BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU cornerback Kevin Toliver II would prefer to forget last season ever happened. For better and for worse, his coaches aren’t letting that happen.
“It was kind of tough,” Toliver said of his sophomore season. “But talking with my coaches and teammates, it’s the past. You’ve just got to focus on this year.”
Before LSU began spring practice, head coach Ed Orgeron and secondary coach Corey Raymond sat down with Toliver to review a year that began with promise but ended without the sophomore playing in LSU’s final four games. They showed Toliver 10 of his best plays on film followed by 10 of his worst.
The message was clear: You can do better, because we have proof.
“That was different what he did, 10 good plays and 10 bad plays,” Toliver said. “I’ve just got to learn from my mistakes from Coach Raymond every day. Everyone makes bad plays. I wasn’t putting myself down or nothing. I just have to learn from them.”
It helps to have the physical capability to actually make good plays. From the outset, injuries were a theme that never went away for Toliver. Last spring he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. Though it was needed, he went into the fall not quite feeling right yet.
Matters got worse once the Tigers started playing. Toliver wrenched his knee against Mississippi State. He also was suspended for the first half of the game vs. Southern Miss for violating a team rule. Then in the Alabama game, he injured the AC joint in the same shoulder he had surgery on last spring. That was the last time he saw the field in 2016.
But the mental battle was much tougher for Toliver to fight than the physical ailments.
“It was tougher mentally,” Toliver said. “I wanted to have a better year than my freshman year. But it’s the past. I can just focus on my junior year.”
Some of the credit for Toliver’s ability to be in the right place mentally goes to the guy who supplanted him as LSU’s No. 2 corner last year — roommate Donte Jackson.
“We talked about it a whole lot,” Jackson said. “It aggravated him. He’s a fierce competitor and not being out there really hurt him.”
Now Toliver is ready to be back out there, taking over as the Tigers’ second corner while Jackson takes Tre’Davious White’s place.
“He helped a lot,” Toliver said of Jackson. “Talking with him every day, keeping me focused. I think this will be a big year for both of us.”
Of course, you’re pretty unlikely to meet a player who doesn’t think a big year is in store. But with neither his shoulder or knee bothering him, Toliver once again feels like the guy who earned eight starts as a true freshman and seemed poised for stardom.
“The first practice I felt 100 percent good. I felt the way I really should feel,” Toliver said. “I haven’t felt that way since freshman year.”