BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's reputation as "Defensive Back University" might have slipped a bit in the last couple of years. Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson are intent on restoring the Tigers' secondary to its previous glory.
Last season marked only the second time in Les' Miles nine seasons at LSU that the Tigers did not have a defensive back make the coaches' All-SEC team. And safety Eric Reid was the only Tiger picked in 2012, ending a streak of three straight seasons when LSU had two DBs make the all-conference squad.
White and Robinson, who along with safety Corey Thompson all made the preseason all-conference team picked at SEC media days, could help LSU end that dry spell. And not only that, the sophomore cornerbacks have the potential to become the top cornerback tandem in the SEC.
"Everybody was thinking that the DBU tradition really was gone, but it really hasn't," Robinson said. "We're here. Our time is now."
White and Robinson had wildly different experiences as freshmen in 2013.
One of the most heavily-recruited cornerbacks in the nation last year, White entered the starting lineup in Week 3 against Kent State and never left. He started 11 times, finished the season with 55 tackles and two interceptions and led the Tigers in both pass breakups (seven) and passes defended (nine).
Robinson, meanwhile, waited all summer to gain academic eligibility. He was finally cleared to enroll at LSU on the week of the opener against TCU, but played only a minor role for much of the season despite appearing in 12 games. He made an enormous splash in his first start, however, pestering Texas A&M's Mike Evans -- an eventual first-round NFL draft pick - throughout an afternoon when the Tigers held A&M's prolific offense to its worst point (10) and yardage (299) totals of the season.
"A lot of people really were thinking that it was probably not even going to be a great matchup, so I just had to go and show the world what I was capable of doing," Robinson said of the matchup against Evans.
Robinson finished the season with just 16 tackles and one interception, but gained a late foothold at cornerback, allowing Jalen Mills to shift to the injury-depleted safety position. That cleared the way for White and Robinson to team up as starting cornerbacks in two of the final three games, building upon a bond that started to form as high schoolers who camped together at LSU.
"I actually met Rashard at a 7-on-7 camp back going into my senior year of high school," White said. "We met there and he was a guy, we sort of chopped it up and talked a little bit. He was telling me that it was between LSU and a couple more schools, and I was already committed to LSU, so of course I tried to persuade him to come here."
White continued, "Once we came to camp, we saw the bond we had and the chemistry we had to be great together. So I think that played a role in him coming."
Not that they didn't run into some growing pains. Like most freshmen, they needed time to figure out LSU's defensive scheme and to adapt to the speed of the college game.
The Tigers' defensive statistics were OK -- LSU actually improved from 28th nationally in pass defense in 2012 (206 yards allowed per game) to 13th in 2013 (197.5) -- but anyone who watched LSU's defense play last season knows that it experienced its share of breakdowns in the secondary, especially early in the fall.
It was the first season since 2008 when LSU's defense had fewer interceptions (11) than touchdown passes allowed (15).
"It was [an issue] with all of us last year. Me and Rashard, too," White said. "It was confidence in knowing the scheme and knowing different concepts of the defense. So with that confidence in Year 2, we're more confident in everything and we don't have to think. We just play football."
Miles has recently singled out both players in post-practice comments -- White for his leadership skills and Robinson for his play in the secondary during Saturday's first full scrimmage -- so the arrow seems to be pointing upward for the duo.
"I think that they just can't wait for the fall, to be honest," Miles said. "I think they're looking forward to making the plays that they came to make."
If they successfully make those plays, the All-SEC team should once again feature at least a couple of LSU names in the secondary at the end of the season -- and the Tigers might once again have the best cornerback pairing in the league.
"I feel that we have a great chance of doing that, living up to that, with the help of our front seven," White said. "The pressure that it gets on the quarterback, that'll make our jobs so much easier."