LSU used eight true freshmen in its season opener and 14 in its second game.
Coach Les Miles and his staff took advantage of a 56-17 rout of UAB last week to get a closer look at what’s available from the highly touted incoming class.
“We’re putting a lot of young faces on the field, and that’s good,” said Miles, who has made a habit of that, having played 87 true freshmen in his eight-plus seasons at LSU. “We’re going to need them. Down the road, you get these guys snaps in our stadium, you get them against a quality opponent, live, let the bullets fly, and then we get later in the season, they’ll be able to make plays in the kind of games that we’re going to need them to make plays in so we can win a championship.
“So I enjoy the fact that we’re playing young guys.”
In the 37-27 victory against TCU in the opener, the freshmen who played were cornerback Tre’Davious White, linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, tight end DeSean Smith, offensive lineman Josh Boutte, fullback Melvin Jones and quarterback Anthony Jennings.
All eight played again last week and were joined by these fellow first-timers: defensive ends Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal, cornerback/running back Jeryl Brazil, safety Rickey Jefferson, center Ethan Pocic and cornerback Rashard Robinson.
Robinson’s appearance was especially notable because he had been practicing for only about a week after awaiting approval of his academic record by the NCAA clearinghouse. Cornerback Jalen Mills, who started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, said he wasn’t surprised that Robinson was able to play so quickly.
“He’s a great player,” Mills said.
White received extensive playing time and tied for second on the team with six tackles.
“I watched Tre’Davious White in that game film and saw him make a couple nice tackles, saw that he covered pretty well,” Miles said. “I think he’s a guy that we could look to put into games when it’s important.
“And I think Robinson has the same ability. Here’s a guy that arrived just recently and has the confidence to step out and play in that stadium. I think both of those guys are guys that we can look forward to playing significant snaps as we go forward.”
But, Miles added, the opportunity that White and Robinson had wasn’t an indication of dissatisfaction with Mills or fellow starting cornerback Jalen Collins.
“I just want to get some young corners ready to roll because I realize that, in the games that we’ll need to play, you want to play fresh guys,” he said. “And should those guys come on, I think it’s good to have competition at those corner spots. I’m sure that our corners recognize that it’s not a position that they can afford not to improve on if they expect to play.”
Mills said he’s impressed by the youngsters but doesn’t feel threatened by them.
“You can tell they have confidence in their play,” he said. “They weren’t nervous. They were just ready to go out and show what they could do. They come ready to play, but then again so do I. It’s not as much a competition as a brotherhood.”
The defense allowed all 17 points during the second quarter against UAB when the lineup was a mixture of starters and backups, but it also stopped the Blazers on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 inside the 10 in the fourth quarter, when the unit was comprised strictly of backups.
Six true freshmen made tackles during UAB’s 48-yard drive, which ended at the LSU 7.
“Tre’Davious White got extended playing time, and he performed well,” senior linebacker Lamin Barrow said. “Kendell Beckwith played last week, and he got more paying time this week. Everybody responded well.”
The freshmen were joined by older but relatively inexperienced backups such as junior defensive end Justin Maclin, sophomore linebackers Lamar Louis and Deion Jones and redshirt freshman linebacker Lorenzo Phillips.
“Guys like Lorenzo Phillips ... got more playing time and did a good job,” Barrow said. “Hats off to them.”