After the 2020 season concluded, one by one LSU learned what the depth would like at various positions. Receiver, offensive line and defensive line were the deepest groups on the roster. But positions like linebacker and most notably safety were extremely thin for the purple and gold.
So when LSU hired defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, who has a background in the secondary, the goal was to try and shore up the back half of the defense as quickly as possible. During the spring, the coaching staff had an idea to move Jay Ward back to safety and the decision has really paid off.
In the span of a few months, Ward, who had never played safety before making the switch in the spring, has brought some stability to the position in the offseason. The techniques of playing safety are much different than that of a cornerback, who is usually right up close with the opposing receiver. Safeties are the last line of defense and need to be comfortable playing zone and need to be quick in order to cover as much of the field as possible.
Ward said he's been picking up the little nuances of the position quickly and now feels at home at safety after spending his first couple of years as a rotation cornerback.
"I like playing safety because I get to go down hill more, I get to blitz, come off the edge and just being on the field more than last year," Ward said.
Right now it's looking like Ward and transfer Major Burns, as well as veteran Todd Harris figure to be a part of the rotation in some capacity. Freshman Sage Ryan will also see a significant role as he's been splitting his time with the nickel cornerbacks as well as the safeties early in this fall.
Of course one of the biggest issues with the defense last season was the lack of communication in the secondary, which is a big reason why Jones was brought in.
"We must always talk and now that in the offseason we've started to bond more, we're talking more, we're calling out formations and trying to improve on that communication," Ward said. "Major and Sage have both brought depth to this group and are playing tremendous right now.
The outlook at safety is much brighter than just a few months ago as Jones will now have options and can be more versatile with his rotations moving forward. Ward will be a significant part of this secondary trying to get back on track and he's playing with a lot more confidence because of that growing role in the secondary.
"Those last two games I really found myself, coming back from my previous injury," Ward said. "Derek was out that game, Elias was too so I knew I just had to be the one that stepped up."