LSU Football: Freshman Progress Report through 8 Games

Jake MartinCorrespondent IIIOctober 23, 2012

LSU Football: Freshman Progress Report through 8 Games

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    The LSU Tigers continue to rely heavily on its sensational freshmen, and it was the young guys who helped propel this team over Texas A&M.

    Led by Jeremy Hill in the backfield and Vadal Alexander up front, the Tigers were able to get the running game going late against the Aggies, while the defense clamped down on Johnny Manziel in the second half.

    With superb plays by Jalen Collins, Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin in the secondary, Manziel's options of throwing the football were limited.

    So, as the Tigers improve to 7-1 and await a heavily anticipated bout against Alabama, here are the progress reports for LSU's freshmen this season.

Jalen Collins

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    Grade: B+

    There's a reason LSU is called DBU.

    The Tigers have an incomparable circulation at defensive back. Filtering young talents in year after year, the Tigers' secondary seizes to have any holes in it, and one of the young talents stepping up in a big way this season is Jalen Collins.

    Though he didn't win out the starting position to replace Tyrann Mathieu, Collins has seen plenty of playing time and has made key plays in big games, including a beautiful pass deflection against South Carolina.

    So far this season, Collins has 16 tackles to go along with an interception. Collins is also tied at second on the team in pass deflections with five.

Jalen Mills

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    Grade: A

    Guess who has the fourth most tackles on the team. Surprisingly, it's Jalen Mills. 

    Mills has 34 total tackles this season, as well as four pass deflections.

    Mills took on an immeasurable task of filling Tyrann Mathieu's shoes at cornerback, and though he doesn't have the raw playmaking ability Mathieu possesses, he has proven to be a shut down corner.

    Other than the South Carolina game, Mills has shown off his lockdown skills all season, and he's tied for a team-leading two interceptions.

Ronald Martin

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    Grade: A

    One of the players that is tied with Mills with two interceptions is fellow freshman Ronald Martin.

    Martin is holding down the safety position as if he has been playing in the Tigers' secondary for years.

    To go along with Martin's two interceptions, he has recorded 20 tackles and forced a crucial fumble against Texas A&M that led to a Tiger touchdown late in the second quarter.

    With an offense as stagnant as LSU's, it's young playmakers like Martin that give this team an advantage over its opponents in the SEC.

Vadal Alexander

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    Grade: A+

    It's hard to start as a freshman offensive lineman.

    It's even harder to start in the SEC as one. Going against the best defensive lines in college football is a heavy task for any freshman, but Vadal Alexander has passed with flying colors.

    Whenever he has been called upon to enter the game, he has stepped up and held his own against some of the very best defensive ends in the conference, such as South Carolina's Devin Taylor.

    Barring any future injuries, Alexander looks to be another stout LSU offensive lineman.

Micah Eugene

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    Grade: A+

    Micah Eugene is arguably the freshman of the year for LSU.

    Some fans may take offense to that with Mills and several others performing as well as they have, but Micah Eugene has taken Mathieu's responsibilities of creating havoc in the backfield.

    Eugene has three sacks, but he saved his best performance of the season for Texas A&M.

    John Chavis used Eugene's athletic prowess to negate Manziel's scrambling abilities in the second half, and Eugene proved to be the X-factor in that game. This Tiger defense is never short of any weapon.

Lamar Louis

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    Grade: B-

    So far, Lamar Louis' season has been mediocre.

    Louis hasn't done anything to make Tiger fans jump out of their seats in amazement, but he hasn't done anything to make Tiger fans hate him either.

    He has stayed at home and provided solid coverage and strong run support for the Tigers, as Louis has nine tackles this year.

    Combine that with two quarterback hurries and Louis has had a pretty decent freshman season thus far.

Deion Jones

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    Grade: B

    Deion Jones is a speedy linebacker, and if Tiger fans know anything, it's that Chavis loves speedy linebackers.

    Jones has the speed to run sideline to sideline and make plays, and he has done that for LSU this season.

    The freshman linebacker has 14 tackles, including three for loss.

    Jones is just one of many young linebackers that have benefited from linebackers being ruled ineligible or injured.

Kwon Alexander

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    Grade: B

    One of the linebackers that has suffered from an injury this season is Kwon Alexander.

    The game Alexander really started to turn up his production and show off his athletic ability in, is the game Alexander was potentially lost for the season.

    Against Florida, Alexander shut down Florida's speed plays to the outside and made tackles for loss. And when he went down with a broken ankle in the second half, it became apparent, as Florida was able to run the football on LSU a lot more effectively.

    In his freshman campaign, Alexander had 11 tackles, one pass deflection and a forced fumble.

Ronnie Feist

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    Grade: C+

    Ronnie Feist has been a bit of a disappointment this season for the Tigers.

    Perhaps it's because of his success in LSU's Big Cat Drill in the Spring, where Feist was looked upon as a talented, young linebacker that was going to come in and contribute right away.

    That really hasn't been the case. A big reason for that is because of how much talent the Tigers have at the linebacker position.

    But that doesn't erase the fact that Feist only has three tackles so far this season. Though he may be raw, he is still a talented prospect that should develop into an accomplished star.

Jeremy Hill

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    Grade: A+

    Jeremy Hill is now the go-to back for LSU.

    In two of the Tigers' biggest games of the year, LSU relied heavily on this freshman running back, and he delivered the goods.

    Against South Carolina, Hill had a breakout performance of 124 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, and against Texas A&M Hill rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown.

    You have to be a special running back to earn playing time over Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard, and that's exactly what Hill is.