But before Les Miles and the Tigers invade AT&T Stadium in Arlington to battle TCU, TSD will get you ready by tackling a question a day for seven straight days surrounding the shape of LSU's team entering the Aug. 31 opener.
Saturday – Which freshmen will make an impact on defense in the opener?
Sunday – Can LSU's new-look offensive line gel in time for kickoff?
Monday – How will LSU be different in 2013 than 2012?
Today's Question: Which players will provide secondary depth and be involved in nickel and dime packages?
The starters in the defensive backfield at this point are set in stone. Sophomore Jalen Mills will be LSU's lead corner while Jalen Collins, a redshirt sophomore, has held off all challengers through spring and fall camps to maintain the role of second starting cornerback. In the back junior Ronald Martin will accompany redshirt senior Craig Loston as the Tigers' two starting safeties.
It's what – and who – comes after those four, though, that's the subject of today's question.
The common thread in the answer of who's next in the LSU secondary is youth. Of all the players competing for time in nickel and dime packages, all of them are freshmen or sophomores by classification. At CB there's Derrick Raymond (R-Fr.), Dwayne Thomas (R-Fr.) and Tre'Davious White (Fr.). At S there's Micah Eugene (R-So.), Corey Thompson (So.) and Rickey Jefferson (Fr.).
According to Mills at player interviews yesterday, the rotation for LSU's nickel and dime packages in 2013 is simpler than it was a year ago and will involve less shifting inside for him. Mills indicated that Eugene, who compiled 29 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and three PBUs in 2012, will sub in as the nickel back while Thomas, who was recently granted a redshirt for last season, has been the guy lining up in the slot as LSU's dime back during Fall Camp.
That would certainly represent a change from last fall, when Mills, who was LSU's second corner, rotated inside for almost all of LSU's nickel and dime sets with Collins backfilling his spot on an island. Now that Collins himself is a starting CB and with Tharold Simon gone to the NFL, it appears John Chavis and DB coach Corey Raymond are content not moving their No. 1 guy – Mills – in and out so often.
There's not much doubt Eugene can handle the role of nickel back. He spent a good bit of time in 2012 guarding slot receivers and blitzing in from the perimeter as a gunner. Through spring ball and Fall Camp, Eugene also lined up at corner as much as he did at safety. His versatility and experience make him a no-brainer for the role as LSU's fifth defensive back.
The jury may still be out, though, on Thomas, who's been battling primarily with Raymond and White for the sixth DB spot in dime sets. The former O.P. Walker standout lacks the size that Raymond has and the general explosiveness White possesses. But he does seem to have the lead at the moment, per Mills. It would not surprise me in the least if Raymond or White, particularly the latter, make headway in this race by the time the SEC slate rolls around.
No matter how you slice it, none of those three has played a down of college football coming into this week. So there will definitely be some newness on the field when LSU morphs into its six-DB look (raising the question, as I did in this space yesterday, of if Chief will go to as much dime in 2013, especially with all the talented linebackers on hand).
Another thread worth monitoring is the fact that Martin can and will play down in the box himself. Unlike a year ago, when both Loston and Eric Reid were more centerfielders than man-coverage guys, Martin gives LSU's defense an additional coverage option in a starting safety position. Look for him to spend some time closer to the line of scrimmage this fall while Loston hangs back in the deep centerfield role.
As far as depth goes in the secondary, Thompson tops the list of next-in-line at safety. He got his feet wet as a true freshman in 2012, even subbing in briefly during the Alabama game amid a host of injuries. Jefferson is a rung down on the ladder from Thompson but coming quickly. The rookie has enjoyed a great Fall Camp and could eventually prove worthy of playing in the box by season's end. Thompson, however, is better suited to play in the back, not in the box.
The backup corners are the three players listed and discussed above – Raymond, Thomas and White. Even if signee Rashard Robinson is able to clear academically in time to be on the 2013 team, it's likely he'll come in behind this trio and could even take a redshirt with how much time he's already missed.