Gone is the hard-nosed defensive
guru Nick Saban and the more laid back offensive specialist Les Miles is now in
charge. However, do not expect a drop-off on the defensive side of the ball.
Being an offensive guy, Miles had to ensure the gritty defensive mentality of
the team stays in tact. So he hired one of the best in the business in Bo
Pelini’s resume speaks for itself
in the fact he has coached in the NFL under Pete Carroll and has spent the last
two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska and last year at Oklahoma. Not too shabby.
With what LSU returns on that side
of the ball, look for more of the same from these Tigers. LSU has seven starters
coming back from a unit that was among the national leaders in scoring defense
(17.1 points), rushing defense (99.8 yards) and total defense (256.9 yards) last
Although Pelini must find suitable
replacements for NFL Draftees Marcus Spears (DE) and both cornerbacks (Travis Daniels and Corey Webster), expect the strength of the team to lie in the middle
with standout defensive tackles Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams to lead the
Three starters return to makeup up
the best defensive line in the SEC.
Claude Wroten (6-3, 293) started
slow a year ago but grew into one of the most dominant down tackles in the
league. Teamed with Kyle Williams (6-2, 295), this tandem should be able to
divert any activity by opposing teams’ rushing attacks.
Melvin Oliver (6-3, 2774) has
quietly been a steady force at defensive end the past two season and hopes to
have his best season at LSU in his final year in purple and gold.
The debate this spring which should
spill over into fall camp is who will replace all-everything defensive end
Marcus Spears. Kirston Pittman (6-3, 242) is a quality rush end, but lacks the
girth to be a dominant pass rusher or run stopper. Chase Pittman (6-4, 258), sat
out last season after transferring from Texas and had flashes of brilliance during the
spring scrimmage and is the odds-on favorite to be the regular starter in
“Chase has had a really good spring
and has shown the ability to play really well,” Miles said. “He has learned how
to play tough for long durations of time. He is going to be an excellent
defensive end for us. I think we will be good there.”
In reserve roles, sophomore Glenn Dorsey (6-2, 200) made quite an impression as a true freshman a year ago. Marlon Favorite (6-1, 310) will fill-in at defensive tackle as well as veteran Brandon Washington (6-4, 305). Sophomore Jarrod Carter (6-1, 276) will see action at
defensive tackle while juniors Ryan Willis and Carnell Stewart will see valuable
time at end. Redshirt freshmen Tyson Jackson (6-5, 289), Tim Washington (6-3,
291) and Charles Alexander (6-3, 295) will also all get looks at defensive end.
One key loss form last year’s team
is middle linebacker Lionel Turner.
After spending several years behind
the likes of Bradie James and Trev Faulk, Turner made the most of his final two
seasons being a captain on defense.
Turner will apply his services in
the NFL now as Pelini will look for a new man in the middle on the defensive
side of the ball.
Senior Cameron Vaughn (6-4, 237)
will be the likely candidate to replace Turner’s leadership ability. A highly
cerebral type defender, Vaughn is highly though of by Miles and staff and should
be one of the featured players on that side of the ball at the Sam linebacking
Kenny Hollis will likely assume
Turner’s spot at Mike linebacker. It took the junior college transfer a while to
get into the mix in this defense, but after a solid performance in last week’s
spring scrimmage, it is clear Hollis will be a play maker for Pelini’s
“Cameron Vaughn is kind of the glue
of that group,” Miles said. “Kenny Hollis will end up being a pretty good play.
I think there are a number of guys that can lend support in that group, but that
is as much improvement at one position than any other and it was one that we
needed people to step up on the defensive side.”
The Will linebacker position is up
for grabs right now and the leading candidates are sophomores Luke Sanders (6-4,
222) and Ali Highsmith (6-1, 225) and senior E.J. Kuale (6-2, 225). Kuale was a
starter at the beginning of last season but struggled learning Saban’s complex
defensive schemes after transferring to LSU from junior college.
However, Kuale will most likely be
the favorite to land the job.
“I think we are getting the
linebackers in the right spots and moving them around has been really good for
us,” Miles said. “I think EJ Kuale has shown he can put his hand on the ground
or play standing up.”
Other players in the mix at
linebacker include junior Dominic Cooper (6-4, 220) redshirt freshman Quinn Johnson (6-2, 230) and true freshman Harry Coleman (6-3, 225).
“I think there are a number of guys
that can lend support in that group, but that is as much improvement at one
position than any other and it was one that we needed people to step up on the
defensive side,” Miles said.
Along with replacing Marcus Spears,
Pelini and his staff are faced with having to find a pair of new cornerbacks as
Travis Daniels and Corey Webster have moved on to the NFL.
The Tigers have a wide array of
suitable prospects, but Miles says he doesn’t want to give anyone too much
praise due to the fact he wants the core group of cornerbacks to compete for the
Senior Ronnie Prude (5-11, 182) is
sure to own spot already while the other is up for grabs. Sophomore Chevis Jackson (6-0, 185) got a long hard look at that spot in the spring scrimmage,
but Miles said he is not making any definite plans just yet.
“I think Chevis, Sammy Joseph,
Ronnie Prude, I think there are a number of guys there that can play,” Miles
said. “I think we have some good guys that play at the position. I think we are
athletic enough. I have elected not to really focus on guys in particular at
that position because I want so guys besides Prude to step forward and say this
is my job. I think we are going to be good enough there I am just wondering who
will that be.”
Joseph (5-11, 179), a junior
transfer from Colorado, had a nice interception in the
spring scrimmage and fits the mold of a traditional cover corner. Mario Stevenson (6-2, 193) returns from an injury a year ago and Keron Gordon (6-1,
199) is another prime candidate for playing time.
While the future of the cornerbacks
is still up in the air, it is a much different story at safety. Juniors Laron
Landry (6-2, 187) and Jesse Daniels (5-11, 200) fill out the free and strong
safety spots respectively and rank among the best in the SEC. Daniel Francis
(5-11, 181), Nick Child (6-0, 165) and Jonathan Zenon (6-0, 174) are the likely
back-ups, but Curtis Taylor (6-3, 196) and Jeffrey Jack (5-10, 177) are in the
mix as well.
The Tiger special teams is pretty
much a one man show with junior Chris Jackson (5-11, 165) handling both the
place kicking and punting responsibilities.
Sophomore Patrick Fisher (6-5, 235)
saw more action than usual in the spring due to the fact Jackson was playing third
base for the Tiger baseball team. Ryan Gaudet (5-6, 156) will be used in a
backup role primarily on extra points and short field goals.
Xavier Carter was featured mostly
as the primary kickoff return specialist along with Ronnie Prude and Shyrone Carey. Skyler Green will hold down the punt return job along with Carey. Gant
Petty (6-0, 208 is the Tigers deep snapper and Matt Flynn serves as the holder
on PAT and field goals.