What follows are some of my initial reactions to the defensive effort, injury talk for coordinator Kevin Steele's crew and relevant personnel notes on that side of the ball.
- Starting defensive end Tashawn Bower, a New Jersey native with plenty of friends and family in attendance, was forced to leave the game during the first drive with a left ankle injury. The junior had to undergo X-rays at an on-site facility. He did re-enter the fray for just a few snaps in the second quarter before quickly coming back out, obviously favoring his left leg. Freshman Arden Key took Bower's place, but the availability of Bower going forward will be critical at an already-thin position. Sophomores Deondre Clark and Sione Teuhema got some run also, but neither is in Coach O's comfortable platoon rotation yet.
- Freshman Donte Jackson continued eating into Dwayne Thomas' playing time as the primary LSU nickel back. Thomas was beaten for a deep post passing touchdown in the second half, but he looked as if he was expecting safety help. At any rate 2015 Thomas has looked nothing like 2014 Thomas, pre-ACL injury. With that as the case, no need for seniority to reign supreme in this situation. Jackson's speed is affecting the way offenses can attack LSU on the perimeter with the short, quick passing game. His coverage game still needs growth of course, but Jackson is proving to be a disruptive force near the line of scrimmage. No. 1 is meriting more time on defense.
- Speaking of freshmen defensive backs, cornerback Kevin Toliver had his worst outing through three games on Saturday. To be fair, however, Toliver's first two games were dynamite. Still the corner was flagged for pass interference, beaten deep and, almost unbelievably, hurdled by a punter on a late-second quarter Syracuse fake field goal. It'll go down as part of the newbie learning curve for the talented Toliver, but he'll have to regroup in advance of Western Kentucky at the end of October, which loves to throw it, and then in November for the SEC West gauntlet. Also, the whole experience is a reminder of how much better LSU's secondary will get when a healthy Jalen Mills returns.
- It was an interesting day at the office for LSU's linebackers. With Deion Jones suspended for the first half, Donnie Alexander and Lamar Louis got the start next to Kendell Beckwith in a base 4-3 set. There was plenty of nickel to close the game out, but the Tigers and Steele showed they aren't afraid to dust off the old three-linebacker set against certain foes' offenses. But how about Alexander getting the nod instead of veteran Duke Riley? I do wonder what that says about LSU's long-term outlook on those two, even though both ended up playing a healthy amount Saturday. Finally, once Jones got back in, he had a nice diving interception on a ball tipped by Key. Deion Jones continues to be one of LSU's most influential defenders this fall.
- Not to be outdone by his redshirt sophomore cohort Frank Herron last week, defensive tackle Greg Gilmore got in on the sack act at Syracuse. He combined with Key for a nice sack of Orange quarterback Zack Mahoney. Gilmore did the heavy lifting on the QB takedown, getting off the line and to the passer with a nice spin move. LSU's depth is coming along after Christian Lacouture and Davon Godchaux up front.