LSU’s Jay Ward adjusts to permanent move to safety
After the 2020 season ended, one by one LSU learned what depth would like in different positions. The receiver, the offensive line and the defensive line were the deepest groups in the roster. But positions like linebacker and more specifically safety were extremely slim for the purple and gold.
So when LSU hired defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, who has a high school background, the goal was to try and consolidate the back half of the defense as quickly as possible. In the spring, the coaching staff came up with the idea to get Jay Ward back to safety and the decision really paid off.
Within months, Ward, who had never played it safe before making the switch in the spring, brought some stability to the job in the offseason. The techniques of playing safety are very different from those of a cornerback, who is usually very close to the opposing receiver. Safeguards are the last line of defense and should be a comfortable playing area and should be quick in order to cover as much ground as possible.
Ward said he quickly understood the small nuances of the job and now felt safe at home after spending his first two years as a rotating cornerback.
“I like playing it safe because I’m going down more hills, I’m doing blitzes, I’m on the pitch and I’m on the pitch more than I was last year,” Ward said.
Right now he looks like Ward and the transfer from Major Burns, as well as veteran Todd Harris, who are part of the rotation to some extent. Freshman Sage Ryan will also play an important role as he splits his time with nickel cornerbacks as well as safeties early this fall.
Of course, one of the biggest issues with defense last season was the lack of communication in high school, which is one of the main reasons Jones was drafted.
“We always have to talk and now that in the offseason we started to bond more, we talk more, we call formations and try to improve that communication,” Ward said. “Major and Sage have both brought depth to this group and are playing a lot right now.
The security outlook is much brighter than just a few months ago as Jones will now have options and may be more versatile with his rotations going forward. Ward will be an important part of this secondary trying to get back on track and he is playing with a lot more confidence due to this growing role in the secondary.
“These last two games I’ve really found myself, coming back from my previous injury,” Ward said. “Derek was out this game, Elias was too, so I knew I had to be the one to step up.