SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As Fiesta Bowl Media Day drew to a close, the healthy, eligible members of LSU’s defensive backfield and their position coaches gathered around the bowl’s gaudy trophy for a photo opportunity.
“We used to have a lot more people,” LSU cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond laughed as the group made its way toward the waiting buses. “We would’ve needed a bigger camera.”
LSU will take on UCF without three of its top four cornerbacks, forcing LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and his staff to get a bit creative in terms of devising a secondary.
Kary Vincent and Terrence Alexander will get the start at cornerback, LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced earlier this week, but how LSU deploys the rest of its defensive backs is a bit of a mystery at this point.
What is clear at this point is that LSU will be using some defensive backs that haven’t played much this season to fill in the gaps. Mannie Netherly and Jontre Kirklin — who recently switched back from offense — would be the next cornerbacks up on the depth chart.
“Those guys have practiced well, but you can never tell how it’s going to be until the game comes,” Orgeron said. “I think those guys are going to perform well, but they’re going to be challenged. Central Florida is going to make plays. We know that.”
The answer could be to use multiple safeties in a variety of roles.
Coaches often say that Grant Delpit is like having three defenders rolled into one, but Aranda said the All-American will likely have to quarterback the defense from his safety spot while other players fill roles in nickel and dime packages.
LSU will get starting safety John Battle back after the senior missed the final three games of the regular season. Battle confirmed that he completed in-house punishment for punching a Texas A&M staffer during a post-game altercation last month, though the veteran defensive back wouldn’t elaborate on what that entailed.
“Coach O gave me a punishment, and I did it,” Battle said. “It’s pretty much over with now. Just moving on. I can’t really get into details about what it is.”
JaCoby Stevens also figures to see increased playing time with LSU so thin in the secondary. The versatile defender is coming off a career game against Texas A&M in which he totaled 14 tackles (4 TFL) and one pass breakup.
“He’s been down low at the linebacker spot, kind of our quarter spot quite a bit,” Aranda said. “We’re playing him deep a little bit more. More guys are having to take on more roles.”
Another player in line for a more significant role is sophomore safety Eric Monroe, who missed all but three games this season due to an undisclosed injury. Aranda singled Monroe out as someone who’d have to play against UCF.
It’s been something of a lost year for the former blue chip recruit, but Monroe said he’s healthy and ready to contribute whenever called upon on Tuesday.
“It’s good to be back, man,” Monroe said. “It’s been ups and downs, but I keep pushing and I keep working. Whatever coach wants me to do, I’m going to play the position to the best of my abilities.”