Summer Top 50 - No. 10 Jalen Mills

TSD is nearing the end of its top 50 players countdown for the top 50 season. In at No. 10 is experienced defensive back Jalen Mills.

NEW ORLEANS – Because everyone loves to rank things, and because summer is the best time to argue and debate, TSD is spending the coming weeks through the end of July rolling out its top 50 LSU football players for the coming season.

Many are seasoned veterans and a select few are new to the roster, but all 50 Tigers figure to make an impact on the gridiron in 2015.

So we hope you enjoy this list, updated once each weekday and compiled by the TSD staff of Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua (who, naturally, had disagreements of their own along the way).

Today the countdown kicks off its penultimate week with a highly experienced, versatile defensive back at No. 10, senior leader Jalen Mills.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM


The stats and the film may not always blow you away, but Mills' combination of consistency, resiliency and versatility are as am impressive as any SEC player's over the last three seasons. Consider he's started every single game since arriving on campus as a true freshman in 2012, playing through nicks and bruises and surviving a fairly seismic positional shift.

At the the tail end of the 2013 campaign, Mills made the move from corner to safety to accommodate up-and-coming cornerback Rashard Robinson and to fill a hole in the back. He's been LSU's starting free safety ever since, all the while remaining the preferred nickel back in the box as the team's best slot coverage man.

Simply put, LSU adjusts its personnel based off where it wants Mills on a given down. That makes you a pretty important cog in the wheel. It doesn't hurt Mills' value that he also aids in positioning fellow defensive backs, the de facto secondary quarterback now that Ronald Martin has graduated. Others, like safety mate Jamal Adams, will make more spectacular plays, but Mills is the bedrock of that defensive backfield.

STILL LEFT TO PROVE


There isn't much more on the field schematically LSU can ask Mills to do. Really, he's done it all from island corner in man coverage to deep safety to nickel back to safety rover nearing the box. But, in 2015, the Texas native will have to adjust to life under new coordinator Kevin Steele. He'll also be responsible for keeping fellow safeties and corners on their landmarks and barking out their assignments.

So add it all up and Mills basically has to pass his final (football) class on campus, his senior thesis if you will. He has to prove he can continue playing at a high level while being the cerebral overseer of the defense, particularly the secondary. It's something Eric Reid did to a tee during his final two seasons in Baton Rouge.

Mills could also stand to improve some in his tackling, usually a better cover guy than physical player in the box. That's nitpicking a bit, but it would make him all the more valuable in the slot, if this season defenses also have to fear him crashing in on the quarterback or tackling ball-carriers near the line of scrimmage.





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