Checking in on the LSU Tigers

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU held its last practice of the spring Thursday prior to Saturday's spring game, and coach Les Miles opened up the practice to the students.

Following practice, the students were invited inside to the indoor practice facility, where they had a meet-and-greet with the players and coaches.

It's Miles' way of reaching out to the student body, and the students' chance to get an up-close view of the team.

Just like the LSU team that went 13-1 last season, this team certainly passes the look test.

Most of the attention this spring has been on quarterback Zach Mettenberger, and specifically, the Tigers' passing game. Miles said Thursday there's no doubt in his mind that LSU will throw the ball much more efficiently in 2012, and a lot of that has to do with the way everybody on offense has rallied around Mettenberger, entering his junior season.

"He plays the game the way I want all of my players to play it," Miles said. "I enjoy his attitude. He's bringing the passing game to life, and he wants to compete on every single play. He doesn't mind stirring the pot, either."

Already this spring, Mettenberger went after defensive tackle Josh Downs in a scrimmage after Mettenberger felt there had been a late hit, and several in the LSU program said Mettenberger delivered the kind of tackle that even defensive coordinator John Chavis admitted was impressive.

Speaking of Chavis, he's losing two first-rounders off last season's defense. Both cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers elected to give up their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft.

They will certainly be missed, but Chavis isn't exactly fretting.

In a lot of ways, he thinks the Tigers will be even faster on defense in 2012. They're two-deep at every position in the defensive line, and even though Brockers is gone, Chavis thinks junior tackle Bennie Logan was one of the more underrated defenders on the team last season. Chavis said sophomore tackle Ego Ferguson had also made a big jump.

Chavis really likes the way Kevin Minter and Tahj Jones have answered the call at linebacker, even though Jones has been out recently with turf toe.

"It's the best Kevin Minter has played since he's been here," Chavis said. "He really looks like an SEC linebacker and is playing like an SEC linebacker."

Two redshirt freshmen making big moves in the secondary this spring have been Jalen Collins at cornerback and Micah Eugene at safety. Chavis likes Collins' size and length. He's 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds, which gives the Tigers a pair of bigger corners. Tharold Simon is 6-3 and 187 pounds.

Chavis said Craig Loston was also playing well at safety until a foot/toe injury slowed him.

"Loston was really grasping things, but with him out, it's given us a chance to work several other kids," Chavis said. "Ever since Eugene got a chance to jump in there and work with the first unit, he got a lot of people's attention really quick. He's still learning the position, but he has a chance to be a really good safety for us."

Chavis said junior Tyrann Mathieu would continue to play both the cornerback and nickel back roles.

"We'll have some young kids that aren't here on campus yet that will come in and help us, too," Chavis said. "We like this class, and the linebacker group has a chance to be special. They have to come in here and do it, but we like the kids we signed there."