Summer Session: Assistant to watch

TSD is cranking out 30 stories on the 2014 Tigers in the coming weeks. Today's Summer Session: Which assistant coach does LSU need to take a step forward in 2014?

30 days, 30 topics inside the world of LSU football.

TSD is previewing and analyzing the 2014 edition of the Tigers from every angle, bringing you a daily dose of "Summer Session" each weekday through July 11, three days before the unofficial kickoff to football season at SEC Media Days.


The premise of today's session isn't intended to be a witch hunt, singling out an assistant coach that's underperformed in the past, but more a recognition of which man on Les Miles' staff will have to rise to the challenge most in 2014 given his surroundings.

There are of course a number of viable options in this discussion and arguments that can be made for these assistants.

Adam Henry will have to put forth his best coaching job, saddled with an extremely green receiving corps now that Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Kadron Boone have cycled through the program. In a similar fashion this fall is a big one for veteran defensive line coach Brick Haley, working with two new starters at defensive tackle and a wealth of inexperience in his two-deep.

But the guy who gets my vote is Corey Raymond.

Unlike Haley and Henry, the Tigers' secondary coach actually has most of his starting unit intact and returning from a season ago, with several star-caliber players in the fold to boot. So his challenge is a markedly different one: Now that the pieces have fallen in place, lift DBU back to where it was under Ron Cooper.

That's where the expectation level is, fair or not, for a staff and fan base that watched a 2011 defensive backfield that included corners Mo Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Tharold Simon and Ron Brooks as well as safeties Craig Loston, Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor.

Now the '14 roster may not be quite that loaded (not sure any LSU secondary ever will be again), but in my estimation it's as close as the Tigers have been since that undefeated regular season three years ago.

As I mentioned yesterday in the defensive improvement piece, it all starts with a pair of trustworthy cornerbacks. LSU has one of the best tandems in the SEC in sophomores Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White. The former is a rangy ball-hawk that showed his mettle in shutting down Texas A&M's Mike Evans last fall while the latter is one of the best all-around athletes on the team, good enough to start from his third game on as a true freshman.

Dwayne Thomas, Edward Paris and Jalen Collins, probably in that order, are the next guys up at corner. The experienced Thomas is a lock to feature in dime and possibly nickel sets while Paris, a true freshman, has a wealth of potential as a press-coverage specialist.

At safety there's some uncertainty with Jalen Mills' precarious legal situation, but the Tigers still possess enough talent in the back to do more than just get by this season. If Mills is available, he's the starting free safety, no questions asked. Next to him would be either Corey Thompson or Ronald Martin, both of whom have started multiple games in their LSU careers.

In the event Mills isn't an option, Raymond will have Martin and Thompson to choose from along with sophomore Rickey Jefferson and incoming freshmen Jamal Adams (a five-star signee) and John Battle. The present and future are quite bright in the back two for the Bayou Bengals.

Raymond has been an active and productive recruiter for LSU since Miles hired him in February 2012, but, entering his third season, the stars have aligned, personnel-wise, for him to take the secondary to the next level. It'll be interesting to see what he can do instilling proper technique and communication systems in a group that's looking back up to snuff by LSU standards.

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