Sophomore CB sat out spring after undergoing surgery on torn labrun
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
For Kevin Toliver, Thursday morning was about knocking off the rust.
The sophomore cornerback took to the practice field with the rest of LSU’s veterans for the first split-squad practice of fall camp. But unlike most of his fellow returning starters, Toliver hadn’t been out there since his rookie season concluded back in December.
Toliver missed the entirety of spring practice after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum back in January. The rangy defensive back declared the shoulder “100 percent” after completing practice Thursday.
“I was a little tired out there,” Toliver said. “It’s going to take some time, maybe a couple of practices for me to get back in the groove. But I’m going to get back right.”
That’s as healthy as the former five-star prospect out of Florida has been since arriving in Baton Rouge as an early enrollee from the 2015 signing class.
Toliver revealed Thursday that the injury dated back to his of high school playing days — he got tangled with a receiver while trying to high-point the ball with his right arm — meaning he started eight games as a true freshman in the SEC despite nursing an injured shoulder.
Surgery only became necessary after he re-aggravated the injury during the Ole Miss game in November. Toliver maintains he could have participated in spring practices, but the coaches urged him to concentrate on rehabbing the shoulder back to full strength. That meant watching intently from the sidelines.
“There’s a lot of positives to take from (having to sit out),” Toliver said. “Just watching my guys and taking a lot of mental reps. That’s all I could really do. Take mental reps and learn the new playbook.”
That new playbook he mentioned would of course be the one implemented by new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Conventional wisdom would dictate a lost spring would leave Toliver in catch-up mode, but that’s now Toliver felt about it.
“I got a lot of mental reps,” Toliver said, “so I feel like I’m still on the same page as them.”
One reason for that, apparently, is the fact that Aranda’s defense, which calls for playing predominantly man-to-man press coverage on the outside, is simpler to pick up than the one employed by Kevin Steele, who Aranda replaced after Steele made a lateral move to Auburn last winter.
“It’s simpler,” Toliver said of Aranda’s defense. “It’s easier. It’s more understandable. Cause (Kevin) Steele’s was like an NFL defense. Coach Aranda, he’s more simple.”
Theoretically, it’s a defense that’s better tailored to LSU’s personnel in the secondary. Toliver and Tre’Davious White are both aggressive, physical cornerbacks, as are freshmen Saivion Smith and Kristian Fulton, who will practice with the afternoon group Thursday.
It also fits Donte Jackson, who’s currently battling for the outside corner position opposite Toliver when White shifts inside and plays the slot in nickel and dime packages. Toliver described his fellow sophomore ‘the fastest man in college football.’
“We DBU,” Toliver deadpanned, asked about LSU’s talent at cornerback. “That’s it.”