Donte Jackson wouldn’t say fellow LSU cornerback Kevin Toliver was being picked on early in the season.
But he acknowledged that opponents noticed Toliver wasn’t at 100 percent, making him an easier target.
That’s not a problem anymore, Jackson said.
“Kevin got his swagger back,” he said Monday.
Toliver did not play in LSU’s Sept. 24 loss at Auburn, making way for junior Ed Paris. Toliver returned to the starting lineup in a home win against Missouri a week later.
Jackson said Toliver was dealing with a knee injury in previous weeks, limiting him at times in coverage.
Jackson often plays opposite Toliver when Tre’Davious White slides into the nickelback role.
“(Toliver) was injured a lot,” Jackson said. “He was dealing with a knee injury, but I don't really necessarily call it ‘picking on him.’ I just call it smart film watching by the (opposing) coaching staff to know that, 'This guy, he's a little gimpy, so we're going throw at him.’ ”
Toliver started 12 games last year as a true freshman, but he wasn’t completely healthy. He suffered a torn rotator cuff his senior year at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, and the injury never fully healed. It flared up in a loss at Ole Miss last season.
Toliver had surgery in January and was held out of spring practice as he went through rehab. Toliver said he felt 100 percent by March but was trying to regain stamina during preseason practice.
Toliver’s strength last season — playing man-to-man defense — was something LSU reverted to in its dominant defensive performance against Missouri. Facing an up-tempo offense, LSU played bump-and-run coverage throughout, throwing off quarterback Drew Lock’s timing.
“You don't come to LSU to play corner if you ain't going to be ready to play man-to-man,” Jackson said, “especially on top-tier receivers playing in the SEC.”
Jackson was targeted early as he lined up against J’Mon Moore, who led the SEC in receiving yards at the time. After breaking up Lock’s first pass to Moore, Jackson and the LSU secondary held Moore to just one catch. For the game, Lock was 17 of 37 for 167 yards and an interception.
LSU’s physical play in the secondary helped its front seven sack Lock twice. Lock had only been sacked once in Missouri's first four games.
With Toliver returning to form, Jackson is confident there’s no one in the secondary for opponents to single out.
“We don't have any weak spots in our secondary," he said, "so it's really nobody to pick on."
Thompson could return 'soon'
Jackson also shed some light on another player whose health is improving.
Jackson said outside linebacker Corey Thompson, who hasn’t played this season after fracturing his ankle during LSU's first preseason practice, is “recovering real well” and may return sooner rather than later.
“I feel like he's getting back quicker, and he's walking,” Jackson said. “I feel like he's going to make an effort to come back in due time — like soon. I feel like he should be ready.”
Thompson, who is no longer using crutches, has been working out and watched practice this week before the postponement of LSU’s game at No. 18 Florida on Saturday.
Thompson started at safety as a sophomore in 2013 before missing 2014 with a knee injury. He evolved last year into a key figure at safety, playing in the team's nickel and dime packages. Thompson started three of the final five games in 2015 before moving to linebacker this offseason.