One week later in Starkville, the Bayou Bengals were on the same path through 30 minutes – even if the communication was better – but rebounded in the second half, holding Mississippi State to only three points and, in the process, building some confidence in a group that's suddenly featuring a lot more youth.
True freshman Rashard Robinson saw his first significant playing time of the year against State, featuring in nickel sets on an island while starting corner Jalen Mills moved inside to his familiar role from a season ago. At the same time Tre'Davious White, another first-year player, got the nod again at the other starting cornerback spot, and sophomore Corey Thompson made his first career start at strong safety, playing in place of the injured Craig Loston.
Below, Mills and Thompson discuss the state of the LSU secondary and how the group is attempting to gain momentum despite the recent rotating door with personnel.
SAFETY COREY THOMPSON
On the mental state of the secondary … "I feel like we have a chip on our shoulders, and we're using that to get better every week. We played better this past game, and we're going to keep working on reaching our goals and making sure that we play good defense."
On if he does more talking or listening pre-snap … "I've gotta do both. I listen to my coach, look to the sideline and make sure I get the play. Once I get the play, we have to let the offense line up, and then I make a check to the corners and the linebackers."
On if he was more nervous than usual Saturday … "A little bit, but at the same time I realized that I've just got to go out there and play. I've been a starter before, so I know what that's like. It's no different on this level. You've just got to make sure you know what you're doing."
On John Chavis and if he gets louder when the D struggles … "It depends. The Georgia game, it was more like ‘Okay, guys, calm down.' He was teaching and trying to make sure we handled our assignments. This game, he kind of got in our grills a little bit (at halftime), and we came out and shut them out other than three points."
On catching his footing and the game slowing down … "I feel like for me personally, with UAB being my first game, I struggled a little bit. But I got better as the game went on. As I keep playing more and more games, I get more comfortable and feel like I can make more checks and calls and play better out there on the field. (The game) does slow down because mentally you're more prepared for it."
On the young corners paying more … "They learn quickly. Like me, they get better every game. You saw Shaq [White] get his first pick. I'm out there getting more comfortable with the plays and everything, and Rashard's out there too. So it's all good."
On if the plan changes to more man coverage with these youngsters in … "We came out with pretty much the same scheme. We'll run all our plays. We probably ran a little more zone this game, but I feel like we came out and played a better game."
CORNERBACK JALEN MILLS
On enjoying playing more of the run at nickel back … "You play on defense to tackle. As a DB, you're not just there to cover. You'll have your cover twos and your certain blitzes where you have to come in and have your run support to help your team."
On Rashard Robinson's performance and what makes him special … "I think Rashard did a good job. There's always room for improvement and that comes in practice. (What makes him special is) just his competitive edge. He kind of reminds me of myself when I was a freshman. He's not afraid to go out there and go against anybody. If he could he would line up against the best receiver in the nation and play to the best of his ability. So it's his competitive edge and his ability to press guys."
On if Robinson can lock down Beckham/Landry in practice … "I mean those guys are on a whole other level. He has to catch up to his speed a little bit, but he has been doing great."
On the struggles the defense had in the first half at State … "I just think it was guys playing news roles and new positions, and guys have jitters. But you have to calm down and just play the football that you can play. You're in for a reason. Coach wouldn't put you in if he didn't have confidence in you."
On why things improved in the second half … "It was really the adjustments that Chief came in and made. Like I said, guys had jitters in the first half, so (at half time) we had to talk to them and tell those guys to calm them down, telling them there's a reason they're in there and just to play the ball that they can play."
On how much confidence the DBs take away from that second half … "A lot. Guys have more confidence in ourselves now, especially all the new guys. They know their role and they know their position better. It's just a learning experience every week and every day."
On how communication has to be on defense … "It always has to be collective. Teams are going tempo, so those guys on our sideline have to get the call in and relay it to everybody else – the linebackers, the D-Line and the other half of the secondary. It has to be a whole group thing."
On the difference between Loston and Thompson … "Craig knows the defense. He knows it in and out, and he can make a lot of corrections if we do have errors. But I think Corey came in and did a great job. He did have times where he missed tackles, but then again he did have times where he came in for us when we needed a tackle and made the play. For him it's just about calming down."
On if the young guys can handle zone and all the different coverages … "Yeah, those guys are in a learning experience. They are only freshmen. Any time they have questions they ask me, Coach Raymond or Craig. ‘Why do we do this?' Or ‘what's my alignment on this?' Those guys can play any call that we have on the defense, and our coaches know that."
Is the LSU secondary heading in the right direction?