The best way to describe the start of the LSU football season, at least in Donte Jackson’s opinion, is boring.
Jackson has been bored.
Maybe not “bored” in a traditional sense, he later clarified, but the Tigers' junior cornerback hasn’t done much this season.
He hasn’t had to do much.
Each play he lines up across from his receiver, waits patiently for the snap, runs down the field per his assignment, then quietly returns to do it all over again.
Jackson is more than ready to step in to provide his team with a strong defensive play, but no one seems to want to throw at the so-called fastest man in college football.
So far, opponents have thrown at Jackson a grand total of five times. That accounts for precisely 3.7 percent of the 134 passes LSU’s opponents attempted through the first four games.
Last week against Syracuse, Jackson said his man was not targeted a single time in the Orange’s 55 pass attempts.
Of the five attempts against him, four were completed: one against BYU, three against Chattanooga and one against Mississippi State.
So until someone decides to challenge him, Jackson will do his best to stay focused.
“My mental trick is to act as if my man is getting the ball every time I step in front of him,” Jackson said. “Every time I step in front of him, I’m looking at him as the go-to guy. That’s something I like to think about in my head: ‘He’s getting the ball.’ Even if he’s not, I still like to play that over in my head, just to keep up with everything.”
Jackson isn’t too worried about quarterbacks shying away from his side of the field.
He takes it as a compliment — the highest compliment you can pay a defensive back.
Jackson sees his lack of action as a testament to what he already knows. He believes he’s the best cornerback in the nation, that and teams have a reason to be afraid of him.
It also doesn’t hurt Jackson is a veteran talent in the Tigers system, while a redshirt freshman lines up on the opposite side in Andraez “Greedy” Williams.
While his targets continue to lag, Jackson sees his main job as making sure Williams, Kevin Toliver and Kary Vincent are better prepared. However, he expects that to change once the Tigers get into the meat of their Southeastern Conference schedule in two weeks.
Williams has been one of the breakout stars for LSU this season, making three interceptions in his first four games and coming within 2 yards of a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage against Syracuse.
Williams said he’s beginning to develop a reputation as a shutdown corner, but until then, he’s prepared to take advantage of teams avoiding Jackson.
“(Jackson) comes in probably every game like, ‘I know they’re not going to throw at me like that.’ ” Williams said. “He tells me to take advantage of the opportunity given to me.
“(Not throwing at you) means people know who you are. That means they respect you. If they don’t throw at you, you know you’re doing something right to make them not throw at you. It’s a respect thing for a DB.”
Some elite cornerbacks will try to bait passers into throwing their way so they can make a play.
Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders was famous for this throughout his career: Let off a little at first, or miss a jam at the line of scrimmage, only to close in once the quarterback commits to the throw.
But Jackson doesn’t want to play that game.
If he can shut down his side of the field, that’s what he’ll do — even if it means lackluster numbers on the stat sheet.
This season Jackson has no interceptions, no passes broken up and only 10 tackles — the fewest of any of the seven LSU defenders who have started all four games.
Still, there’s no deviation from his process.
“I don’t bait,” Jackson said. “I don’t even want the receiver to think he’s open. I don’t believe in baiting.”