IN SPOTLIGHT: A look at the D-Line

Note: This is another installment of our ongoing series where we take a look at each position as the LSU Tigers prepare for spring practice which kicks off on Monday, Feb. 26.

USC prides itself on its tradition of great running backs.

 

The Trojans like to call themselves Running Back U.

 

The University of Florida is known for its long line of great quarterbacks.

 

At LSU, it is defensive linemen.

 

No other school in the nation has enjoyed as much talent across the defensive front over the last decade as the LSU Tigers. Gabe Northern, Anthony McFarland, Kenny Mixon Chad Lavalais, Marquise Hill, Marcus Spears, Kyle Williams, Claude Wroten, Glenn Dorsey; and on and on and on. You could go all day and the list continues to grow longer and longer.

 

The thing is, there looks to be no dropoff in the immediate future.

 

Former coach Nick Saban left a cupboard stocked full of talented defensive linemen. Coach Les Miles picked up right where his predecessor left off as Miles and his staff have done an outstanding job in recruiting top flight talent across the defensive line.

 

 

A look back

 

In just two seasons at LSU, Miles has had three al-Americans at the defensive tackle position in Williams, Wroten and Dorsey.

 

Dorsey was a sure first round draft pick heading into this spring's NFL Draft. But a stress fracture in his leg would have forced the Gonzales native to miss the NFL Combine as well as other pro tryouts, which in the end would be detrimental to his draft status.

 

Miles and his staff were extremely fortunate that Dorsey announced in January that he would return for his senior season as he is projected to be a top five pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

 

Dorsey led a defensive unit that ranked 14th in the nation against the run holding opponents to just 97 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers ranked third nationally in total defense (242 ypg) and was sixth in the country in sacks averaging 3.08 per contest.

The scary thing, LSU returns three of four starting defensive linemen and seven players who were major contributors.

 

 

What to look for this spring

 

The only vacancy on the defensive front is on right end as Chase Pittman completed his eligibility.

 

Look for defensive coordinator Bo Pelini to go searching for a starter to replace Pittman. However, with the amount of talent on this team, expect plenty of players to rotate in and out.

 

The starting lineup across LSU's defensive consists of Tyson Jackson on one end and Rahim Alem on the other, starting in place of Pittman. Dorsey will return to his spot alongside Marlon Favorite at the down tackle positions.

 

Pencil in Alem, but Rickey Jean-Francois would have been the shoe-in, but he is expected to possibly miss the upcoming season with some academic issues. Stay tuned for that.

 

Jackson accounted for 43 tackles last season and 10 sacks, which ranked 44th in the nation. His hit on Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama is one that will not soon be forgotten.

 

Dorsey had 64 stops on the year in 2006 and recorded just four sacks, but he drew a double team every game.

 

Al Woods and Pep Levingston came on the scene last season as true freshmen. Woods looked as if he would get considerable playing time in the early stages of the season.

 

However, his number of snaps decreased as the season wore on. His delayed entry to school due to the NCAA Clearinghouse may have held the former Elton, La. star back a bit. But expect him to be ready to make a splash this spring.

 

Levingston showed up in excellent shape and fell in line with LSU's talented cast of defensive linemen. However, the numbers game caught up with the Ruston native a bit and he redshirted. But, like Woods, watch for Levingston to get plenty of action this spring.

 

Last summer, Miles told Tiger Rag he thought Charles Alexander was the most talented athlete on the team. That's quite a statement for one player on a team with as much as talent as LSU had in 2006. Look for Alexander to contend for a starting position in 2007 as his number of snaps will continue to rise.

 

 

Help is on the way

 

Defensive line wasn't a huge need for the Tigers to fill with the 2007 signing class, but you couldn't tell it from the quality of prospects LSU reeled in.

 

Miles and his staff pulled off a major coup going into Michigan and stealing one of the top players in that state, no doubt the Wolverine state's top defensive lineman. Joseph Barksdale, a 6-5, 315-pound defensive tackle, chose LSU over Florida State, Michigan State and Notre Dame and was a five-star prospect as rated by Scout.com.

 

As a senior, Barksdale recorded 73 tackles, including 17 for loss, 14 hurries, seven sacks, one interception (returned for a TD) and forced three fumbles. He was named to the Detroit News "Dream Team."

 

But Miles didn't stop there.

 

Along with Barksdale, the Tigers nabbed three other four-star Scout.com prospects including Mobile D-end Sidell Corley, West Monroe stud defensive tackle Will Blackwell and John Ehret D-tackle Drake Nevis.

 

Miles did an excellent job hauling in Corley, who was highly sought after by Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

 

Perhaps what Corley does best right now as a high school player is fighting off blocks and he really doesn't know how to use his hands yet or play with much technique. Corely has good size and speed and also shows a good motor, giving great effort. He'll chase things from the backside and fight what's in front of him to make the play. Corley plays both the run and pass equally well.

 

Blackwell was a first team all-state product for the Rebels. His senior season, Blackwell, who stands 6-4 and 290, had 70 tackles, 11 for loss with five sacks.

 

Nevis isn't the tallest players around, but the 6-2, 290-pound Marrero native was called "Drake is one of the more explosive '07 defensive tackles we have seen on film," by Scout.com's recruiting experts.

 

The Tigers got a fifth defensive line prospect in Bastrop's Kentravis Aubrey. Aubrey, a 6-3, 285-pound tackle, led the Rams to back-to-back state championships as a star defensive lineman. However, he projects to make the move to offensive line once he gets to LSU.

 

Note: Be sure to check the Tiger Rag Premium Message Board... for more discussion on the LSU offensive line heading into spring camp and for other scoop and tidbits on the Tigers that you will not find anywhere else.

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