Fab 5 Plus a Wildcard for '09

Fall Camp is quickly approaching for the LSU Tigers and with football right around the corner, TigerSportsDigest.com wants to take a look at five players who will be critical to LSU success on defense, along with one wildcard.

Somewhere on the bayou a dinner bell is ringing, and folks, these cats are hungry.

 

The LSU Tigers finished ninth in the SEC in total defense in 2008 – ranked fifth against the run and eleventh against the pass. This is not what fans are accustomed to at LSU.

 

Last year the Tigers struggled with personnel packages and assignment football. Even the most casual fan could see players running on and off the field on seemingly every play.

 

With new defensive coordinator John Chavis, along with defensive line coach Brick Haley and defensive backs coach Ron Cooper, things will certainly change. They have to.

 

In recent years, LSU has been a top national defense but last year they finished in the bottom of the SEC. However, there is plenty of good news for Tiger fans.  The cupboard is full for the incoming coaches. This roster is loaded with talent and a return to national prominence on defense is certainly plausible. In fact, it’s expected.

 

The first practice of Fall Camp is on Thursday and here are five guys on the defensive side of the ball who will play a key role in determining if the Tigers are contenders or pretenders in the conference race, along with one wildcard.

  

DE Rahim Alem 6-3, 254, Sr.

Rahim Alem is a fifth-year senior that came out of nowhere to accumulate a team-leading eight sacks in 2008. He also recorded 15 solo tackles and assisted on 14 others giving him a total of 29 for the season. Here is a player who made the most of his opportunity to play on Saturdays as he played in all 13 games last season but started only once. When his number was called, he was ready.  Now can he take his game to the next level?


Alem needs to hold his end and be a factor as a run stopper. The upside for this young man is high. He’s got a good motor and obviously a good work ethic. Confidence is a good thing for any athlete. He will be called upon to provide a leadership role this season so actions that he displayed against Arkansas last year where he kicked the ball for a personal foul can’t be tolerated and they won’t with the new regime.

 

Alem’s success last year should springboard him to another level as a college player in 2009. Now, the question is will Pep Levingston provide a presence coming off the opposite end? He could be just as big of a factor in 2009 and just as critical to LSU’s success.

 

DT Charles Alexander 6-3, 310, Sr.

The Tigers have been known to produce excellent defensive linemen. For the past several years, the front four at LSU made everything easier for the back seven. Alexander has a chance to step his game up and become that guy as he embarks on his sixth year at LSU. Together he and Alem can be the one-two punch that not only brings pressure to the quarterback, but makes everyone else’s job on the LSU defense simpler.

 


Alexander played in 13 games and started eight in 2008, recording five solo tackles and 19 assists for a total of 24. Those numbers need to be better in 2009, but if healthy, Alexander could help bring LSU back to being a dominant defensive unit. Drake Nevis and Al Woods could just as easily be penciled in here. A player from the interior has to step up for LSU to return to form and a healthy Alexander is certainly needed in 2009.

 


FS Chad Jones 6-3, 214, Jr.


Chad Jones is a freakish athlete. Certainly, Tiger fans remember him pitching in the College World Series. Jones moved to the LSU bullpen late in the season and it was the first time that he had pitched in college. That tells you he’s a fast learner and very coachable. Oh yeah, evidently he’s got ice water in his veins as well.

Jones played in all 13 games last year, starting in six. He recorded 22 solo tackles and 28 assists, compiling a total of 50 stops on the season. He also forced a fumble and intercepted one pass. Jones will have a breakout season under Chavis and Cooper’s tutelage. Chavis coached a pretty good safety at Tennessee named Eric Berry and on paper it looks like a match made in heaven down on the bayou.

 

CB Patrick Peterson 6-1, 205, So.



Chad Jones isn’t alone as Patrick Peterson is another one of those freakish athletes at LSU. Peterson, who played in every game last year and started in four, recorded 32 solo tackles and nine assists, forced one fumble and intercepted one pass. There aren’t many true freshmen that come into the SEC and have that type of impact.

Peterson has shutdown corner written all over him. Cooper has a proven track record of taking college corners and molding them into professional corners, and Peterson will improve dramatically over what was a pretty impressive freshman campaign.

 

CB Chris Hawkins 6-1, 184, Sr.

Chris Hawkins is the guy you don’t hear about. He’s a fifth-year senior that started all 13 games last year, recording 21 solo tackles and 29 assists, to go with a team-leading three interceptions. Oh, and he also tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles.


No one talks about Hawkins but he’s a solid cornerback. With Cooper’s guidance he should only improve. The cornerback position is a cerebral one. It never hurts to be a great athlete but a good corner understands down and distance. They know where the help is. They study film. Without knowing first-hand, Hawkins seems like one of these guys. He gets it. His technique, his approach…he just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

 

The two corners could change the entire defensive philosophy for LSU coaches this year. If Peterson and Hawkins can be isolated one-on-one, the Tiger defense will improve dramatically.

 

TSD’s Wildcard

LB Harry Coleman 6-2, 205, Sr.


Harry Coleman is a big wildcard after making the move to linebacker very late in the spring. As the strong safety last year he started every game and accumulated a team-high 71 tackles with 42 solos and 29 assists. Without a doubt, Coleman is a football player. He is a ball hawk. Can he make the transition from safety to Sam linebacker?

The bet here is that he will and he will be an impact player from the linebacker position. Chavis, who also serves as the linebackers coach, has a reputation for developing undersized, but talented and speedy, linebackers. Coleman certainly has those traits. He will bring explosiveness to the linebacker corps and an attitude that Chavis will love. Wait, he already loves Coleman’s attitude.


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