A day after linebacker Kevin Minter decided to take his talents (per ESPN) to the NFL, both safety Eric Reid and cornerback Tharold Simon have chosen the same fate. According to ESPN, both top defensive players will forgo their senior seasons in hopes of cashing out big in the NFL.
"I have loved every minute of being an LSU Tiger, and my heart will always remain at this incredible institution," Simon said Friday.
This move really doesn't come as a surprise and things will soon get a lot worse on the defensive side of the ball, with defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo likely making the same decision in a matter of days.
But now is no time to question decisions or weep about what could have been. The Tigers' coaching staff must find guys that can replace these two key players. They need to be ready to step in and fill the shoes immediately in order for the Tigers to continue their success in the SEC.
With Jalen Mills starting at the one cornerback spot, Jalen Collins appears to be the most logical guy to replace Simon at the cornerback position. He spent a lot of time in the defensive backfield last season and even played nickelback at times. While he wasn't a true starter last year, he did see quite a bit of action, racking up 30 tackles and intercepting two passes.
Collins is somebody who has terrific size at the position at 6'1", 184 pounds, and he has great closing speed to make a play on the football. With one season of complete playing time under his belt, the former redshirt freshman should only mature throughout the offseason and develop into a solid starter.
Other guys that could make a case for the cornerback position include Dwayne Thomas and Derrick Raymond.
The safety position is a bigger question mark because there are a lot of young guys back there and it is no sure thing that Craig Loston will return for his senior year, although he should.
However, giving an early prediction in January, I would expect Ronald Martin to replace Reid and start at the free safety spot.
Martin saw limited playing time during his sophomore year, but made every opportunity count. He finished the year with 35 tackles, two interceptions and returned one of those turnovers back for a touchdown in the game against Idaho.
The LSU safety is an athletic guy at 6'1", 202 pounds, has great ball skills and is excellent in coverage. He should bring that toughness in the backfield that Reid helped provide and be ready to roll with a couple of seasons already under him as a backup.
Younger safeties such as Jerqwinick Sandolph and Corey Thompson should not be ruled out of the equation either. Both saw very little playing time as freshmen, but they have tremendous upside and will see increased reps during the offseason.
Losing talented players like this all at once is never a good thing, but the Tigers are actually in better shape than a season ago. One of the main reasons this defense was shaky at times was because the secondary took a major hit with Tyrann Mathieu getting suspended and Morris Claiborne leaving school early.
Reid is an excellent player and will be a first-round pick in the NFL draft come April, but the Tigers have had a chance to restock on talent and have given some of the younger players some much-needed experience during the regular season.
This is will be a process that includes a few growing pains, but the talent to survive is certainly there.
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