Spring Lessons: Defense

TSD publisher Ben Love shares a position-by-position look at what he's learned this spring about the 2015 LSU defense.

DEFENSIVE LINE


DE: Two vacated starting spots have generated a great deal of competition. Only one player feels secure as a starter at this juncture, and that’s junior Tashawn Bower. Opposite Bower, no less than three different players have had a crack at first-team reps under new position coach Ed Orgeron. They are, in order, Deondre Clark, Lewis Neal and defensive tackle convert Maquedius Bain. The latter is the most interesting given his size (Bain is listed at 6-4, 299). Should LSU take on a 3-4 shape at times, Bain would make a lot of sense as a run-stopping end. However, the premium this spring has been on generating pass rush from the defensive line. In that instance Neal can be a terror on passing downs. The bottom line: Outside of Bower, a lot of players are getting looks – and second chances – under Orgeron.

DT: Things are a lot more stable on the interior, where starters Davon Godchaux and Christian Lacouture returned this spring. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the past month and change is Godchaux sliding around, proving he can play different techniques as a tackle and also give some time at defensive end, if need be. His development in year two as a starter will be geared more toward getting into the backfield, utilizing his skills as a pass-rusher. The backups outside of veteran Quentin Thomas are a still a question mark exiting spring, particularly with Travonte Valentine unavailable . . . something that’s become a trend. Those players competing for rotational minutes on the inside include Trey Lealaimatafao, Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore.

LINEBACKERS


MLB: Assuming that first-year coordinator Kevin Steele sticks mainly with the 4-3 front for 2015, and that’s a pretty safe bet, junior Kendell Beckwith will be the lone starter at Mike ‘backer. He remains more of the quiet leader type, but Beckwith’s sheer presence is felt on the Ponderosa by peers and onlookers. After Beckwith in the middle is second-year player and former five-star prospect Clifton Garrett, down some 15 pounds from last year. Garrett is moving quicker and easier in practice, but the reality is he enters the summer as a backup to one of the most secure starters of the 22 available spots.

OLB: Still working within the framework of a three-linebacker set, LSU returned a starter on the strongside in physical Lamar Louis and had a vacancy on the weakside where early departure Kwon Alexander used to roam. To date Louis’ senior ‘backer mate, Deion Jones, has staked his claim to the position. “Debo,” probably the quickest linebacker on the roster, has outpaced junior Duke Riley and sophomore Donnie Alexander this spring. While Louis is expected to take on fullbacks and plug running lanes, Jones projects more as a perimeter blitzer who can knife into gaps against the run similar to former Tiger Tahj Jones. The linebackers, where special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto assisted this spring, added two members on the outside in M.J. Patterson, a former end, and Devin Voorhies, a former safety.

SECONDARY


CB: The revelation at corner this spring is that Edward Paris is ahead of early enrollee Kevin Toliver, and so far the competition hasn’t even been that close by all accounts. Paris, a sophomore, has put a stranglehold on the starting cornerback job opposite mainstay Tre’Davious White. Toliver remains an elite athlete but will have to make strides in terms of his physicality and displaying natural football instincts. Dwayne Thomas, bouncing back from injury, spent the last few weeks in a green jersey, but the veteran did participate in practices as much as he could before heading off to individual rehab work. Especially with talented freshmen coming aboard, the competition for nickel and dime spots will be very interesting in August, although a healthy Thomas does have a number of in-game skins on the wall.

S: A lot like the defensive tackles, the two presumed starters pre-spring have held to form in senior Jalen Mills and ultra-talented sophomore Jamal Adams. Rumblings – and some video – have surfaced of Adams with a two-interception performance, one returned for a touchdown, at a recent scrimmage. Beyond the first two up, position coach Corey Raymond seems to be leaning toward experienced junior Rickey Jefferson, especially as veteran Corey Thompson has missed practice time of late with an injury (nothing new for him). Depth will be no problem at safety, as untested second-year player John Battle is still around, but it’s hard to see LSU, barring injury, getting much past Adams, Mills and Jefferson this fall.



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