LSU Football: Tigers' Young Secondary Ready for Alabama Passing Game

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2012

LSU's biggest concern heading into the season has become one of the team's biggest strengths.

That's just college football, isn't it? It's a game that often makes no sense whatsoever.

Kansas State is ranked No. 2 in the nation, while teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Texas and Arkansas are all on the outside of the Top 25 looking in. That right there proves just how wacky this game can be.

But with college football's most anticipated game fast approaching, there is something else that seems completely and utterly unexplainable.

That is the success of LSU's young and inexperienced secondary.

There's no reasonable explanation for why this unit, which returned one starter from last year's team, suddenly transformed into arguably the top defensive backfield in the country.

After losing three players to the NFL last season, many thought that this would be a rebuilding year for this LSU secondary.

Morris Claiborne, a unanimous first-team All American and Jim Thorpe Award winner last season, was the rock for this LSU secondary and went on to be drafted No. 6 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Then there is Brandon Taylor, the do-it-all safety for the Tigers, who was selected in the third round by the San Diego Chargers.

To top it off, Ron Brooks, another talented cornerback that was considered by many to be the third defensive back on this team, was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills.

So how does a team recover from that?

The plan was to rely heavily on 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu, but he was dismissed from the team earlier this season for drug-related issues. That left safety Eric Reid as the only returning starter in the Tigers' pass defense.

But those who doubted LSU's inexperienced secondary heading into the 2012 college football season are now witnessing something special. Names like Tharold Simon, Jalen Mills and Craig Loston are filling up stat sheets on a week-to-week basis and have helped paved the way for the Tigers' impressive 7-1 start this season.

But this secondary will have its biggest test this Saturday, when Nick Saban's Alabama team comes to Baton Rouge.

The Crimson Tide feature a very balanced offense this season and can beat you with both the run and the pass.

Much of that can be credited to the improvement of second-year starting quarterback AJ McCarron. The junior quarterback is completing 69 percent of his passes this season and has already thrown for more than 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns.

But the most impressive number in McCarron's stat line isn't his yards, touchdowns or completion percentage. It is the fact that he has yet to throw a single interception this season.

If LSU is going to win on Saturday, the Tigers are going to need to make some big plays on the defensive side of the ball, and forcing MCarron into throwing his first interception of the season would certainly fall into that category.

Through eight games this season, the Tigers secondary has already totaled 10 interceptions and have allowed just seven passing touchdowns. Reid, Simon and backup safety Ronald Martin have led the way with two picks a piece.

LSU has faced some solid quarterbacks thus far, Keith Price, Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel to name a few. But McCarron will present the biggest challenge for this unit yet, and how this LSU secondary performs could ultimately determine the final outcome of this much-anticipated SEC showdown.

Many of these guys sat on the sidelines last season as LSU's secondary was dominant in a regular-season victory over the Crimson Tide.

Now, it is the new guys' time to shine in the brightest of spotlights.


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