Who's Next?
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Who's Next?

With nine LSU underclassmen officially declared for the draft, TSD takes a look at who will step into those roles next season.

The Departed Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo

Next in Line: Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter

It's not often a team must replace its two starting defensive ends, and replicating the likely first-round draft picks' production will be no easy task for LSU. Add in the fact that significant reserves Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere are gone to graduation, LSU will rely on a bevy of youth and inexperience on the defensive line in 2013.

Rasco and Hunter should be poised to take over the starting roles at DE. Rasco brings the most significant playing time to the position, after emerging in his true freshman season with two sacks in SEC play. Rasco regressed in terms of productivity in 2012, landing only a pair of solo tackles with a forced fumble. Rasco will likely get most of his reps in Montgomery's position. His 6-foot-3, 255-pound frame lends itself more to that power rush attack, but it will be difficult for him to duplicate the strength and athleticism that Montgomery brought to the table.

To replace Mingo, Hunter will likely be called upon to try and fill that speed-rush position on the line. He saw most of his freshman snaps on special teams, finding a niche in the kickoff coverage team. But he's still mostly an untested defensive end on the collegiate level and his inexperience may lead to some early growing pains in 2013.

Behind those two, LSU will either have to go with a pair of inexperienced upperclassmen in Jordan Allen and Justin Maclin to fill the rotation, or call upon someone from a group of highly-touted defensive line prospects. Guys like Kendell Beckwith, Frank Herron or Robert Nkemdiche (should he wind up at LSU) could also help fill the void left behind by Mingo and Montgomery.

The Departed: Bennie Logan

Next in Line: Anthony Johnson

Johnson has been a frequently discussed topic on this site with many expecting more from the nation's No. 1 DT two years ago. Next season will be his time to shine and fulfill those expectations as he should take over the role of top dog on the interior defensive line. Johnson did get 30 tackles in 2012, with 10 for a loss and three sacks. Though he's shown flashes of brilliance in ability to rush the passer, he'll be called on to stop the run a lot more in 2013. The defense could live and die by his success in doing so.

And much like on the defensive line, LSU will likely have to call on some freshmen or equally-inexperienced veterans to fill out the rotation. Ego Ferguson will likely get the first crack at filling the other starting spot, and players like Quentin Thomas, Greg Gilmore or Christian Lacouture will also see the field behind him.

The Departed: Tharold Simon

Next in Line: Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins

Though Tharold Simon didn't necessarily carry on the tradition of DBU left behind by Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, his 6-foot-3 frame will be a difficult weapon to replace in the secondary. The two Jalens did each show flashes of the lofty expectations bestowed upon them, but struggled with inconsistency throughout the season. Likely the shakiest unit of the LSU defense in 2012, Mills and Collins must show significant improvement in the spring and summer to help nullify some of the concern surrounding the secondary.

LSU will also have the benefit of three highly-touted DB recruits from the 2012 class — Dwayne Thomas, Kavahra Holmes and Derrick Raymond — that could see the field in nickel and dime packages. Even the 6-foot-2.5 Priest Willis might have a fast route to the field should he choose LSU.

The Departed: Eric Reid

Next in Line: Ronald Martin

Martin provided some optimism with his play in 2012 that the transition from Reid to him could be smooth. He picked off a pair of passes, including one he returned for a touchdown, and he totaled 35 tackles with a fumble forced. Reid's intelligence in the secondary is one that thing that will be difficult to replace. Though Martin has shown promise that he may be able to match Reid's production, he likely won't take over his leadership. Instead LSU may lean to seniors Craig Loston or Lamin Barrow to fill that vocal role.

The Departed: Kevin Minter

Next in Line: Lamin Barrow

Though the freshmen linebackers showed a lot of promise playing significant roles in the first season, the depth chart behind Minter is still very inexperienced. For a position that demands such a mastery of the defense, John Chavis likely won't call on one of those young prospects to replace Minter.

Instead that will likely go to returning senior Barrow. Barrow did crosstrain at MLB two years ago to provide depth behind a then-inexperienced Minter. He also brings the most familiarity with the defense, and his veteran leadership will be something the young defense will desperately need in 2013. Barrow had a breakout season last year, starting all 13 games and ranking only behind Minter with 104 tackles

The Departed: Brad Wing

Next in Line: Jamie Keehn

Wing took the nation by storm in 2011 before leaving the team on shaky grounds. His 44.8-yard average in 2012 actually surpassed his sophomore average of 44.8, and production like that his hard to duplicate at punter.

But LSU will replace one Australian punter with another. Jamie Keehn appeared in only two games last season, but showed enough, including nine punts with an average of 44.6 yards against Clemson. Fans shouldn't expect too much of a dropoff at punter next season.

The Departed: Spencer Ware and Michael Ford

Next in Line: Leonard Fournette

With Ware and Ford, it's difficult to determine who's in line behind two players that were mostly near the end of it. While Jeremy Hill roared to the lead of the RB pack, Ware and Ford both dropped behind him on the depth chart. Ware came on late in the year after Kenny Hilliard tailed off midseason. Ford was mostly relegated to kickoff return duties, having little impact on the run game.

With no others runner on the roster aside from Hill, Alfred Blue and Terrance Magee, the future of RB at LSU could be in the hands of Leonard Fournette. Though there's no telling if he'll actually select LSU instead of Alabama, the Tigers coaching staff is certainly telling him he's next in line. With LSU putting all its eggs in the Fournette basket for the 2014 RB class, they certainly hope he's the one to take over the run game. Though next season Hill will be the No. 1 back, most eyes may already be on 2014 when he may team up with Fournette to form a RB tandem that could rival the lineage of Alabama's ball-carriers.

Replacing the Early Departures