BATON ROUGE, La. -- Expect a steady dose of defensive backs blitzing when LSU opens its first season under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
It’s not as if they didn’t do that under Steele’s predecessor, John Chavis, but Steele apparently plans to add some wrinkles to the Tigers’ scheme in order to generate a more productive pass rush.
“A lot of us are blitzing. Everybody blitzes -- corners, all of us,” safety Rickey Jefferson acknowledged. “Coach Steele has got some tricks up his sleeve.”
Jefferson is not officially a starter -- that designation goes to Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams -- but he likely will remain as a heavy contributor on defense. Jefferson said he still enters the game when the Tigers move to their nickel and dime defensive packages, with Mills shifting down to cover slot receivers and Jefferson playing a safety spot in either package. Dwayne Thomas, returning from a season-ending knee injury suffered early last fall, is back as the sixth defensive back in the dime, Jefferson said.
Whichever safety is on the field, the Tigers clearly expect him to be a threat as a pass-rusher, as evidenced by a drill they ran Friday morning. New defensive line coach Ed Orgeron worked with Mills, Jefferson, Adams and true freshman Xavier Lewis on a pass-rush drill where they practiced dislodging the ball from the quarterback’s hand.
“That is a new thing and I like it. It actually helps,” Jefferson said. “I never thought [about] the point of attack that he was teaching. Coach O is a great coach, so I’m looking forward to learning things from him.”
Here is a video of the drill:
Harris still No. 1
LSU coach Les Miles acknowledged Thursday that Harris is getting first-team reps, but noted that “starting first is not as important as finishing first and certainly not as important as playing dominant football when we get to Saturdays.”
Only two periods of Friday’s morning practice were open to reporters, but Harris clearly was on target more often when the Tigers ran passing drills during those periods.
He also has settled into his role as a leader in the huddle in his second preseason practice with the Tigers.
“I remember Brandon coming in and just freaking out, not knowing what to do,” tight end DeSean Smith said. “Now he’s comfortable.”
Here are Jennings (10) and Harris (6) working with receivers in one passing period:
Tight end talk
Ever since offensive coordinator Cam Cameron arrived at LSU in 2013, those in and out of the program have wondered whether he would make use of the tight ends in the passing game the way he did as an NFL coach.
Thus far it hasn’t happened -- LSU’s entire stable of tight ends combined for 12 receptions and 129 yards last season -- but Smith said he and the other tight ends definitely have detected a change thus far in camp. For instance, when the Tigers worked on a two-minute offense as reporters were leaving the practice facility Friday morning, Smith lined up with Harris, running back Leonard Fournette and receivers Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre and D.J. Chark.
“We’re definitely catching a lot more, getting a lot more balls,” Smith said. “Me and Dillon [Gordon] were talking yesterday, and [Colin] Jeter, and were like, ‘Do y’all notice something different?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, we’re getting a lot of balls thrown our way.’ I was just telling those guys we have to capitalize and prove to our coaches that we want the ball and we’re going to do good with it in our hands.”
In fact, Smith thinks LSU’s offense could spread around the passes much more frequently overall.
“I feel like that’s going to help our offense big time,” Smith said. “If we just get the ball to our tight ends, get it to our wideouts … if we spread the ball, there’s no doubt we’re going to win every game. We’ve got all the talent and we’re going to put that together and become a great team this year.”