Turning heads

The 2008 season saw the LSU defensive line tagged with the "The Express" label, paying tribute to former defensive line coach Earl Lane's substitution scheme that rotated his depth chart throughout the game, highlighted by the play of four defensive ends across the line at once.

Yet, redshirt junior Lazarius "Pep" Levingston's playing time came few and far between. The Ruston native recorded just nine tackles, three solo, in 11 games played on the year. Two of those three solo tackles, however, were sacks.

Rahim Alem, who is expected to be the leader on the defensive front in 2009, said that he has taken a special interest in the development of Levingston since the bowl game in Atlanta.

With expectations of the redshirt junior stepping into a starting role opposite Alem at defensive end, the two Tigers have lifted weights and trained together since the team parted ways in January.

With nearly three months of work under their belts, Alem could not be happier with the progress made.

"From training with Pep, I know where his head is," Alem said. "You see, Pep never really played until the last game against Georgia Tech, and now he’s stepping up in a leadership role. He is looking better than ever, and he is going to be turning a lot of heads when he starts moving people around on the field next fall."

Levingston said that his workout partner has motivated him to get to the level he has reached with such a quick turnaround time.

"Me and Rahim are like brothers," he said. "We work out like five days a week, and we come out and get a lot of extra work. We go hard everyday in the weight room and just stay as flexible as possible so that we are ready to go. I have not worked out like this before, so I am more confident than ever when I am on the field."

When asked after Saturday's opening scrimmage how Levingston looked in action, head coach Les Miles was quick with his response.

Pep Levingston is turning some heads this spring

"Pep has had the most productive spring that he has had around here," Miles said. "He is always aligned, and defensive alignment and the assignments are so important. You change formation, move around, and if they are not sound, it is hard to play good football.

"He comes to play and I look forward to this year for him," added Miles. "I think he is making a great case for him to be the guy at defensive end."

With those expectations on his shoulders, Levingston said that he has changed his approach as he goes through his first spring with a projected starting role.

"Your mentality has to change," he said. "You know, last year I played the backup role. In order for me to step up into a starting position everything has to change. I approached everything aggressively this offseason, and I want to be the best.

"Again though, it is a lot of competition," added Levingston. "It's spring, so nobody has a position. Everyone is trying to earn that spot on the field, so we are going to see where it takes us at the end."

The Ruston native said that the coming season is more anticipated than most, for it affords the Bayou Bengals the opportunity to pick up the pieces from the 2008 season that was.

"We went 8-5 last year, and that is kind of embarrassing," he said. "For most schools that is successful because it is a winning season, but here it is unacceptable. We are one of the top programs in the nation, so we are eager to get back there.

"As a unit, we come in and get a lot of extra [work] on our own. We are trying to get back to the state that we were. We are hungry to be National Champions again."

A pair of additions that should help that run comes with the hiring of defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive line coach Brick Haley.

"Coach Haley is wonderful," Levingston said. "He brings a lot to the table, so we are just glad to have an NFL guy who came back to college. We learn a lot from him everyday, and we are doing a lot of defensive line drills that we had not done before.

"It is a lot different with Coach Chavis, as well. He is a wonderful coach, and he brings a lot of energy to the team. We are ready to perform for both of them."

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