LSU secondary should be much improved

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

LSU starts spring practice next Thursday, and I'll make the first of many predictions as we count down toward the kickoff to the 2009 season.

The Tigers' secondary will be one of the most improved units in the SEC.

Despite what the ugly pass defense numbers said last season, there's no shortage of talent returning in the secondary, and new defensive coordinator John Chavis will put that talent to good use. He likes to play extra defensive backs and should have the depth to do so next season.

In particular, an athletic, physical cornerback like Jai Eugene, who's had some ups and downs to this point, is a perfect fit for Chavis' system. Eugene is one of those guys who could have a breakout season in 2009.

We know how talented cornerback Patrick Peterson is after playing last season as a true freshman, and Chris Hawkins also returns for his senior year after starting 13 games at cornerback last season.

Chad Jones is a prototypical Chavis safety. He's big, athletic and versatile enough to move around. He, too, should flourish in Chavis' system, and it's noteworthy that Jones doesn't plan to miss any spring practice time to play baseball this year.

When you're learning a new system, you need every rep you can get.

Harry Coleman returns at strong safety after leading the Tigers in tackles last season. Safety Danny McCray and cornerback Phelon Jones also return, and both players started in games a year ago.

Seven of the Tigers' top 11 tacklers last season were defensive backs, and the only one of those who's gone is safety Curtis Taylor.

Chavis loves to go after the quarterback, which puts even more pressure on his cover guys. But it's also a way to force more turnovers. LSU intercepted just eight passes last season, which was tied for last in the SEC with Mississippi State.

Look for those numbers to go up, too.