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LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron hugs LSU safety Rickey Jefferson (9) and LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White (18) after the LSU Missouri football game Saturday Oct. 1, 2016, in Tiger Stadium. LSU won 42-7.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

LSU will be without a starting defensive back on Saturday — and he'll like miss several more games, too.

Rickey Jefferson, a senior starting safety, broke his fibula at practice Wednesday and will miss significant time, interim coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Thursday after practice. It's unclear if Jefferson will return this season, the coach said, but he's "going to try to be back."

Jefferson will undergo surgery soon on the fibula, the outer most bone in the leg that runs from the knee to the ankle. 

"It's unfortunate," Orgeron said. "It wasn’t in a live contact period, obviously. It was in a ‘thud’ period, and he got leg whipped. We wish him the best."

LSU (3-2) hosts Southern Miss (4-2) on Saturday at Tiger Stadium before a rough final half of the year: Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas, against Florida and at Texas A&M.

Jefferson is one of LSU's two starting safeties, joined by Jamal Adams. At times, Jefferson is relieved for spells by John Battle, a junior who will start in his place, Orgeron said. 

Battle and Jefferson were in a "tight" battle for the starting job during preseason camp, and Orgeron said coaches nearly chose him as the starter. Battle, a Florida native, has not started a game in his career. 

"Now it's John Battle’s turn," Orgeron said. "We think John is a smart young man. He’s able to come in there and play. I know that we’ll miss Rickey, but I don’t think we’re going to skip a beat. I think John’s play is going to be very good."

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LSU safety Rickey Jefferson (9) and LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White (18) work to ignite the crowd against Mississippi State in the second half, Saturday, September 17, 2016, at LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

Senior Dwayne Thomas, a reserve safety who sees much of his time at the nickel position, could see an increase in playing time, too. Xavier Lewis, a redshirt freshman, works with the safeties, and true freshman Cameron Lewis and Eric Monroe are available. Neither of them have played this year.

Jefferson, the brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, has started all five games this season and 15 overall in his career with the Tigers. The St. Rose native has 22 tackles this year and has picked off four passes in his time in Baton Rouge.

Jefferson asked for prayers on his Twitter page Wednesday night and thanked fans on Thursday.

"I love you all for your words of encouragements , thoughts, and prayers..." he tweeted.

"Tough times bring out your true character," he tweeted. "I'm built for this."

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.