By Trey Mongrue
Ask Les Miles to describe freshman safety Jamal Adams and the first word that comes to the LSU football coach’s mind is “electric.”
That very electricity was most evident during a three-play series in the second quarter during the Tigers’ 41-3 win over Kentucky.
It started, innocently enough, with Adams noticing a flustered Wildcat quarterback Patrick Towles and quickly closed in for a sack on third down. On the ensuing punt, Adams was the key cog in unleashing Tre’Davious White’s 67-yard punt return when he issued a punishing cutback block that de-cleated Kentucky’s A.J. Stamps and drew a loud reaction from the Tiger Stadium crowd. To cap it all off, Adams was the first one there to make the tackle on the following kick-off.
“He’s just a real instrumental contributor for us,” Miles said of Adams.
Of course after the game, the only thing anybody wanted to talk about with Adams was the thunderous hit he laid on Stamps. He was happy to oblige.
“Oh yeah, it was definitely a great feeling,” Adams answered with a sheepish grin when asked if he enjoyed that block. “I saw him coming, peeled back and saw him. He didn’t see me, so I laid the wood on him.”
Keep in mind that this was Adam’s first time talking with the media following a game, yet he seemed loose and unafraid of the dozens of recorders inches away from his face. Perhaps his ability to succinctly describe any situation is because often times when Adams makes a play, he’s talking, whether it’s to his teammates, the fans or the other team.
“I can’t just be out there and be quiet.”
– LSU safety Jamal Adams
– LSU safety Jamal Adams
“He’s a communicator in the secondary on the field,” said Miles. “He always comes with great effort and injury.”
It shouldn’t come as much surprise that Adams’ mouth is as active as his playing. He inherited that style from his idols, Ray Lewis, Earl Thomas, Kenny Vaccaro and former-LSU safety Ryan – all guys who hit hard and usually let people know about it afterwards.
“I can’t just be out there and be quiet,” he laughed. “People kind of get on me about it, and we joke about it, but communication is definitely key.”
But bone shattering blocks and on or off-the-field chatter aside, Adam’s overall performance should not be overshadowed by a couple of exclamation points.
He led the Tigers with five solo tackles and finished second with eight tackles total. And it wasn’t because Kentucky’s offense was constantly making its way to LSU’s second level of defense. Instead, Adams forced the issue and was a major thorn in the Wildcats side all night.
“I’m just full of energy,” Adams said of the way he plays. “I just execute what the coaches ask of me. Right now, I’m just flying around to the ball and making big plays.”
Adam’s big night not only showed how much of a difference-maker he is on both defense and special teams, the two main reasons that drove LSU to such a lop-sided Southeastern Conference victory, but it also showed how much the first-year player from Carrollton, Texas has matured in his short collegiate career.
It wasn’t always like this.
Sure, being the top-rated safety after taking home the District Most Valuable Player Award as a senior at Hebron High School put high expectations on Adam’s arrival, but in LSU’s season opener against Wisconsin, he hardly saw the field outside of lining up on special teams.
“When I first got here, it was definitely a struggle to get used to everything,” Adams recalled. “It was the little things, like the speed, reading your keys and studying your playbook harder than anyone else. SEC football is the real deal and I was expecting that hype. That’s what I came here for.”
But once he got used to everything with college life at an SEC school and showed his potential on special teams, Adam’s has seen his playing time increase and, not so coincidentally, his imprint in each game has only gotten larger.
While he has yet to start a game at safety with veterans Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin entrenched, Adams has seen the field just as much, if not more so in recent games.
Not only at safety and on special teams, but also as LSU’s preferred nickel back ever since a torn ACL knocked Dwayne Thomas out for the season.
“I felt that it was going to happen soon, but I didn’t know when,” Adams said of his growing role. “I knew that I had to step up when Dwayne went down because he was such a big part of our defense that made us successful.
“I definitely felt my confidence going up with each week,” he continued “That’s something that goes back to practice. It’s all about how you practice and that carries over to the game.”
With LSU’s next game being a date with third-ranked Ole Miss at Tiger Stadium this Saturday, Adam’s next big test will be trying to counter Rebels’ quarterback Bo Wallace who boasts the second best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the conference.
Wallace torched the LSU secondary for 346 yards last season. But the LSU secondary was missing that electric element then. It now seems to have that in Adams and if he makes a play or two this weekend, it would be safe to assume that everyone in the building will know about it.
That is because, quite frankly, Adams is very confident in his abilities.
“I think I can still make bigger plays – outstanding plays,” he said. ”Everyday, I’m getting better.”