QUESTION: Can LSU return to being DBU in 2014?
Ben Love: I'm pretty bullish when it comes to buying stock in the LSU secondary for 2014 and, really, for the near, foreseeable future. The main reason why, and always the most important thing in college football, is because of the personnel.
The Tigers not only lost four physically gifted freaks back there recently, in Mo Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Tharold Simon, but also two of the headiest players LSU has had in some time in Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor. What 2013 proved is that just because certain players have been around the program, a la Craig Loston, Ronald Martin and Jalen Mills, doesn't mean they can be plugged into spots (vacated by current NFLers) and LSU not miss a beat.
To get back to that place, it takes players with elite talent, ball skills and, not to be underestimated, confidence. Cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White are two young studs who fit that mold. At safety, Rickey Jefferson and Corey Thompson represent a much more mobile and athletic duo than what LSU had this fall. Then there's the incoming talent with players like Ed Paris and, quite possibly, Tony Brown. The talent level is back where it needs to be for the Tigers to make a run at reclaiming DBU. As we've seen in the past with John Chavis defenses at LSU, that's the main ingredient. Experience, at this position and in this scenario, is the overrated commodity of the two.
Hunter Paniagua: There are two ways of looking at this question. Will the LSU secondary be better in 2014 and will it return to the standard that is DBU? To me, just improving off of 2013 won't be enough to get back to what Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu established. DBU means Jim Thorpe Awards and first-round draft picks. I don't see that happening in 2014.
That being said, LSU does have some of the pieces to get back to where it should be in the secondary. Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson showed plenty of potential that they can carry the torch down the road. But they're still relatively untested, and did have some struggles in their freshman campaigns. It might be a reach to say they'll be on that DBU level by this time next season.
But the Tigers should be much improved, and it will all come down to development. That was the major issue with the secondary this year. How players like White, Robinson, Corey Thompson and Rickey Jefferson improve from Year 1 to Year 2 will be the ultimate indicator of whether LSU can return to DBU. That's where the pressure falls on Corey Raymond. He wasn't around for DBU, so he still has to prove that he's capable of getting his unit to that level. The talent's there, but it'll take much more than that for LSU to return to DBU.
12/10 – Most surprising player in 2013
12/11 – Most disappointing player in 2013