Montgomery: LSU defense 'still dominating'

Lost in all the excitement at the LSU Spring Game surrounding a more aggressive Tigers passing game and a quarterback in Zach Mettenberger with big-time tools was this simple fact: The opportunistic LSU defense scored almost as many touchdowns (two) as the offense (three).

So the offense looked potentially better. But let it be known that LSU's rugged defense is still there too.

"We haven't lost a beat," defensive end Sam Montgomery said. "We're still dominating."

In 96 plays between the two teams in what was a 24-17 win by the starter-driven White team over the backups on the Purple team, the defenses produced five sacks, eight tackles for loss, three interceptions (two for touchdowns) and eight passes broken up. There were plays by veterans like Montgomery, who had one of the sacks, and Eric Reid, who had a 55-yard interception return of a Stephen Rivers pass for a touchdown.

But there were also impressive performances by up-and-comers. Sophomore Ronald Martin had a game-high eight tackles to go with his interception, then there was the impact of the two freshly minted freshman linebackers. Ronnie Feist had seven tackles, which was second on the Purple team, and Lamar Louis had five to go with his pick-six off Metenberger. Both players were playing high school football in the fall and enrolled early at LSU.

"I think we have a lot of young guys that are ready to see some SEC football and championship football," said cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who had a relatively quiet day, breaking up two passes for his only statistics of the game. "They've been working on it all spring long and they're going to work over the summer to prepare for the season."

There are some needs the young players need to fill. Aside from linebacker, the Tigers will try to replace two of the top players in the upcoming NFL draft in cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

Brockers' spot has plenty of potential candidates - senior Josh Downs (three tackles, one sack) and sophomores Anthony Johnson (three tackles, one for loss) and Ego Ferguson (five tackles) all looked like capable candidates. It should be noted that Downs is the one that got to play for the White team.

On the other hand, there might be some angst about the cornerback spot, an area where LSU has had a seemingly endless supply of talent in recent years with players like Patrick Peterson, Claiborne and Mathieu.

While Claiborne's old starting spot is in the capable hands of Tharold Simon, it's the third cornerback spot, the player who would allow the ball-hawking Mathieu to slide over to the slot, where he can cover inside receivers or wreak havoc on a blitz, where there are question marks.

The player that is most likely to take on that role, Jalen Collins, was burned twice by the team's best returning receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., for bombs that totaled 102 yards.

The player who beat Collins has confidence in him though.

"Jalen Collins is going to be a phenomenal player," Beckham said. "He's got a great body type, a 6-3, lanky corner. It's hard to just get past him."

Head coach Les Miles said he thought Collins would learn from his mistakes and he was glad the mistakes came on a March Saturday and not on a September Saturday.

"Every cornerback in America, including Patrick Peterson, gets beat," Miles said. "And you absolutely have to respond. And I thought (Collins) did today. He got sharper."

And besides, don't be too tough on Collins. The man throwing the football to beat him deep, the man everybody was there to see, isn't exactly chopped liver.

"I think we're going to win a championship with him," Mathieu said of Mettenberger. "That's just my opinion, but he's throwing the ball and he has his receivers in a stream of confidence right now. I think those guys are going to do something special this year."