Early Look at 2014: Defense

Yesterday we examined the 2014 prospects on the offensive side of the ball, and today we look at the defense. There's plenty of talent to choose from, and here are some names high on LSU's priority list.

TSD Editor Ben Love contributed the personnel notes for each position.

DEFENSIVE END

Jermauria Rasco (Sr.), Jordan Allen (Sr.), Justin Maclin (Sr.), Danielle Hunter (Jr.), Frank Herron (R-Fr. or So.), Michael Patterson (R-Fr. or So.)

-Much like the offensive line, it can be difficult to predict where certain players end up, position-wise, along John Chavis' front seven. Scout lists incoming 2013 players like Melvin Jones and Lewis Neal as middle linebackers, but both (Neal is 6-2, 240, and Jones is 6-3, 245) have the size to be ends in LSU's system. Depending on where those two land long-term, LSU would serve itself well to grab at least one pass-rushing end in the 2014 class.

Top Prospect: Gerald Willis: Though Da'Shawn Hand out of Woodbridge, VA is the consensus No. 1 DE in the country for 2014, Gerald Willis is priority No. 1 for LSU. The younger brother of Landon Collins, who spurned the Tigers last year for the Tide, resides right in LSU's backyard and keeping the best talent in Louisiana remains crucial. Willis has the talent to immediately compete for a spot in the rotation. Like Collins, Willis' decision will likely come down to LSU and Alabama, but Willis has stated many times he will not be influenced by his older brother.

Other Options: LSU has offers out to several out-of-state prospects including Hand, Deondre Clark, Chad Thomas, Andrew Williams and Rashaan Evans. Plaquemine product Davon Godchaux will also likely receive an offer if his grades check out.

Prediction: Willis' decision will likely come down to the wire, but I see him ending up at LSU. He has a strong relationship with Frank Wilson, and his teammate Devante Noil, appears to be a heavy LSU lean. Godchaux would be an instant commit if he receives an offer, and depending on which direction that goes, I see LSU pressing one more of those out-of-state prospects.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Anthony Johnson (Sr.), Ego Ferguson (Sr.), Quentin Thomas (Jr.), Mickey Johnson (Jr.), Greg Gilmore (R-Fr. or So.), Christian Lacouture (R-Fr. or So.), Tevin Lawson (R-Fr. or So.)

-Should "Freak" stick around this long, the Tigers would have a very deep and, for the most part, experienced bunch of defensive tackles in 2014. Bringing in at least three at the position in 2013 means this won't be the biggest area of emphasis with the following recruiting class, but that doesn't mean LSU won't add one on the interior.

Top Prospect: Khairi Clark: LSU has only offered one true defensive tackle for the class of 2014, and it's the No. 1 prospect — Khairi Clark. At 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, Clark will be highly sought after and is taking his recruitment very slowly. The Hollywood, Fla., native has visited Miami this season, but expect him to consider a wide variety of schools.

Other Options: LSU's also shown interest in Josh Frazier out of Arkansas and 300-pounder Malik McDowell.

Prediction: With the additions of Lacouture and Gilmore to the 2013 class, LSU won't be hurting for depth at defensive tackle by 2014. The Tigers, like most other schools, have their eyes set on Clark, but expect a hard-fought battle for his services. In a relatively thin DT class in 2014, don't expect the Tigers to jump on too many prospects when there are other positions of higher need.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Kwon Alexander (Jr.), Lamar Louis (Jr.), Debo Jones (Jr.), Lorenzo Phillips (Jr.)

-One quick look at the four names above should make LSU fans thankful for the LB haul in the Class of 2012. Obviously, though, the Tigers will have to replenish the position for beyond 2014. Getting Kendell Beckwith's signature in 2013 would help a great deal, but it still looks imperative that LSU bring in at least one ‘backer with speed in the 2014 class.

Top Prospect: Hoza Scott: While LSU has several offers out to linebackers, Scott best fits the mold of what Chavis looks for in his outside linebackers. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Scott still has the speed to pass rush and drop back in coverage. Recently he's mentioned LSU in his top-five with Texas A&M, Texas, Alabama and Florida. Stealing Scott out of the Lone Star State may be a difficult task, but he will certainly be one of LSU's top linebacker priorities in 2014.

Other Options: Cameron Hampton is someone that holds a LSU offer that projects both outside and inside. John Curtis prospect Kenny Young doesn't hold an offer yet, but expect him to receive one in the near future. Dwight Williams is a west-coast prospect that plans to camp at LSU this summer in search of a SEC offer.

Prediction: It's hard to predict where the current batch of linebacker recruits will end up which makes projecting depth at the outside position a difficult task. LSU would still be deep there by 2014 but expect LSU to take at least two linebackers that project outside. Young would likely be a Tiger if he receives an offer, and look for LSU to put the full-court press on Scott.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

D.J. Welter (Sr.), Ronnie Feist (Jr.), Trey Granier (R-So.), Lewis Neal (R-Fr. or So.), Melvin Jones (R-Fr. or So.)

-2014 could conceivably be the LSU defense's first year post-Minter. So a new starter will be earning his stripes that season anyway with Feist the brightest hope for the future, at least as far as players currently on the team go. Neal and Jones would also have the chance to compete for starter's minutes should they play in the middle once they arrive in TigerTown. If they end up playing elsewhere, it will be necessary to grab one middle linebacker type in 2014.

Top Prospect: Kain Daub: The former LSU commit will remain a major priority for the Tigers as they hope to retain one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the nation. Daub surprised many when he pulled the trigger so early, but it now appears that he's taking a step back to reassess his possibilities. Daub would be another great addition in the long line of prospects LSU will have to play with. He has a teammate that is an Alabama commit so expect Daub to put serious consideration into the Tide.

Other Options: Tre Williams and Kevin Crosby are a pair of high-touted, out-of-state prospects that hold LSU offers.

Prediction: With Daub now taking the opportunity to examine all his options, I don't see him winding up at LSU. The Tigers will need to turn their direction to the other prospects at both outside and inside linebacker and find some that fit best with what they like to do. But there's plenty of talent to be had, and it's possible LSU could land a haul similar to that in 2012 and add even more talent to an already deep linebacker corp.

CORNERBACK

Jalen Mills (Jr.), Jalen Collins (Jr.), Dwayne Thomas (Jr.), Derrick Raymond (So.), Kavahra Holmes (So.), Tre'Davious White (R-Fr. or So.), Jeryl Brazil (R-Fr. or So.), Rashard Robinson (R-Fr. or So.), Rickey Jefferson (R-Fr. or So.)

-Cornerback could end up as one of the places – on either side of the field – where LSU is best set up for the future. The two Jalens, along with Thomas, will be the present in 2014, and the future is well-represented with White and Robinson as well as two players who are more than likely to end up on the defensive side of the ball, Brazil and Jefferson. There are a whole lot of elite-level athletes in that mix, and many of them will only be freshmen or sophomores by 2014. As is the case every year, LSU will likely take one more player at corner, but the Tigers won't require much more than that.

Committed: Chris Hardeman: LSU already has a commitment in Hardeman that projects to play corner in college. Already a deep position, adding more in the 2014 class would only be a situation of the rich getting richer.

Top Prospect: Tony Brown: The state of Texas has loads of elite talent in the secondary, and Brown is the cream of the crop. At 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, he already has prototypical size and has the speed and athleticism that colleges crave in a shutdown corner. He's receiving loads of attention and visited LSU for the Alabama game last weekend. He's also mentioned Alabama and Texas as some of his early favorites.

Other Options: Nick Watkins, Quincy Wilson and Jabrill Peppers all hold offers from LSU. John Curtis' Terrence Alexander might get in the mix as well as Adoree Jackson out of California.

Prediction: LSU has the reputation of DBU, and that's led to most of the nation's elite secondary talent to have LSU high on their lists. With Hardeman on board, LSU still stands in position to land more commits if they so choose. Despite the depth LSU will still have in 2014 expect the Tigers to keep their eyes set on one or two more prospects.

SAFETY

Ronald Martin (Sr.), Corey Thompson (Jr.), Jerqwinick Sandolph (Jr.), Micah Eugene (Jr.), Jeremy Cutrer (R-Fr. or So.), John Diarse (R-Fr. or So.)

-There will be more of an emphasis back at safety in 2014 than at corner based on the sheer numbers. Martin is scheduled to be a graduating senior that season while Thompson and Sandolph will be in their third seasons, as will Eugene, a player the staff really only likes to play in the box anyway. Cutrer and Diarse will represent great hope for the future, but at least one safety is a must for LSU in its recruiting class of 2014.

Committed: Devin Voorhies: This athlete could wind up on either side of the ball, but his size and athleticism lend itself to defense, primarily the safety position.

Top Prospect: Laurence Jones: The Neville standout could ultimately wind up playing corner on the next level, but already at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, look for him to wind up at safety. Jones will be one of the biggest talents in Louisiana for 2014, and expect LSU to try its hardest to keep him in state. Current teammate and 2013 commit John Diarse has said he's letting Jones make his own decision, but don't be surprised if the Tigers play that relationship to their advantage.

Other Options: The Mansfield Timberview duo of Edward Paris and Brandon Simmons hold LSU offers and are high on LSU's list for 2014. Elliot Berry, Deion Singleton and Nicholas Ruffin also hold offers.

Prediciton: I'd consider Jones a heavy lean for LSU at the moment and expect him to be the foundation of LSU's class of defensive backs in 2014. With safety being less deep than cornerback, expect LSU to press hard on some other names from outside the state. Paris is already high on their list and high on LSU. The Tigers will likely end up taking two or three players in this class to bolster the secondary for the future.

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