Six passes thrown his way in the first four games, Donte Jackson needed some spice in his football life.
He got it - a position move, albeit a slight one.
Over the last two weeks, coaches have shifted the LSU junior from his cornerback position out wide to the nickelback spot inside. He’s much closer to the action now, assigned to cover the slot or inside receiver and involved in slowing an outside rushing attack.
Jackson started there on Sept. 30 against Troy and played a near complete game at nickel in the win at Florida. He joked with reporters through the first month of the season that he was bored out wide at corner. Quarterbacks threw to his man just six times in those four games.
“I get a chance to make a lot of plays on the ball,” Jackson said. “Get a chance to make a lot of tackles. Any way you can make plays, I'm always good with it, so I was happy with the move.”
The shift creates a personnel domino effect that gets more experience on the field. A team that relies so much on true freshmen can keep one more, Kary Vincent, on the sideline. Vincent began the season as LSU’s starting nickel, rotating with redshirt sophomore Xavier Lewis.
Lewis’ status is in question. He’s missed the last week and a half of practice, did not travel with the team to Gainesville, Florida, and is not expected to dress out when LSU (4-2, 1-1 Southeastern) hosts No. 10 Auburn (5-1, 3-0) this Saturday.
LSU trades a true freshman, Vincent, for a junior in Kevin Toliver. He replaced Jackson out wide, opposite redshirt freshman Greedy Williams.
For Jackson, the move is more than just about staying busy. It’s about his future. He’s now a part of a lineage of LSU cornerbacks who shifted inside late in their careers at the school.
Most recently, Tre’Davious White did it, spending his senior season as the inside cover man, with Jackson and Toliver out wide. Before him, Jalen Mills moved from cornerback to the nickel/safety position, with White and Jalen Collins on the outside.
Jackson and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda watched film together of the former LSU standouts and current NFL players.
“That's a big thing, too: You don't want to just get stuck on an island, especially when a lot of teams are avoiding you,” Jackson said. “Coach Aranda brought it to me and said, 'I'm going to move you around and let you just get in the action.’”
When Tory Carter flexes, you can see it.
Stevens to see action ‘maybe’
JaCoby Stevens, on his third position move this season, could see his first action at safety as the Tigers depth there thins.
“Maybe JaCoby can get more snaps this week,” coach Ed Orgeron said Monday. “And if (secondary coach) Corey (Raymond) feels that he can go in the game, we may put him in.”
Stevens, a highly touted 2017 signee, moved from safety to receiver at the start of camp in August, to F-back two weeks ago and then back to safety last week. LSU’s depth at the position continues to thin.
The team lost rotational senior Ed Paris for the season with a knee injury, thrusting redshirt freshman Eric Monroe into a rotation with true freshman starter Grant Delpit. Lewis, as previously mentioned, is out – at least for now.
Redshirt junior and starter John Battle is battling injury issues. He sustained a stinger in his neck at Florida, the LSU radio broadcast reported.
He’s worn a gold jersey at practice on and off starting last week. The jersey signifies limited contact for injury. Battle missed at least two significant tackles against the Gators.
“John is limited. He struggled. It's hard not to wear a gold shirt all week and not tackle and go in the game and tackle full speed,” Orgeron said. “That's what you're seeing.”
Tackling has been an issue for this squad at times, something the coach readily admits. Reporters noticed starting last week an emphasis in practice on tackling, specifically the defensive backs.
“We made extensive research on the tackles that we're missing. Open field tackles. Chest-up tackles. Angle tackles,” Orgeron said Monday. “I don't know if Dave (Aranda) slept last night, to be honest with you. We came back in this morning. He had a breakdown of every tackle that each position had missed, how he missed it and had a film on it, and how we're going to fix it.”
Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.
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