Clayton knows safety

Updated: August 27, 2003, 3:08 PM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- While LSU fans finally get to see the 2003 version of the Tigers on Saturday night, they may have to wait a little longer to see the continuing experiment with wide receiver Michael Clayton playing on defense.

"We'll get him ready to play in the game, then see if we need to play him or not," coach Nick Saban said.

Clayton played a few downs at safety in the 35-20 loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1 and has continued to practice at the position through camp. Since the start of practice, Saban has said he wants to play Clayton only if he is needed, but safety is one of the areas in which the Tigers lack experience. Freshmen LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels quickly moved into the two-deep depth chart near the beginning of camp.

ULM is a 35-point underdog in the game, which may keep Clayton on the sideline when the Indians have the ball. But ULM brings in a high-octane passing attack with a quarterback, sophomore Stephen Jyles, who passed for 2,318 yards and 17 touchdowns last season despite taking over as the starter in the Indians' fourth game. Receiver Mack Vincent caught 79 passes for 1,198 yards.

Clayton is optimistic that he will play on defense Saturday night.

"I think I will play based on the way we've done practice," said the 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior. "They've been putting me in there with the No. 1 defense.

"I'm ready for it. I'm comfortable. I want to bring whatever I can to the defense. I want to get down and dirty, get physical and hit some people."

Clayton said he is much better prepared to do double duty than in the Cotton Bowl because he came into that game with a limited amount of practice time at safety. He said he's also in better condition.

Saban said Clayton is without question the team's best wide receiver and defensive back. When asked if he considered moving Clayton to safety full time, Saban didn't flinch.

"If it's best for our team at some point in time to play him more on defense because it will help us win, maybe we'll do that. But we'll never move him to defense because he's too valuable to our team on offense in more ways than just the passes he catches. He's a great leader, he's got tremendous character as a person, which affects people, and he makes plays. His toughness is something I wouldn't want to take away from our offensive unit."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index