Spring Analysis: The DB's

Since 2003, LSU has sent four cornerbacks to the NFL and all have started at one point or another in their pro careers. Last year's starters, Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon, hope to raise that number to six but who will take their place when the Tigers take the field in 2008?

Spring Analysis

 

Losing your two starting corners in the SEC makes it tough on a defensive coordinator but when you have a stout defensive line getting pressure on the quarterback it makes it a little easier to deal with.

 

Doug Mallory has the luxury of having one of the top defensive fronts in the SEC, and quite possibly the country, but what he doesn’t have is a lot of experience at the cornerback position.

 

Jai Eugene played sparingly last season and most remember the redshirt sophomore for his play against Kentucky when he was thrust into action to replace Jackson, who went out with an eye injury.

 

The Destrehan product did not fare well when his number was called mainly because he seemed a bit confused but this spring he got plenty of reps which should help him heading into the 2008 campaign.

 

Eugene, who was tabbed the No. 1 cornerback in the country coming out of high school, has the physical tools to play the position but he is short on experience. He did not see a lot of action at corner after his sophomore year at Destrehan so in essence he is still learning to play the position.

 

Speed was never a question mark for Eugene as he is considered the fastest cornerback on the current roster but recognizing coverages and getting his technique down are things he must work on.

 

While Eugene emerged from spring practice as one starting corner, Chris Hawkins claimed the position on the other side.

 

Hawkins may not have the blazing speed that Eugene possesses but he has the ideal size (6-1, 181) and he showed some pretty good ball skills and good awareness.

 

Some corners are flashy and take a lot of gambles where sometimes they make the big play but other times they get burned. Then there are others that play smart and consistent where they give up some plays underneath but rarely give up the homerun.

 

Hawkins seems to fit the bill of the latter but the true test for both he and Eugene will be fall camp when the true freshmen are thrown into the mix along with some pretty talented redshirt freshmen.

 

Those redshirt freshmen made some big strides in spring practice as Phelon Jones, Ron Brooks and John Williams were all in the mix for cracking the two-deep.

 

Jones and Brooks looked to be a little ahead of Williams and once these true freshmen get on campus don’t be surprised to see Williams see a little time on the offensive side of the ball.

 

There is a lot of depth and competition at the safety position but Curtis Taylor and Harry Coleman kept a pretty firm grip on the free and strong sots, respectively.

 

Taylor is a physical specimen and Coleman may be the biggest hitter in the secondary but he will have a battle on his hands at keeping Chad Jones off the field when the Tigers run their base 4-3 alignment.

 

Jones has NFL written all over him and the coaches want to find a way to get him on the field more in 2008. There was a little experimenting during the spring with playing him some at linebacker and it will be interesting to see how often he is on the field, and more importantly, where he lines up in the upcoming season.

 

Danny McCray and Jones saw most of the action in the nickel and dime packages last season and they are the leading candidates to man those spots again in 2008, but once again, the talented true freshmen may have something to say about one of those spots.

 

Not to be lost in the discussion of the safeties is Stefoin Francois, and while his time will come down the road, special teams looks to be his role for 2008.

 

Spring Game Performance

 

The fans and coaches were eager to see how the corners fared during the spring game and after watching them perform there did not seem to be a lot of distance between the first and second team cornerbacks.

 

Jai Eugene (3 tackles) gave up a few big plays but it is way too early to write the youngster off as some fans have done.

 

On the other side, Chris Hawkins (3 tackles & 1 PBU) played better and seemed to be a little more comfortable.

 

The second team duo of Ron Brooks (5 tackles & 1 PBU) and Phelon Jones (4 tackles) showed flashes of what they could do going against the starting wide receivers and from this vantage point both are squarely in the mix for the 2008 campaign.

 

If John Williams stays on the defensive side of the ball he will continue to battle but playing nickel seems to be a better fit through these eyes.

 

Curtis Taylor picked off an errant pass from his free safety spot and Harry Coleman delivered a couple of bone-crushing hits that were a prelude of things to come from the redshirt junior.

 

Danny McCray led the first team defense with six tackles and Chad Jones logged four stops patrolling in the defensive backfield.

 

What’s Next

 

The 7-on-7 action this summer will provide some much needed work for the safeties and cornerbacks as they will be going up against some very talented receivers.

 

The safety spots are in good hands with the nucleus of players returning in Curtis Taylor, Harry Coleman, Chad Jones and Danny McCray.

 

It will be very interesting, though, to see how the returning corners fend off the talented incoming freshmen in Patrick Johnson, Brandon Taylor, Ryan St. Julien, and Derrick Bryant.

 

Johnson and Taylor were two of the country’s top rated cornerbacks for the 2008 class and both have the physical skills to play as a true freshman. There is no doubt that both have the size and cover skills to play at such a high level but how quickly they grasp the system and the speed of the game will be the determining factors on whether or not they see the field.

 

St. Julien needs some time in the weight room to get bigger, and while a redshirt year would do him well, he could end up being the big surprise of this class.

 

Bryant is a hybrid in that he could play corner or safety so where he ends up at will determine his role for 2008 and beyond.

 

Competition plays a key role in how quickly players progress and there will be some strong competition for the cornerback spots for years to come with the strong group of youngsters LSU has.

 

TSD.com Projected Depth Chart Heading Into Fall Camp

 

Right Corner

Jai Eugene

Phelon Jones

Patrick Johnson

John Williams

Derrick Bryant

 

Left Corner

Chris Hawkins

Ron Brooks

Brandon Taylor

Ryan St. Julien

 

Free Safety

Curtis Taylor

Chad Jones

Karnell Hatcher

Rocky Duplessis

 

Strong Safety

Harry Coleman

Danny McCray

Stefoin Francois

 

Nickel

Danny McCray or Chad Jones

Patrick Johnson

John Williams

 

Dime

Chad Jones or Danny McCray

Patrick Johnson

Brandon Taylor


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