Stats never tell the entire story, but this one's too interesting to pass up when perusing the list of options to backfill for Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco at defensive end this season.
The primary candidates for LSU in 2015 are as follows (listed with career tackles for each): junior Tashawn Bower (19), junior Lewis Neal (10), sophomore Deondre Clark (9), sophomore Sione Teuhema (7), redshirt sophomore Maquedius Bain (6) and true freshman Arden Key (zero).
Combined these six have registered 51 total tackles on the collegiate level.
Both Hunter (73) and Rasco (71) compiled more than that in the 2014 campaign alone.
So, yeah, there's significant turnover at the position and big shoes to fill for relatively green players under first-year defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
Let's take a brief look at each of the six.
Bower: He's the most experienced of the bunch. Along with Neal he was an occasional platoon player in his true freshman season of 2013. Last season he was more often than not former position coach Brick Haley's preferred option as the team's third end, spelling Hunter and Rasco. Bower (6-5, 237) racked up 16 tackles, 2.5 for loss and two quarterback hurries in 2014.
Neal: His path at LSU took an interesting turn last season as Neal (6-1, 255) took one for the team and moved down to become an undersized defensive tackle due to position scarcity. Now he's back out at end and all reports are that Orgeron loves his relentless effort and outstanding leverage/pad level, one of the perks of being a 6-foot-1 defensive end. Neal projects best as a pass-rusher at end.
Clark: After Hunter and Rasco and then Bower, there was Clark (6-3, 244) in 2014. He emerged early in the campaign as a surprise member of the rotation at end, playing frequently in SEC action and totaling nine tackles in his true freshman season. As compared to Neal and possibly Teuhema, Clark can give the Tigers a boost on both running downs and obvious passing situations. He spent a portion of spring practices as a starter opposite Bower, before eventually giving way to Neal.
Teuhema: It's possible Teuhema (6-4, 232), whose younger brother Maea will join the LSU offensive line this summer, is the best pass-rusher of the bunch. He ended up usurping Neal's role as the undersized defensive tackle that played in the middle of the Tigers' three-man front in dime sets. In his limited chances Teuhema had two sacks of his seven total tackles. Extremely quick off the line, Teuhema should be a force again on obvious passing downs.
Bain: A converted defensive tackle, Bain (6-4, 299) is still getting his sea legs at end, where he made the move to this spring. He would make infinitely more sense as a defensive end in a 3-4 front, but there's doubt new coordinator Kevin Steele will move in that direction for the 2015 season. Still, even in a 4-3, Bain could help solidify the run against some of the more traditional offenses LSU faces. He started the spring game opposite Bower, although that had plenty to do with Neal's absence due to injury.
Key: The only freshman of the lot, Key (6-6, 215) comes to campus as a pure edge rusher with dynamic ability. Even though he comes in at an opportune time, with starting spots open for grabs, it's more likely Key pushes for a platoon role in year one. He may also find himself, like Bower and Neal and Teuhema before him, running down kickoffs in 2015.
The take here in late May: Bower and Neal begin Fall Camp as the starters, Clark makes a strong push for time and, something else LSU tinkered with this spring, starting tackle Davon Godchaux intermittently pushes out to end to give some more help to a position facing so much turnover.
Which defensive ends will take charge?
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