Cornerback – Freshman
Defensive coordinator John Chavis… “A name that I'm going to tell you that you need to know is Tyrann Mathieu. I think he has caught everybody's eye. He's a guy that we expect to grow, and a guy that we expect probably to play some as a freshman.”
Tyrann Mathieu makes one thing official: LSU struck gold with their cornerback pulls over the past three recruiting classes.
First came Patrick Peterson, the nation’s top-rated prospect at the position. Then came two not-so-heralded names, Mathieu – ranked as the No. 31 cornerback in the 2010 class – and Morris Claiborne, an under-the-radar high school athlete that went from prep quarterback to college receiver when he showed up in Baton Rouge. Not long after, Miles moved Claiborne to corner and the deal was done.
Now Miles and their Tiger teammates call Peterson and Claiborne the best tandem in the SEC. Soon, Mathieu hopes to make it a trio.
The New Orleans native exploded as soon as the veterans and freshmen joined forces, moving alongside Ron Brooks as the team’s two top reserve cornerbacks. While Brooks got the lion’s share of the work as the extra defensive back in the nickel, it has been Mathieu that has drawn praise from Miles after two of the team’s scrimmages.
Perhaps his strongest performance came in his first live go, making four tackles and breaking up two passes in red-zone work during the back end of the opening scrimmage of the fall.
The coaches love his quick hips and ball skills, while the receivers won’t quit talking about the 5-foot-9 Mathieu’s aggressiveness. One thing everyone agrees on: St. Augustine turned out a special one.
Safety – Redshirt Freshman
Head coach Les Miles… “I think Craig Loston is, for the first time, starting to get in shape, and I think that as he matures and gets stronger he will get faster and get more confident and capable. He is a guy that learns pretty well.”
Everyone has their eye on the free safety spot, one of the remaining open slots in head coach Les Miles’ starting card. The two names still in the race: veteran Jai Eugene and redshirt freshman Craig Loston.
While the veteran Eugene likely entered camp as the default starter, Loston is the one that has given the coaches plenty to think about.
If scrimmage results decide who takes the field, welcome Loston to the lineup. In the first run-through he recorded five tackles and earned thumbs up from Miles in the press conference that followed. A week later he topped the mark with 6.5 tackles, one sack and one interception at the team’s second scrimmage.
While Loston’s teammates in the defensive backfield said that he still has some progress to make with his knowledge of the defensive scheme, none of them have denied that the Houston native has emerged as one of the side’s top playmakers.
Defensive End – Junior
Defensive coordinator John Chavis… “Ken Adams is a junior college transfer that in a short period of time changed his body. He looks totally different than the way he did when he got here. He's a guy that is really coming on for us.”
All the talk at defensive end seems to surround Sam Montgomery, one of the program’s top pulls from the 2009 signing class. A speed rusher who has bulked his light frame up considerably, Montgomery’s fanfare is well deserved.
Just don’t overlook Ken Adams.
An Enterprise, Ala. native that went the Junior College route, Adams ended up in purple and gold after commitments to both Auburn and Tennessee. After building on a solid spring with even better summer and fall months, Adams is in position to jump two returning names – Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards - for a starting spot opposite Montgomery on opening day.
Evidence of his ability to show up when the lights are on, Adams was one of the only names to land compliments from Miles after both of the team’s scrimmages in Tiger Stadium. He combined for 6.5 tackles, four for losses, in the two outings.
Defensive Tackle – Redshirt Freshman
Defensive coordinator John Chavis… “Michael Brockers is a name you want to make sure you know. He's never played a down in the SEC but based on what we're seeing right now, he's a young man we're really getting excited about. He's got a big upside. He's going to be a very productive player for us.”
When you see a football player like Mike Brockers, the comparisons begin to flow. At 6-foot-6 and more than 300 pounds, NFL-star Mario Williams is an easy name to line him up next to. Though the talent levels are far from similar, Brockers' size gives him the same head-turning effect.
If there are concerns that the LSU defensive front is too small, those naysayers aren’t chatting up Brockers behind his back. The lone 300-pounder in the team’s rotation up front, much of LSU’s ability to stuff the middle will be on the fresh face from the Lone Star State.
From coach Chavis to Miles to the team’s interior offensive line, everyone is singing the praises of Mike Brockers – a kid who has still never stepped foot on the college football field. As Chavis said at LSU Media Day, that sort of confidence in the unproven doesn’t come without warrant.
Linebacker – Fifth-year Senior
Defensive coordinator John Chavis… “He could take the young guys and coach them as well as I can. He can talk the talk and walk the walk. He played all three positions last year. In every single series he was at a different position.”
The vision was that Kelvin Sheppard would roam the middle of the field as the team’s captain at linebacker, flanked on the outsides by speedy names Ryan Baker and Stefoin Francois – a pair of promising Tigers that were seeing the field in a starting capacity for the first time.
When Baker suffered a broken jaw after he caught a helmet underneath his facemask during camp, any plans Chavis had were thrown to the wayside. With Baker set to miss at least two games, Sheppard approached Chavis with a request: move him outside – away from his desired middle linebacker spot - in order to get the best players onto the field.
Sheppard worked opposite Francois through the tail end of camp, seeing redshirt freshman Kevin Minter step into the void at middle linebacker. In the scimmage that week Sheppard recorded four tackles and a sack, telling the media a few days prior that the new-look three will be enough to hold the Tigers over until Baker’s return.