Returning players: Christian LaCouture (Sr.), Davon Godchaux (Jr.), Lewis Neal (Sr.), Arden Key (Soph.), Tashawn Bower (Sr.) Greg Gilmore (Jr.), Isaiah Washington (Soph.), Frank Herron (Jr), DeAndre Clark (Jr.).
Incoming players: Travonte Valentine (Soph. RS - Mississippi Gulf Coast) Rashard Lawrence (Fr.), Edwin Alexander (Fr.), Sci Martin (Fr.), Ray Thornton (Fr.), Glen Logan (Fr.).
LSU’s defensive line wasn’t dominate last season, but took a step forward to being a top tier SEC defensive line.
Lewis Neal emerged out of nowhere as a reliable pass rusher. Arden Key landed on the freshman-all american team and led the team in quarterback hurries. Davon Godchaux and Christian Lacouture became a formidable defensive tackle pairing.
However, the wall that is supposed to be the defensive line came crumbling down during LSU’s three-game losing streak. In the Tiger’s three losses last season they were out weighed by at least 50 pounds. LSU was pushed around as opposing teams rushed for 701 yards in that three-game span.
For the first time in a while, LSU has depth along the defensive line. A combination of strength, quickness and experience makes this defensive line special.
But less than two weeks into fall camp the Tigers have suffered their first major loss of the season. LaCouture could be out for an extended period of time according to multiple reports, which would will likely thrust a few freshman into more playing time. LaCouture made the move to defensive end in Dave Aranda’s new scheme and sometimes lined up at nose tackle. Davon Godchaux could switch over the end position and allow a few newcomers to get their feet wet.
Rashard Lawrence (above) and Ed Alexander (above) are two “ready-made” nose tackles as described by LSU coach Les Miles. If Godchaux moves to the outside Lawrence and Alexander can crack the rotation at nose tackle behind a Greg Gilmore or Travonte Valentine.
On the edge, Neal and Key could be the toughest defensive ends to deal with in the Southeastern Conference. Key already possessed great speed, and now he bulked up to 238 pounds to be able to line up against some of the bigger SEC tackles. The wildcard is Sci Martin, who has spent time practicing with the veterans, during the morning session of camp. Martin is a pure pass rusher, in his senior season, he racked up 33.5 sacks to go along with 61 tackles.
There has been much talk about a reunion with former four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine.
A source tells TigerBlitz.com that Valentine has reported to camp and is ready to go. What we don’t know is how much he could contribute.
Valentine never played a down at LSU and barely practiced, but some players said he was dominate when he did. The 6-4, 330-pound tackle looks like the perfect nose tackle for Aranda’s scheme, and could be the anchor in the middle.
The speed of college football is going to be tough for Valentine to adjust to, who spent this past year at Arizona Western and Mississippi Gulf Coast. How well in shape or conditioned Valentine is remains to be seen, but Miles has to think he can get some type of production to bring back a once troubled player.
Arden Key (below) will record more than 10 sacks this season
It’s been sometime since an LSU player recorded more 10 sacks — 22 years to be exact.
The type of pressure and deception that Aranda’s new defense brings fits perfectly for Key. He could excel especially being in more of stand up role as an outside linebacker, instead of having his hand on the ground.
Key will be able to read and react quicker to offensive lineman and use his speed and quickness to get to the quarterback more often this season.