Recruiting in college football has always been a bit of a crapshoot. Coaches can never be really certain how players will adjust well to the college level, and which ones will make the most of their talent in their time with the team.
For every Michael Clayton and Ben Wilkerson there are plenty of Cecil Collins and Brad Smallings, who are loaded with talent but for various reasons never make the most of it. Thus far, LSU freshman safety LaRon Landry seems to be taking the right steps to live up to the hype.
The 6-foot-2 188-pound defensive back came out of Hahnville heralded as perhaps the best all-around athlete in Louisiana. Landry played both safety and quarterback for coach Lou Valdin's Tigers and accounted for over 2200 yards of total offense and 28 total touchdowns while grabbing eight interceptions on defense.
He drew comparisons to former Destrehan standout and Miami Hurricane All-American Ed Reed, who is now a starter in the NFL. Landry had his pick of schools from around the country. Miami made a big push to secure his services, but ultimately he chose Nick Saban and LSU over South Beach.
"Coach Saban being a defensive back coach, I knew he could make me a better athlete," says Landry. "That's why I chose (LSU), and I knew I could help the team out because we need safeties."
Indeed. When the head coach acknowledges that the best safety on his team is his star receiver (Michael Clayton), it is definitely a cause for concern.
Through the first two weeks of preseason practices, Jack Hunt and Travis Daniels have been working at the safety positions. Hunt is a tough, blue collar player who knows the defense like the back of his hand, but lacks the athletic ability to be much of a playmaker.
Daniels is a converted corner playing out of position because of necessity. Having a young player step up at the position would help out the defensive secondary immensely.
Landry reported to fall camp at a chiseled 188 pounds with only 6 percent body fat. A summer of working out with Tiger strength coach Tommy Moffit has him ready to compete for playing time, and through the two weeks of practice, Landry has been putting his best foot forward.
He and fellow freshman Jesse Daniels have all but secured playing time at the safety positions. They've also drawn some great praise from their head coach.
"I can just about promise you there will be two freshman safeties in that two deep," Saban says. "They can tackle, like to tackle and mix it up. They don't know what they're doing right now, but you know me. The veteran guy knows what he's got to do, but he rookie doesn't. But the rookie's going to be better in five weeks, so we've got to take a chance on the rookie."
On the outside, it doesn't seem like much of a risk. Landry blends 4.4 speed with a linebacker's mentality and a strong work ethic. He's tried to model his play after NFL Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, and is ready to do whatever it takes to get on the field as soon as possible.
"I know my effort and hustle will help me," Landry says. "The biggest thing I need to work on is just learning the plays. My athletic ability is going to speak for itself."
Landry's made some noise already in the Tigers' first fall scrimmage. He led the team with 10 tackles and forced a fumble. Saban said after the practice that his young defensive back still has some learning to do, but right now his zest for playing defense is far out-weighing his ignorance of the scheme.
"LaRon doesn't mind not knowing what's going on," Saban said after the scrimmage. "He still made 10 tackles today, but he probably missed four. But I like that in a player though. We need for those guys (Landry and Daniels) to develop and continue to grow up quickly. They could be our backup safeties by the time the season starts."
As the Tigers continue to prep for their Aug. 30 opener against Louisiana-Monroe, Landry will keep working hard. He's determined to get on the field this season, whether it os on defense or special teams.
"I'll do anything," Landry says. "I've got to help out this team."
"The first game is going to be so exciting," he says with a mile-wide grin. "Just to walk on that field and look up and hear that crowd. I'm going to be ready I'm not going to be nervous."
Landry makes a bid for playing time
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