Since he arrived on campus in this summer, Jamal Adams has been trained in the art of being LSU’s nickelback — just in case starter Dwayne Thomas couldn’t play.
That time is here.
Thomas is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and Adams is expected to be the guy who fills his role.
It’s a big one for the true freshman, and it comes on a big stage. No. 15 LSU (4-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) travels to play at fifth-ranked and reigning SEC champion Auburn (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday.
There’s a strong possibility that LSU opens the game in the nickel defense against Auburn’s spread. So Adams could start the game. This has been coming for a while.
“He’s been prepared for quite some time to be a starter,” coach Les Miles said Wednesday.
Adams, a Texas native, was one of four five-star-rated prospects in LSU’s No. 2-ranked 2014 signing class. He was ranked the No. 2 safety at his position, according to 24/7 Sports’ composite rankings.
Thomas didn’t only serve as LSU’s nickelback. He was the primary pass rusher in LSU’s Mustang package (six defensive backs). He injured his right knee while serving in that role against New Mexico State, twisting it during a cutback while rushing the quarterback.
Adams, as expected, has been taking snaps in Thomas’ place this week during practice.
“He’s going to play a big role for us this Saturday,” safety Ronald Martin said. “He was the backup behind Dwayne, so we always kept him prepared if things like that happened.”
There was a lot of head-scratching going on in the Tiger Stadium stands during the second half of Saturday’s game win over New Mexico State when LSU wide receiver Miquel James, a redshirt freshman, touched the ball twice in the Tigers’ 63-7 rout.
Running a jet sweep each time, James, a football and track star at Jewel Sumner High School, made his college debut with a 19-yard run in the third quarter and also had a 5-yarder in the final period.
“That’s my boy. ... Nobody knows who he was,” wide receiver Travin Dural said. “He’s a guy who’s been practicing with the scout team. He works hard every day in practice, and he finally got his shot. He’s a real fast guy, as everyone could see.”
As a senior at Jewel Sumner in 2013, James ran on the Class 3A state champion 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams.
“I was really excited for him when the play was happening,” Dural said of the 19-yard run. “We watched the play happen all week in practice, and every day it would break for 30, 40 yards. I was like, ‘I hope it happens like that for him in a game,’ and it did. I was very excited for him.”
Said Miles: “Very fast player on our team. Got a couple of things set up for him we’ll use probably in every game.”
LSU tight ends coach and former Tigers quarterback Steve Ensminger coached quarterbacks at Auburn in 2003 and tight ends from 2004-08. Sam Nader, LSU assistant athletic director for football operations, played quarterback at Auburn.
Auburn team orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews graduated from LSU and won the 1963 SEC pole vault title. Auburn co-offensive coordinator and former quarterback Dameyune Craig started his career as an LSU graduate assistant in 2004, while co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison coached defensive backs at LSU in 2001-02.
Saturday’s game will be the 49th meeting between LSU and Auburn since 1901, with LSU holding a 27-20-1 advantage.
LSU has won six of the last seven and seven of nine meetings under Miles, including last year’s 35-21 victory in Tiger Stadium. Overall, LSU trails Auburn 10-7 in games played there, including a narrow 12-10 win in 2012.
LSU sold out its complete allotment of 7,000 tickets to Auburn. … LSU is trying to avoid its first 0-2 SEC start since 2001, though that year the Tigers rebounded to win their first SEC championship since 1988. … Eight times since 2000 the winner of this game has gone on to win the Western Division and play in the SEC Championship Game. The last time was in 2011 when LSU won 45-10 and went on to play in the BCS National Championship Game.
Advocate on the road
Fans traveling to the LSU-Auburn game can pick up complimentary copies of Saturday’s edition of The Advocate at these locations:
- Auburn Clarion Inn & Suites
- The Hotel at Auburn, University & Dixon
- Hampton Inn Auburn
- Hilton Garden Inn Auburn/Opelika
- University Station RV park
- Residence Inn Montgomery
- Coutyard Montgomery
- Embassy Suites Montgomery (team hotel)
- Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa (LSU alumni)
- Staybridge Suites Montgomery-Eastchase