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March 31, 2012

Learning day for young defensive backs

LSU's has been quite effective in the past two seasons with its 'Mustang package.'

In that personnel grouping, the Tigers employ six defensive backs. LSU lost three of its top six secondary performers from last season - cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety Brandon Taylor and dime back Ron Brooks.

There are only four returning defensive backs with some significant playing time under their belt - cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and safeties Eric Reid and Craig Loston. So, obviously, some young defensive backs must come to the forefront for the Tigers' nickel and dime schemes.

The young cornerbacks - redshirt freshmen Jalen Collins and David Jenkins - received quite a workout going against the deep passes of Zach Mettenberger in the spring game Saturday afternoon. Both Collins and Jenkins were victims of deep Mettenberger passes.

The veteran LSU defensive players understand the importance of the development of the young secondary members.

"The coaches have been on (young defensive backs) pretty hard," said Reid, who returned a Stephen Rivers interception 55 yards for a touchdown. "We need them for our depth. We need at least one of them for our Mustang package."

Wide receiver Odell Beckham, who had receptions of 49 and 53 yards, feels that the young cornerbacks will come around.

"It's hard to go against the defensive backs and it's hard for the defensive backs to go against us," Beckham said. "We know their tendencies just like they know ours. Today, the receivers got the best of them."

Collins did break up two passes and made three tackles after being victimized twice for pass completions of 49 and 54 yards. Jenkins, who gave up a 19-yard scoring pass to Russell Shepard, had one pass breakup and two tackles.

One reason coach Les Miles wanted to throw the ball downfield was to test the young members in the secondary.

"We wanted to throw the ball deep because that's what we are going to do," Miles said. "But, we also wanted to test our young defensive backs. We got after those young guys, but that's what we're supposed to do."

Miles spoke positively about Collins and listed him as the top backup at cornerback at the end of spring practice.

"Jalen has had better scrimmages, but he needed that today," Miles said. "His response (to getting beaten deep) was pretty good. I thought at the back end of the scrimmage Jalen really came to play.

"Jalen will respond to getting beaten. Every cornerback gets beaten, including Patrick Peterson. His abilities are going to be there. Right now, he's our third corner."

Miles also thought some incoming freshmen could challenge for playing time in the secondary.

"There are some secondary guys coming in who may play," Miles said. "They may have watched today and saw that they may have a chance to play next year."

Sophomore Ronald Martin, one of the young safeties, made a game-high eight tackles and intercepted a Mettenberger pass. Micah Eugene, a redshirt freshman safety who played with the No. 1 defense, made four tackles.

Each of the three veteran defensive backs broke up at least one pass - two for Mathieu and one each for Reid and Simon. Loston didn't play due to an ankle injury.

The two true freshman linebackers - Ronnie Feist and Lamar Louis combined for 12 tackles. Feist had seven tackles, including 1 behind the line of scrimmage. Louis, who had five tackles, returned a deflected Mettenberger pass 74 yards for a touchdown.

Among the defensive linemen, both Ego Ferguson (Purple) and Bennie Logan (White) had five tackles. Linebackers D.J. Welter (Purple) and Lamin Barrow (White) each had five tackles.

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