BATON ROUGE, La. — Donte Jackson speaks with the kind of subdued confidence that makes even his most provocative claims seem as if they’re conventional-accepted truths.
So when he was asked what he thought about Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby, the duo of Florida quarterbacks he and the rest of the LSU secondary will face this weekend, it should come as no surprise that Jackson nonchalantly offered up some bulletin board material.
“They’re aight. I’m not going to give them any praise,” Jackson said. “[Del Rio] is aight, but he’s got to deal with us. He’s got to come through us. We’re a great secondary. It don’t really matter who’s back there throwing the ball. It’s all are your receivers going to catch it?”
If last Saturday’s 42-7 LSU win over Missouri was any indication, the answer to Jackson’s rhetorical question is no. LSU’s secondary posted a masterstroke of a performance Saturday, limiting a Missouri offense that was averaging more than 40 points per game to just 7 and holding J’Mon Moore, the SEC’s most productive wide receiver this season, to just one catch.
“I thought our DBs had our best game of the year,” LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said. “We played some tight coverage, we played some man-to-man coverage. We only allowed No. 6 I think one ball. Tre’Davious White had an excellent night. He broke some balls up. “
White is the easy player to single out — he finished the night with an interception, two passes defensed and three tackles — but the defensive backfield truly turned in a collective effort. One of the keys to this was the game plan that defensive backs coach Corey Raymond had in place for the game from diligent film study.
Jackson revealed that Raymond noticed Missouri’s reliance on quick-hitting passes and how the team’s receivers rarely showed double moves or long-developing routes because quarterback Drew Lock’s success is often predicated upon getting into rhythm. Based off that observation, Raymond and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda instructed the defensive backs to be aggressive on slants and out routes, the kind of plays that can be read and blown up quickly.
This worked, thanks in large part to LSU’s heavy reliance on man coverage.
“That’s what we do,” Jackson said. ‘You don’t come to LSU to play corner if you ain’t going to be ready to play man-to-man, especially on top-tier receivers going on the SEC. It was fun.”
And as far as top-tier receivers go, LSU is about to have to contend with another one. Now that the position group displaced J’Mon Moore as the SEC’s most productive wide receiver, that mantle now belongs to Florida’s Antonio Callaway, who is averaging 93 receiving yards per game, the most of any wideout in the conference. Additionally, Callaway’s 18.55 yards per reception rank fifth in the nation among players with 20 or more receptions.
Though the game plan for the Florida game hasn’t been fully installed yet, the safest assumption is that Jackson and White will split time manning up against Callaway. Over the last two weeks, Jackson has manned up against the No. 1 receiver in the first and third quarters of games, while White has taken over the mantle in the second and fourth quarters, something that Jackson maintains is just a coincidence created by the team’s rotation.
Not surprisingly, Jackson had an opinion on Callaway, too. And while he definitely has a higher opinion of Florida’s receiver than its quarterbacks, he’s still pretty confident that Callaway won’t be much of a factor.
“Antonio Callaway? He’s a good receiver. Solid. Solid kid,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to the matchup against him. We’re a great secondary so it doesn’t really matter who’s matched up on him or where he’s running his routes or who’s throwing the ball to him. He’s still gotta catch it.”