Questions Surrounding Fall Camp--Part II

The start of fall camp is only 19 days away for the LSU football team. Every year, college coaches must replace the players they lost to the NFL and to graduation with new and sometimes inexperienced players. All programs have question marks heading into the new season and even the defending BCS champs have a few as they prepare for fall camp.

Editor’s Note: This is the Part II of our feature on 10 questions surrounding the LSU Tigers as they head into fall camp.

For Part I Click Here

6. Does LSU have the personnel to have one of the top defenses in the country in 2008?


There are some question marks entering fall camp on the defensive side of the ball that we will get into more when we do our position previews but if the Tigers can avoid the injury bug and the corners step up then this defense can be very good in 2008.


It’s hard to fathom the defensive line being better than it was last year when you lose a Glenn Dorsey but the front four has that kind of potential.


The ends will be tough to contain if Tyson Jackson plays with more fire and plays smarter, and Kirsten Pittman stays healthy for the second consecutive year. Rahim Alem and Tremaine Johnson will provide more than quality depth and Lazarious “Pep” Levingston is finally healthy. Pep showed what he was capable of in the spring game when he logged four stops, including three for loss, and a sack going against the Tigers’ No. 1 offensive line that day.


Ricky Jean-Francois and Charles Alexander will man the inside spots provided that Alexander stays healthy and the depth there is as good as you will find in Drake Nevis, Marlon Favorite and Al Woods.


You never replace someone like Dorsey because he brought so much to the table but if Jean-Francois comes close to performing up to the level he played at in his two games last season then the pain of losing “Putt” will feel like only a slight headache as opposed to a migraine.


The linebackers must stay healthy and that department was decimated during the spring when Perry Riley went out with his injury, to go along with the limited snaps Jacob Cutrera took while he recovered from his shoulder surgery.


Shomari Clemons did not help matters with his off the field problems and to top that off Kellen Theriot had to have some work done on his shoulder after the spring concluded.


Darry Beckwith is one of the best in the country according to one of our NFL scouts and Kelvin Sheppard looks as if he is going to be a beast patrolling the field.


There will be some growing pains with the linebacker corps but if the guys stay healthy they can give the defense more speed and more athleticism than it had last season.


The obvious concern in the secondary is at cornerback but the immense pressure the defensive line can get will help the young corners.


Jai Eugene, Chris Hawkins, Patrick Johnson, Phelon Jones, Ron Brooks, John Williams, Patrick Johnson, Brandon Taylor, and Ryan St. Julien all have the skills to play corner in the SEC but what none of them have is experience.


The safeties should be able to provide the guidance and leadership the young corners need while they get acclimated with being on an island.


It’s too early to tell who the starting corners are going to be but if one of the young pups separates himself from the pack then Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto will be able to take some chances and utilize the speed they have on the second line of defense.



7. Who will be the next big superstar along the defensive front?


LSU has that reputation for turning out big-time defensive linemen and Ricky Jean-Francois is next in line.


There is such a huge need in the NFL for interior linemen that can rush the passer and Jean-Francois fits the bill for what they are looking for. NFL personnel are going to be keeping a close eye on the standout defensive tackle this season and if he plays at the same level he did against Tennessee and Ohio State then he could be a Top 10 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft according to a couple of NFL scouts I recently spoke to.



8. How will the transition from Bo Pelini to co-defensive coordinators affect the defense and will there be a major change in philosophy?


After only 14 practices and the spring game it is too early to tell what, if any, changes Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto will make to the defense. Don’t look for much to change but one thing to look for may be more press man coverage when the cornerbacks come of age.


Les Miles has stated numerous times, along with many of the 2008 signees from the defensive side of the ball, that there won’t be any changes to the scheme that Pelini ran. Every coach wants to put his stamp on his area, though, so there will likely be some minor adjustments made that we will see as the season moves along.


One thing that was apparent from spring practice was the intensity and fire that Mallory and Peveto have on the practice field and if that carries over to the Tigers in game situations then watch out.



9. Which player is most likely to rise from being a contributor to being an impact player in 2008?


Harry Coleman made his mark on special teams last season until Craig Steltz went down in the BCS Championship. The junior from New Iberia threw a couple of big licks and finished with a couple of tackles, a quarterback hurry, and he recovered a fumble that he took back 14 yards.


Coleman showed a glimpse of what he could do when he was on the field more and he followed that up with a good spring. It will be interesting to see how the safety position rounds out, though, because Chad Jones is too good to keep off the field and he looks like a good fit for strong safety.


If Coleman can hold on to the spot he won in the spring then he will be a huge asset because every defense needs that player that plays with reckless abandonment and is a punishing tackler and that is exactly what Coleman does best.



10. Which true freshmen are most likely to see the field and make their presence felt in the upcoming campaign? 


Every coach would like to be able to redshirt as many of his true freshmen as possible but in today’s age of college football young guys are seeing the field more often than they did in the past.


Patrick Johnson and Brandon Taylor have a shot to get some early playing time for the Tigers and Johnson has a chance to start as a true freshman because he is that good.


There isn’t a lot of depth at linebacker so if a couple of guys go down with injuries then one of the young backers could be thrust into action.


Depending on how Kellen Theriot’s shoulder heals will play a role because although a move to fullback could be in his future that may not be for another year. Ryan Baker and Kyle Prater could also get a look but at this point Theriot seems to be the most likely candidate due to the fact that he took part in spring ball and physically he is ahead of the other two.


There isn’t a lot of depth at tight end either so Tyler Edwards and/or Matt Branch could see the field. Branch is the one that is very intriguing because of his size and blocking ability but even though Edwards is not as big he is as tough as nails.


LSU’s top three wide outs (Byrd, LaFell, Tolliver) are already established but after that there has been too much inconsistency coming from the rest of the pack.


If DeAngelo Benton can qualify then he is physically ready to play but the mental aspect may be a bit too much at this point and Timothy Molton needs to get a little bigger and stronger.


That leaves Chris Tolliver and DeAngelo Peterson as the two I’d bet on and I will be surprised if both do not play this season.


Tolliver’s big-play ability will be tough to keep off the field and Peterson has been very impressive in the limited amount of information that has come from the summer workouts.

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