No. 2 LSU using depth to steamroll early opponents
At this point, it looks as if the toughest team unbeaten LSU has faced this season is its second team in practice.
A 63-14 blowout of Idaho on Saturday, which helped the Tigers climb to No. 2 in the AP poll, served as the latest reminder that LSU's sideline is loaded with exceptional players waiting for their chance to shine.
Sophomore Ronald Martin needed one start to have what would be considered a career night for many fellow safeties across the country.
He had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a 45-yard touchdown. Both interceptions resulted from deflections by redshirt freshman Jalen Collins, who could have been starting at cornerback last year at some other schools, but is instead playing nickel back in his second season at LSU.
Then there is freshman cornerback Jalen Mills, who is only starting this season because of Tyrann Matheiu's dismissal in August. He made his second interception of the season on Saturday night.
So while there is youth in LSU's secondary, it hardly seems to be a liability.
''I see how hard they work in practice every day and they are learning to bring that to the game,'' junior safety Eric Reid said. ''I can see them getting better and better. They are making big plays and the reason is they are getting their confidence as football players that can help this team win.''
LSU coach Les Miles decided a home game against winless, six-touchdown underdog Idaho was as good a time as any to give Craig Loston's banged up body a night off in advance of next week's Southeastern Conference opener against Auburn. That was the only chance Martin needed to make himself a household name among LSU fans.
Indeed, all across LSU's lineup, there were examples of reserves making big plays.
Sophomore Anthony Johnson has been a regular reserve at defensive tackle, but got his first start against Idaho and was credited with five total tackles, including 1 1/2 tackles for losses. He was in on a tackle that stuffed Vandals running back Ryan Bass behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1.
Then there are the veteran role guys who are playing just as well as the stars at their positions.
Lavar Edwards is at best the third-most talked about defensive end at LSU behind Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Yet it was Edwards who tipped a pass to himself at the line of scrimmage, corralled the interception and willed his lumbering 260-pound body 23 yards for a touchdown.
On offense, it was more of the same.
Freshman running back Jeremy Hill, fifth on the depth chart as his position, got his first career carry in the fourth quarter against the Vandals.
LSU kept handing Hill the ball to run out the clock, and he wound up with 61 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries to put the finishing touches on a seven-touchdown blowout.
Hill might see more action down the road. Miles said after the game that starting running back Alfred Blue had an unspecified injury.
If he is unable to play next week, LSU will still be able to hand off to Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware, and Michael Ford. Hilliard, a 230-pound sophomore who flattens many would-be tacklers, has six touchdowns this season after rushing for 116 yards and two scores, one of which covered 71 yards.
''We keep fresh legs in the game at all times,'' Hilliard said. ''Whenever one guy gets tired you can put a fresh guy in and you don't lose anything. That is great. We have multiple backs that can all play well so that means that one guy is not going to have to get 30-40 carries in a game.''
That is bad news for the teams still waiting to see if they can give a reasonably competitive game to an LSU squad that has outscored its first three opponents 145-31, and has the nation's longest regular season winning streak at 16 games.
The Tigers' next two games are at struggling Auburn and at home against Towson of the FCS.
After that, perhaps, will come the true test of how good this LSU squad is.
The remainder of the Tigers' schedule includes four teams in the Top 25: No. 14 Florida (Oct. 6), No. 7 South Carolina (Oct. 13), No. 1 Alabama (Nov. 3), No. 23 Mississippi State (Nov. 10).