BATON ROUGE, La. — Last season, former safety and projected first-round NFL Draft pick Jamal Adams was the Tigers’ enforcer in the secondary, primed to take on anything that came up the middle.

The Tigers’ new lock in the secondary, senior safety John Battle, aims to combine smart play with physicality to become LSU’s version of Batman.

“Being able to react faster than others,” Battle said. “It’s being one step ahead, kind of like Batman. Just taking that role trying to be more of a smart player.”

Battle has embodied this blend since his days at Hallandale (Fla.) High School in south Florida.

“His physicality and his high character, very high character (set him apart),” former Hallandale High School coach Dameon Jones told Saturday Down South. “His game is smart. His junior and senior year, he was kind of above everybody else. … He was that film guru. That guy who led the team. …That’s just John Battle.”

Heading into this season, Battle aims to take the next step in his LSU career becoming the Tigers’ quarterback on defense, stepping into the communication void left by the departure of Jamal Adams, Tre’Davious White, Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley.

“Those guys are very vocal,” Battle said. “They knew the whole defense. Everybody did their job (last year).  Having a younger group just make sure that everyone is communicating and knows their role and their responsibilities.”

Adams, White, Beckwith and Riley combined for 115 starts in 183 games played during their illustrious LSU careers, collectively gathering a case full of accolades ranging from All-SEC recognition to First Team All-America honors.

Despite appearing mainly on special teams during his first two seasons, Battle thrived in a starting role after he took over then-senior Rickey Jefferson’s safety spot last season after Jefferson broke his leg in practice.

Battle tallied 31 tackles and 3 pass breakups in his seven starts in 2016.

“He’s been a starter before, so he’s taken on that leadership role back there,” senior defensive end Christian LaCouture said. “He’s basically like the quarterback of the defense. Understanding and getting the calls right for the secondary and bringing it all the way down to the defensive line … He’s a guy that is making sure that he’s very vocal, and he’s done a great job so far.”

As his game evolves this spring, Battle has approached every practice and film session differently as he learns the details of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme on every level.

“I hit the books a lot,” Battle said. “Just coming to (the operations building) early and leaving late. Getting it in with (defensive backs) coach (Corey) Raymond and (assistant defensive backs) coach Leon Wright just learning the playbook.”

When Aranda installed his defense last spring, Battle struggled to master the defensive front and concentrated on the details needed to play his own position at safety.

This spring, Battle’s focus has transitioned from the secondary to the defensive front to be able to communicate adjustments throughout the defense.

“I had some struggles with learning the front, but I said I was actually going to take the time out to learn those things this spring,” Battle said. “It’s knowing if somebody runs in the A gap, and telling defensive lineman like, ‘Hey that’s your gap, you got to get in there.’ Just taking the pressure off the linebackers.”

Along with working on the overall defense’s communication, Battle is adapting to step up in run support.

Last season, Adams excelled at coming down in run support as the Tigers’ strong safety while Battle primarily handled playing deep as a free safety in passing coverage.

Heading into this season, LSU’s safeties are less specialized in these roles, giving Aranda more flexibility while requiring the Tigers’ safeties to be prepared for both responsibilities.

With his sizable 6-2-inch, 202-pound frame, Battle has worked throughout the spring to build up his body to take on the NFL-sized offensive linemen he will see during SEC play.

“If you are closer to the defensive line, you’ve got to be ready to take on those tackles and those guards,” Battle said. “You got to be ready to take the back out of the backfield. Just got to get my body prepared for it if I’m down or if I’m high.”

Although LSU’s secondary may not be packed with household names like last season, Battle and company are determined to continue the Tigers’ “Defensive Back University” tradition.