Spring Listing: Defensive Line

One of the biggest areas of concern for LSU in 2013 saw a lot of activity this spring. Who took a step forward? Who's dealing with injury? And what's the biggest storyline on the defensive front entering summer? TSD has all those answers and more inside.

With more than a week's distance from LSU's spring game, it's time to take stock of the 2013 Tigers and where they stand all over the gridiron.

Every day this week I will put a different position grouping under the microscope, filling out my picks to a set list of seven different categories and providing two numerical ratings.

I began Monday with the offensive line. CLICK HERE to read that spring listing. And CLICK HERE for Tuesday's look into the offensive skill players.

Today it's onto the defensive line.

Best Player: Anthony Johnson

It's pretty tempting to float out Jermauria Rasco's name, but ultimately the most important player on the line in 2013 with the highest potential is Freak. Doesn't hurt that he's also the vocal leader of the defensive line. Johnson, a junior, has designs on sculpting himself into a first-round pick in advance of next April's NFL Draft. His proving time began this spring and, so far, the 6-3, 304-pound defensive tackle has been up to the task.

Best Spring: Ego Ferguson

Ferguson, Johnson's tandem partner at defensive tackle, made the biggest leap this spring in my eyes. The redshirt junior has certainly waited his time in line, watching as Drake Nevis, Michael Brockers and then Bennie Logan starred on LSU's D-Line. With a starting spot carved out for him this spring, Ferguson refused to relinquish his grip on the position and performed extremely well in scrimmages while reportedly playing with more of a toughness in practice. The distance between Ferguson and the third DT on the depth chart appears farther now than it was six weeks ago.

Best Young Player: Christian Lacouture

As the only early enrollee on the defensive side of the ball, LaCouture may seem like the pick here by default. But the youngster earned his stripes this spring. He entered campus in January at 290 pounds, up 15 pounds from his playing weight in high school. That added bulk makes him an enticing option at both tackle and end, allowing him to begin sliding into the role Lavar Edwards recently vacated. Position coach Brick Haley worked LaCouture at both spots this spring, and he drew rave reviews from many of his teammates. This is one freshman who's destined to contribute in year one.

Worst Spring: Danielle Hunter

Hunter's spring was by no means disastrous, but it's also probably fair to say he best fits the answer to this category. An assumed starter at one defensive end spot opposite Rasco, Hunter quickly had a pin put in his balloon when redshirt junior Jordan Allen leapfrogged him. The message from Haley to Hunter was and is simple: shore up and master your technique. Sheer athleticism and quickness aren't enough to get the job done, and Hunter's well-aware of that now, taking with him ammunition to get better into the summer. He'll still see a lot of the field in 2013, but Hunter will have to rebound this August from a less-than-desirable spring.

Banged Up: Jermauria Rasco, Justin Maclin

Maclin's situation was known coming into spring ball, as the rising redshirt junior is still rehabbing from a leg injury that caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. His absence opened up the way for Ronnie Feist to move down to end from linebacker. It also meant that depth was extremely limited this spring for practicing and scrimmaging purposes. Rasco's injury, on the other hand, occurred during spring practice, as the junior end hurt his shoulder. He's already had a procedure, and all reports are that Rasco – as well as Maclin, a reserve – should be back and ready to go come August.

Don't Forget About: Jordan Allen

While a lot of attention has been paid to how Hunter, an athletic freak, lost the starting defensive end job, not enough has been given to how Allen won it. The redshirt junior had a great spring camp, his first action back from an ACL injury that forced him to miss all of the 2012 season. Allen, 6-6, 253, proved he can be the run-stuffing element LSU needs at end. His influence will be critical this fall, not only on the field but in helping mentor the bevy of incoming freshmen the Tigers signed in February.

Biggest Summer Subject: Readiness of incoming freshmen

More than anywhere else on the gridiron, LSU will have to rely on true freshmen along the defensive line in 2013. There's just no way around it, short of Haley chopping down the size of his usual rotation – something I don't see happening. Rasco, Allen and Hunter make three reliable options at end, but one of the freshmen will have to be No. 4, a player who typically gets legitimate run in LSU's platoon system. The same principle applies at tackle, where spots are up for grabs after Johnson, Ferguson and Quentin Thomas. Should injury strike, the freshmen will have to be ready to handle even more. How well they're preparing and training this summer is paramount to LSU and Haley having the depth they need.

The following ratings do not take into account non-early enrollee freshmen.

DE Starter Rating (on scale from 1-10): 7

DE Depth Rating: 4.5

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DT Starter Rating: 7.5

DT Depth Rating: 5


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