IN SPOTLIGHT: Tigers look to reload at safety

Note: This is another installment of our ongoing series where we take a look at each position as the LSU Tigers prepare for spring practice which kicks off on Monday, Feb. 26.

Nick Saban was known as the guru of defensive backs.


The former LSU coach recruited arguably the greatest group of defensive backs over a five-year period in SEC history between 2000-2004. Corey Webster, Travis Daniels, Ronnie Prude, Jack Hunt, LaRon Landry, Jesse Daniels, the list goes on and on.


Les Miles has carried over that tradition of bringing in outstanding defensive backs to LSU. Miles is faced his first major replacement task in filling in the huge voids left by the departure of Landry and Daniels, the Tigers' starting safeties in 2006.


Miles did a great job in replacing Ronnie Prude last season at one of the cornerback spots. Jonathan Zenon stepped in and the Tigers did not miss a beat.


One can only hope that is the case with two new safeties in 2007.



A look back


With two all-American quality safeties, the Tigers secondary was among the best in the nation in 2006. The LSU defensive backs made a habit of making good quarterbacks look bad all of last season.


Willie Tuitama, Chris Leak, Andre Woodson, Erik Ainge, Brady Quinn – you name the quarterback and the Tigers delivered.


LSU ranked third in the nation in passing defense (yards allowed) as the Tigers secondary gave up just 145.69 yards per game. In terms of passing efficiency defense (opponent quarterback rating), LSU was also third in the country (92.19).


The Tigers ranked first in the SEC in pass defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.


Jonathan Zenon and Craig Steltz tied for the team lead in interceptions with four a piece. Zenon returned two of those picks for touchdowns, one a piece in each of the first two games of the season. Landry had three interceptions, including a big one of Quinn against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.


Landry led the Tigers' defense in tackles with 74 total stops. Chevis Jackson had 46 overall tackles and Jesse Daniels had 47 and Steltz registered 42.



What to look for this spring


With Landry and Daniels headed to the NFL, the two safeties leave LSU with seven years of starting experience. Landry was LSU's starting free safety for all four season and led the 2003 national championship team in total tackles.


Expect Steltz to emerge as LSU's starting strong safety and Curtis Taylor to step in for Landry at the free safety spot. Steltz actually started the Sugar Bowl in place of Daniels, who was serving a suspension for missing curfew. Don't expect much of a drop-off with Steltz in the game. He is a bigger, stronger version of Jack Hunt, who was the Tigers starting strong safety on that 2003 team.


Taylor has the size, speed and instincts to be a great free safety. Problem is he has been behind Landry for three years. Expect the Franklinton native to finally get his chance to shine as the new quarterback – at least for the spring that is.


Also in the mix at safety will be Harry Coleman, Danny McCray and Troy Giddens.


The starting cornerbacks will not change as Zenon and Chevis Jackson have those positions locked down. Look for Chris Hawkins and Jai Eugene to get plenty of reps though there.



Help is on the way


Help is most definitely on the way in the form of two top flight defensive back prospects.


Chad Jones, the nation's No. 1 safety prospect out of Baton Rouge's Southern Lab, will be on campus this summer and is expected to compete for the vacated free safety spot left open by Landry. Look for Jones to compete with Taylor at free safety once he arrives.


Also in LSU's talented recruiting class is four-star prospect Stefoin Francois from east St. John High School. A 6-0, 190-pound safety, Francois has been labeled as a guy who can come in and contribute immediately.


The Tigers picked up three cornerback prospects in the class of 2007 recruits. One of Miles' biggest steals was Mobile corner Phelon Jones. Expected to attend one of the Alabama schools, Miles nabbed Jones out of south Alabama on the last weekend of the recruiting process.


Delvin Breaux looks to redshirt when he arrives from Marrero's John Ehret High School. He also has some work to do in terms of academics before he arrives at LSU.


The Tigers first commitment of the 2007 class was Breaux Bridge's ultra-talented John Williams. After playing quarterback, running back, receiver and defensive back for the Tigers, Williams should find a home at cornerback once he arrives at LSU.


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