Evolving Depth Chart: Defense

TSD takes a look at how and where the LSU defense has changed under John Chavis in recent months.

A depth chart is a constantly developing concept, eternally tweaked by coaches and influenced by players’ ebbs and flows during the course of a season and offseason.

It’s no different at LSU, where yesterday I chronicled the evolution of the Tigers’ offensive depth chart over the last few months. There were a number of changes in Cam Cameron’s group, even in the starting lineup, including the role of first-team quarterback.

Today I’ll display how the defensive two-deep has shifted since I last did my projections in late-May. And the current depth chart below isn’t a reflection of what the LSU Sports Information Department hands out every Monday; it’s based off what the coaches are showing us on the field with order of playing time and amount of playing time.

There isn’t as much variation with John Chavis’ defense, but I’ll provide notes on what has changed at the bottom of the story.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART (SUMMER)

DE: Danielle Hunter, Tashawn Bower, Justin Maclin

DT: Quentin Thomas, Maquedius Bain

DT: Christian Lacouture, Travonte Valentine

DE: Jermauria Rasco, Lewis Neal

SLB: Lamar Louis, Duke Riley OR Ronnie Feist

MLB: D.J. Welter, Kendell Beckwith, Clifton Garrett

WLB: Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones

CB: Tre’Davious White, Dwayne Thomas

FS: Jalen Mills, Corey Thompson

SS: Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson OR Jamal Adams

CB: Rashard Robinson, Edward Paris OR Jalen Collins

CURRENT DEPTH CHART

DE: Danielle Hunter, Tashawn Bower, Justin Maclin

DT: Quentin Thomas, Davon Godchaux

DT: Christian LaCouture, Lewis Neal OR Frank Herron

DE: Jermauria Rasco, Deondre Clark

SLB: Lamar Louis, Duke Riley

MLB: D.J. Welter, Kendell Beckwith

WLB: Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones

CB: Tre’Davious White, Dwayne Thomas

FS: Jalen Mills, Jamal Adams

SS: Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson, Corey Thompson

CB: Rashard Robinson, Jalen Collins, Ed Paris

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- Maybe I have projection skills or maybe it was just obvious months ago, but Chief is staring the same 11 many figured he would over the summer. The biggest two-deep change for LSU’s defense has come along the defensive line, where the second-string platoon guys are comprised of more true freshmen than expected. Instead of Travonte Valentine, though, who’s not even cleared to play yet by the SEC, Brick Haley has turned to Davon Godchaux as his first defensive tackle sub into ballgames. Deondre Clark has also dented the two-deep at defensive end, basically replacing Lewis Neal, who has been forced to move inside to give depth and supply a passing-down specialist at defensive tackle . . .

. . . The other obvious alteration is the lack of redshirt freshmen factoring in on the interior. None of the trio – Frank Herron, Maquedius Bain or Greg Gilmore – played in the Wisconsin opener, and they’re all still lagging behind Godchaux. Two other true freshmen worth touching on: DE Sione Teuhema and DT Trey Lealaimatafao. Teuhema was almost worth putting on this two-deep after his two-sack performance in limited time versus Sam Houston State, but the sample size for him is just so small. If he continues to take advantage of his time, I believe he could leapfrog Clark and give LSU a third-down terror off the edge. The same is also possible for Trey L., who has returned to practice this week after a nasty bicep injury late in the summer. If he can get back into playing shape soon, it’s not unforeseeable that Haley would throw him out there ahead of Herron.

- At linebacker the situation is a lot simpler and actually a bit ironic. Over the summer it appeared Chavis had as many as eight or maybe nine legitimate options he could trot out onto the defense’s second level, but we haven’t seen any of Clifton Garrett and virtually no Ronnie Feist or Donnie Alexander. So what we learned through two games is that Chavis has a few less viable options than anticipated, but he does have a trustworthy six-man crew that, in a weird way, still makes LSU deeper at the position that it’s been in many years. One last note: I’m not ready to put the “OR” between D.J. Welter and Kendell Beckwith yet, but that time does seem to be approaching.

- Not a ton of shakeup in the secondary, at least not yet. There are warning signs that LSU could replace Ronald Martin at strong safety, but no move has been made to this point. Should that happen, I’d expect Rickey Jefferson to get first crack with Jamal Adams right behind him. That’s the order in which Corey Raymond has sent his rotating safeties into the game so far (both of them being clearly ahead of Corey Thompson). Other noteworthy moves: Jalen Collins deserves an atta-boy for his play against Wisconsin and has moved ahead of Ed Paris as the fourth cornerback on the team. If I were to list a fifth corner, it would probably be Donald Gage, who the staff played in the second half against Sam Houston State.



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