LSU’s reputation as “DBU” is something Tigers senior safety Jalen Mills takes quite seriously.
“For me, it’s about having high expectations for myself,” Mills said this week. “We put a target on ourselves calling ourselves ‘DBU.’ Whether you feel like it or not, we have to come in every day and give 110 percent.”
Mills returned this season as the chancellor of DBU, the senior starter, the free safety who makes the calls and checks to get the secondary aligned properly for each play.
There was a time quite recently, though, when Mills thought he might resign the office.
Fellow defensive back Jalen Collins decided to forego his senior season and may well be rewarded for his decision by becoming a first-round draft pick.
Mills thought long and hard about doing the same. He never applied for a grade from the NFL draft advisory board, he said, but the prospect of playing in the league as early as this fall weighed heavily on his mind as he struggled to make a decision.
“It was” difficult, Mills said. “I can’t lie to you. As a kid playing any sport you want to play professionally. I want to go to the NFL. I had the chance. It was right in front of me.”
Two things pushed the DeSoto, Texas, native back to LSU for one more go-round.
One was his desire to leave school with a degree in hand, thus pleasing his mother (always a significant consideration). The other was a trip by LSU coach Les Miles to Mills’ Dallas area home to “re-recruit” him, as it were.
“My mom and Coach Miles had a lot to do with” the decision, Mills said. “I appreciate him flying to Dallas to come see me and show me how much he loves me.”
Even without Collins, having Mills back means LSU’s possibilities for having a superb secondary in 2015 are trending positively. Junior Tre’Davious White, a potential All-Southeastern Conference player, returns to start at a cornerback spot, with sophomore Ed Paris taking over Collins’ position. At strong safety, sophomore Jamal Adams is on the case, widely considered to be the next Eric Reid in DBU’s assembly line of superb secondary talent.
“Right now, Ed’s leading the team in picks,” Mills said. “He’s balling out.”
That’s probably good.
“So is Jamal,” Mills said. “They’re very energetic.”
Mills also had positive reviews for freshman Kevin Toliver II, the highly recruited cornerback who enrolled at LSU in January largely so he could take part in spring practice.
“He’s working very hard to make that transition,” Mills said. “You have to remember, he’s supposed to be in high school going to prom right now. He’s picking (the defense) up. He’s always in the film room.”
When it comes to picking up the defense, a freshman like Toliver isn’t at much more of a disadvantage than a senior like Mills.
New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who can be found most practice days bouncing between his home position with the linebackers and instructing the secondary, hasn’t done much so far to change LSU’s schemes, Mills said. But there is always a new language with a new coordinator, a new way of making calls and checks that must be interpreted.
Mills knows he will become fluent in Steelespeak eventually, but for now he finds himself frustrated at times.
The offense isn’t making things easier.
“It’s fun, but it’s kind of frustrating learning a new defense,” Mills said. “I hate not knowing. (Offensive coordinator Cam) Cameron knows we have a new defense, so he’s throwing all types of formations and motions at us, all types of checks. I want to know everything, so I put pressure on myself.”
Most people are naturally going to be tactful when talking about the new boss, so when Mills was asked about his impressions of Steele so far, he walked a diplomatic line.
“As soon as he got hired, I went up to his office and introduced myself,” Mills said. “I told him when he’s ready to open the playbook and figure out what he wants to do, I want to be the first person to know.
“He’s a serious guy; takes his job seriously. He has very high expectations for us as a team. I respect him a lot.”
Sounds like the leaders of DBU have reached an accord already.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.