- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: With LSU’s spring practice now in the rearview mirror, this week we’ll empty our notebook from the spring and cover a few topics that we weren’t able to hit prior to the Tigers’ spring game. We begin with a story on a pair of rising stars in LSU’s secondary.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Shortly after LSU’s defense adopted the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” moniker, the Tigers tired of breaking huddles by using the nickname that Seattle’s feisty secondary gave itself.
But LSU’s secondary still has a perfectly good nickname of its own.
“We’ve still got the DBU saying, though,” cornerback Rashard Robinson said.
DBU as in “Defensive Back University,” which might seem boastful, but it suits a program whose secondary has produced seven All-Americans and four first-round NFL draft picks in the last decade.
“That’s a lot to live up to. We’ve got Patrick [Peterson] and them, there were some great players here, so we’ve got to live up to the hype,” said Robinson, who attended the same high school (Ely in Pompano Beach, Fla.) that produced Peterson, a former LSU All-American and current star with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Tigers can go a long way toward upholding that tradition if Robinson and fellow sophomore Tre’Davious White continue their upward climb this fall. The duo put a positive spin on what had been an up-and-down 2013 season for DBU by claiming starting jobs by the end of the fall.
The Tigers gave up some big yardage totals while trying to settle on the right personnel last fall -- including a season-high 349 yards to Ole Miss in Game 8 -- but after that point, they allowed just 168.8 passing yards per game in the final five games. Perhaps the highlight of that stretch was the 34-10 dismantling of Texas A&M when first-time starter Robinson locked down Aggies star Mike Evans, intercepted his first career pass, and the Tigers handed Johnny Manziel (16-for-41 for 224 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) the worst outing of his college career.
Now, instead of green freshmen, Robinson and White are established starters, and they might just be growing into the program’s next shutdown corners.
“I think they’re becoming more mature, understand the spot that they’re in,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think they’re getting better. They’re talented men, and they’re getting reps after reps.”
For both players, that means focusing on the little things. Robinson, who wasn’t cleared to enroll at LSU until two days before the first game last fall, understandably took time to develop the necessary level of confidence.
“I was always peeking towards the sideline, just making sure I wasn’t messing up or anything like that, because I always used to hear [defensive backs coach Corey] Raymond yelling and it used to shake me up sometimes,” Robinson said. “But now I just relax and have that football swag with my technique and it’s been going good.”
White entered the starting lineup early last season and spent the spring working on basic elements of cornerback play that make a subtle difference.
“There’s some things I still need to work on. I take it as that, but there’s some things that I got better at as the spring went along,” said White, who led the team with nine passes defended and seven pass breakups last season. “[Things such as] being more physical at the line of scrimmage with the receiver and staying squared, not open as quick as I did last fall.”
As long as they stay out of trouble and in good academic standing, White and Robinson have the potential to lead a bounce-back year for LSU’s secondary -- and maybe even prove that the DBU nickname still has merit -- in 2014.
“To be honest, we’ve still got a couple things to work on, but we’re not too far away,” Robinson said. “We’re coming together.”
7dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough