QUESTION: Which Tiger had the most disappointing season in 2013?
Ben Love: I'm going with the man picked to wear LSU's sacred No. 18 jersey, linebacker Lamin Barrow. All offseason long and into Fall Camp, the talk defensively was that the Tigers' rebuilding defense would be held together by a deep, experienced linebacking corps. The ringleader was supposed to be Barrow, coming off an impressive 104-tackle season in 2012 playing second fiddle to Kevin Minter.
Well, in 2013, as a redshirt senior, Barrow never came close to matching his productivity from a year prior and didn't make the leap so many before him had made to being the lead guy once the previous alpha dog (Minter) moved on. In fact he may have regressed. Barrow finished the campaign with a team-high 86 tackles (an indictment on the defense) but only 4.5 tackles for loss (down from 7.5 in 2012), 1.5 sacks and was picked on relentlessly in coverage (as much a coaching decision as anything else).
Heading into bowl season, Barrow is the figurehead of sorts of a LB corps that disappointed as a whole. Of the six linebackers taken in the Class of 2012, one has transferred (Trey Granier), one is a reserve defensive end (Ronnie Feist), three are backup linebackers (Deion Jones, Lamar Louis and Lorenzo Phillips) and only one (Kwon Alexander) seems to have worked out as planned. Maybe it's not fair that Barrow, who also never played inside at Mike linebacker despite a glaring need, represent an entire underwhelming group, but, as a senior and a leader and a guy that had been there before, he drew higher expectations from me.
Hunter Paniagua: It might be time to replace the "Freak" nickname with something a little more appropriate, like "Underwhelming" or "Exceptionally Average." Anthony Johnson has received nothing but lofty expectations since arriving at LSU as the No. 1 overall defensive tackle in the Class of 2011. In the three seasons since, particularly in 2013, Johnson has failed to reach that level of performance and has left fans wondering why all that potential remains untapped.
Most every expert expected a breakout season from Johnson in 2013, the year he'd rightfully take the reins from Michael Brockers and Bennie Logan. But Johnson was anything but the type of success that Brockers and Logan were in their final seasons at LSU. Johnson finished with just 32 total tackles (12 solo), three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Johnson didn't record a solo tackle in any of LSU's final three games, and fans won't soon forget his four offside penalties against Arkansas.
There were plenty of excuses made early in the season — that he was constantly fighting double teams, and the lack of depth at DT forced him to play too many snaps. But those all lost weight as the year progressed, and Johnson mostly just became one of several reasons why the defense struggled so much in 2013. Regardless, NFL types will still fall in love with all of his physical attributes, and he'll likely depart early for the draft. If he does, fans will undoubtedly question what could have been when it comes to the "Freak."
12/10 – Most surprising player in 2013