A Look at 2010: Part One

LSU graduates 24 players from their 2009 senior class, making room for new faces to step into the spotlight next season. TigerSportsDigest.com takes a quick glance at what to expect on defense and special teams in 2010.

A Look at 2010: Offense (Click Here)

In his first year as LSU’s defensive coordinator, John Chavis turned a deflated 2008 unit into one of the Southeastern Conference’s best, finishing the season ranked among the top-30 teams in total defense.

In the days leading up to last week’s Capital One Bowl, chatter swirled that Chavis was headed to Athens to fill the vacant slot at defensive coordinator.

Now that The Chief has announced his intent to remain in Baton Rouge, here is our best guess as to the unit Chavis puts on the field against North Carolina next September in Atlanta.


Weakside Defensive End:

Lavar Edwards – 6’4”, 265, So.

Sam Montgomery – 6’4”, 240, Fr.

Barkevious Mingo – 6’5”, 220, Fr.

Justin Maclin – 6’4”, 225, Fr.

Chase Clement – 6’5”, 258, So.

Losing Rahim Alem, who started in all 13 games this season, means that the Tigers must replace a team-high 4.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries. The senior also recorded 8.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles.

Getting Lavar Edwards into the mix this season certainly helped his chances to fill the void early, playing in 12 games of his redshirt freshman campaign and recording 4.5 tackles for losses, including 2.5 sacks.

Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo are other names to watch when it comes to pass rushers off the end. Montgomery has hit the weight room and bulked up his basketball body, which is one of the big reasons the staff held the South Carolina native back from seeing the field during his freshman season.

Though he might have a ways to go, the same promise is being held for Barkevious Mingo. Mingo came to the Tigers as a potential outside linebacker, but time at defensive end in passing situations does not seem out of the picture. Though listed at less than 210 pounds by LSU at the start of the season, Mingo has since moved into the 220-225 range.

Chase Clement could be the odd man out of the rotation, and a position move, possibly to tight end, seems like the fastest route for the sophomore to see the field.


Strongside Defensive End:

Chancey Aghayere – 6’4”, 263, So.

Pep Levingston – 6’4”, 270, Sr.

Mike Brockers – 6’6”, 285, Fr.

Jordan Allen – 6’6”, 250, Fr.

When Pep Levingston went down for a few games this season, freshman Chancey Aghayere stepped up and made his mark.

Will 2010 see Levingston, the senior and veteran on the defensive line, take a backseat to the up-and-coming Aghayere?

Maybe so, and that could mean that Levingston’s work will be done at defensive tackle. Spring football will certainly see the senior get looks at both positions, and depending on the play of Aghayere and Mike Brockers, Levingston might move back to the inside.

Brockers, who Les Miles moved to defensive tackle for a number of practices this past season, is also a name to watch in the spring. At 285 pounds and getting bigger, Brockers might be a body that is better suited for the middle of the trenches.


Defensive Tackle:

Drake Nevis – 6’1”, 292, Sr.

Josh Downs – 6’1”, 275, So.

Akiem Hicks – 6’6”, 301, Jr.

Chris Davenport – 6’4”, 323, Fr.

Bennie Logan – 6’3”, 261, Fr.

Dexter Blackmon – 6’3”, 265, Fr.

Cassius Marsh – 6’4”, 270, Fr.

Charles Alexander and Al Woods went the distance inside for LSU this past season, but the seniors – who combined for 62 stops - are moving on.

Drake Nevis, who recorded 50 tackles and four sacks during his junior campaign, will be the lone senior back to the inside (unless Levingston moves to DT). Already one of the team’s most reliable players on the line, Nevis should thrive in 2010.

Josh Downs, who made one of the biggest splashes out of the 2009 signing class, should line up alongside Nevis. In 11 games played, the freshman recorded nine tackles, including 3.5 for losses.

Akiem Hicks, a JUCO transfer who has three seasons to play two, is coming off a redshirt season that saw him go down to injury in a practice during fall camp. At 6’6” with a body over 300 pounds, the staff feels that Hicks can play the role of the big-man in the middle, a nice counter to the smaller bodies of Downs and Nevis.

Chris Davenport and Bennie Logan, whom both redshirted this past season, are also candidates for playing time. Watch Davenport’s weight, something that the staff has tried to bring down over the last year. If he continues to shed the pounds, a leaner Davenport could make his second year with the program a good one.


Weakside Linebacker:

Ryan Baker – 6’0”, 221, Jr.

Lamin Barrow – 6’2”, 212, Fr.

Luke Muncie – 6’3”, 225, Fr.

DJ Welter – 6’1”, 220, Fr.

Losing Perry Riley to graduation hurts. His production – 97 total tackles – was one of the best on the defensive side.

Yet, Chavis has a Tiger waiting in the wings that fans have been ready to see ever since his hard-hitting play on special teams was showcased.

Ryan Baker played Riley’s understudy for two seasons. Now, Baker’s junior season will give him the opportunity to show what he has learned.

After making the winning stop on the fourth-down, goal-line stand at Mississippi State, Baker is certainly in Chavis’ good graces.


Middle Linebacker:

Kelvin Sheppard – 6’3”, 240, Sr.

Kevin Minter – 6’1”, 240, Fr.

Kyle Prater – 6’1”, 224, So.

Kelvin Sheppard’s 2009 season was one he won’t soon forget.

In what he praised as purely the work of Chavis, the junior linebacker redefined his game from head to toe – and it showed. Sheppard recorded team-highs of 50 solo and 60 assisted tackles.

Now, LSU fans will wait and see if the rising senior flirts with the NFL Draft. He will likely toss his name in the hat and get feelers back, making his decision from there.

Should he decide not to return, Kevin Minter will enter his redshirt freshman season with a shot at cracking the starting lineup. At 6’1”, 240-pounds, the freshman drew great reviews from Chavis during spring and fall camps prior to the season.


Strongside Linebacker:

Stefoin Francois – 6’1”, 210, Jr.

Josh Johns – 6’2”, 205, Fr.

Tahj Jones – 6’2”, 205, Fr.

Eric Reid – 6’1”, 210, Fr.

Under Chavis, it seems like the SAM linebacker has become a haven for hybrid safeties – players that are big and can hit hard, but can also move well in space and get to the quarterback on the blitz.

This past season, Harry Coleman – a longtime LSU safety – had no trouble with the move, where he recorded 82 tackles and four sacks in 13 games started.

Next in line could be Stefoin Francois, a one-time safety turned linebacker that fits the mold Chavis is in search of. Francois, who was injured in last season’s bowl game against Georgia Tech, bounced back to health and capped off his sophomore season with two special teams tackles and a forced fumble against Penn State.


Strong Safety:

Brandon Taylor – 6’0”, 191, Jr.

Karnell Hatcher – 6’2”, 207, Jr.

Rocky Duplessis – 6’1”, 200, Fr.

Sam Gibson – 6’1”, 205, Fr.

As long as he was healthy, Brandon Taylor was getting the starts at strong safety for LSU this past season.

For much of the way, defensive backs coach Ron Cooper would play Taylor – a converted cornerback – until obvious running situations, where he would sub in Karnell Hatcher.

Hatcher proved to be the better tackler, something Taylor needs to work on if he hopes to hold the job from start to finish in 2010. Hatcher’s hands and ball skills, however, are a far cry from Taylor’s.

A wildcard could be Ron Brooks. Brooks, a cornerback, impressed Chavis enough last spring that the coaching staff felt that he could become the starter. Later they tried out Taylor, who eventually won the starting job.


Free Safety:

Chad Jones – 6’3”, 231, Sr.

Craig Loston – 6’2”, 193, Fr.

In his first full season as a starter, Chad Jones started slow – a little on the heavy side after baseball season – but finished strong, ending the season with 74 tackles and a team-best 3 interceptions.

Jones, who became a staple on the Tiger baseball team’s Omaha run last season, will likely stick with the team this spring, which could mean missing spring football.

No matter, the time will be one for the staff to also get a look at Craig Loston, who redshirted this past year after he suffered a broken bone in his hand.

Loston, one of the top prospects in the entire country coming out of high school, should be tough to keep off the field if he is making his usual plays.



Patrick Peterson – 6’1”, 211, Jr.

Ron Brooks – 5’11”, 176, Jr.

Ryan St. Julien – 6’1”, 180, So.

Ron Vinson – 5’11”, 190, Fr.

There is no doubt that Patrick Peterson is one of the country’s best cornerbacks, but there is also no doubt that he also hurt the Tigers on a number of occasions (see Ole Miss and Penn State) by playing too aggressive – leaving the scheme and, in the process, giving up the big play.

If Peterson hopes to make his 2010 season the highlight reel for NFL owners, cleaning up his play this offseason will be crucial.

Ron Brooks, who saw time at both strong safety and corner during the spring of 2009, could get looks at a couple of defensive positions again next season. Where Ron Cooper places Brooks remains to be seen, but he appears for now to be the fourth cornerback.



Jai Eugene – 5’11”, 181, Sr.

Mo Claiborne – 6’0”, 171, So.

Derrick Bryant – 5’11”, 195, Jr.

Tyrann Mathieu – 5’9”, 160, Fr.

Jai Eugene had to fight Chris Hawkins and Patrick Peterson for touches over the past two seasons. Next year, Morris Claiborne is the name that will press the senior for playing time.

Claiborne was recruited to LSU as a wide receiver, but his athleticism landed him at cornerback, where he appeared in seven games and recorded seven tackles. Miles said the move was need-based, but there is no denying that Claiborne can play the position. Now, the rising sophomore might bump a veteran for the start.



Josh Jasper – 5’11”, 165, Sr.

Drew Alleman – 6’0”, 169, So.

Josh Jasper was one of the brightest spots on LSU’s team this past season, hitting 17-of-20 field goal attempts, including a long of 52 yards.

Between 20- and 40-yards, Jasper was perfect (10-10).

Solid with kickoffs and reliable on extra points, Jasper has made LSU fans forget about Colt David in a hurry.



Derek Helton – 6’2”, 170, Sr.

Josh Jasper – 5’11”, 165, Sr.

Brad Wing – 6’3”, 175, Fr.

Derek Helton showed promise in 2009, but he also showed some inconsistency. He finished the season with 46 punts for an average of 40 yards and a long of 59.

Josh Jasper, who put down 10 of his 15 punts inside the 20-yard line, should continue to handle the work on shorter distances.


Kick Return:

Ron Brooks – 5’11”, 176, Jr.

Russell Shepard – 6’1”, 190, So.

Replacing Trindon Holliday is tough, but the Tigers have some good athletes waiting for their chance to get a hand on the football.

Ron Brooks, who started as a kick returner next to Holliday in 2009, is likely a shoe-in to fill the spot again next season.

Russell Shepard, whose touches came sparingly this year, is a possible candidate for the second spot. The Houston native worked at the position on and off this past season, though the coaches never moved him into the role during a game.

Perhaps 2010 holds a different fate.


Punt Return:

Chad Jones – 6’3”, 231, Sr.

Rueben Randle – 6’3”, 201, So.

Chad Jones shared the punt return duties with Holliday last season, and the staff will likely put the sure-handed senior back there once more.

However, watch for Rueben Randle.

Randle, who will be the No. 2 receiver for the Tigers, has spent recent practices working as a punt returner. Certainly, any way that the staff can get the ball into Randle’s hands is something that LSU fans support.

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