season. Tyrann Mathieu had punt returns for touchdowns in the regular-season finale against Arkansas and in the Southeastern Conference Championship victory against Georgia. LSU was shut out by Alabama in the BCS title game.