BATON ROUGE, La. — Nerves were definitely a factor as LSU safety Eric Monroe jogged out onto the Tiger Stadium turf Saturday afternoon.
It was his first time in a starting role since the Class 6A Texas state championship game his senior year of high school in 2015. It was in front of a national TV audience on CBS, no less. And the manner in which the game started didn’t exactly do wonders for his — or anyone else’s — confidence.
Auburn marched all over the LSU defense in the first quarter, easing out to a 17-0 lead that included a 49-yard touchdown pass over the top of fellow safety Grant Delpit.
But Monroe, the redshirt freshman, and Delpit, the true freshman, each had a role in stabilizing the LSU defense against an Auburn offense that went missing in the second half as LSU rallied for a 27-23 win. Monroe finished with 5 tackles — 4 solo — and a pair of pass breakups. The Tigers allowed only 64 yards in the second half, holding Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham to 2 of 13 passing for 6 yards.
Overall, it was a pretty good performance from a safety duo playing together for the first time in a game setting. Monroe was starting in place of John Battle, who was out with a stinger that he picked up in the Florida game.
“[Monroe] made some mistakes, obviously, but I thought as the game went on he gained more confidence,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “[Defensive backs coach] Corey Raymond did an excellent job of coaching him. The other players, John Battle was coaching him on the sideline, and I think the more he saw the formations, the more he knew the adjustments, the better he did as the game went on.”
Monroe agreed that Battle was helpful whenever he returned to the sideline at the end of a possession.
“He’s great. He’s a team role model,” Monroe said. “He was doing good helping me out.”
Monroe may return to the bench this week if Battle can make it back on the field against Ole Miss. And of that happens, Monroe is prepared to make a contribution if called upon. Patience is but one of many important lessons he learned while redshirting last season.
“Taking care of your body. That’s the number one thing [I learned],” Monroe said. “Stay in the film room, listening to your coaches.”
LSU receiver DJ Chark has gone up against Monroe enough in practice to know the Tigers were going to be fine without Battle.
“He’s a competitor. If he goes against me, he’s gonna go hard,” Chark said. “When I found out John wasn’t playing the day of [the Auburn game], I wasn’t too worried. [Monroe] might make a few mistakes in the beginning being on that big stage, but once he gets settled down, I felt he was going to play lights out. That’s exactly what he did.”