Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spring Practice Preview: Defensive Line


Jarvis Green. Marcus Spears. Chad Lavalais. Marquise Hill. Kyle Williams. Claude Wroten. Glenn Dorsey. Tyson Jackson. The core of LSU’s success over the last 10 years was due to the outstanding players along the defensive line.  LSU won championships with great defenses, and those great defenses started up front. We haven’t seen the same caliber of defensive linemen over the last two seasons and not surprisingly, the team has not been as successful.

LSU has recruited well over the last three years, and they have a nice group of talented young players that will be looking to make their mark in 2010. Competition for playing time will be heated this spring.

Starting with the defensive tackles...

Senior Drake Nevis (pictured) returns as LSU’s most experienced player on the defensive line. Though he wasn’t a starter, Nevis was outstanding in 2009. He led all defensive linemen with 50 tackles, and he was the team leader with 11 tackles for loss. He also logged four sacks.  Nevis is explosive off the line of scrimmage and can frequently get into the backfield and disrupt plays.  Nevis could stand to be more consistent, especially against the run, but he's poised to have a big-time senior season.   He'll almost certainly start at one of the defensive tackle positions. 

Sophomore Josh Downs earned playing time as a true freshman in 2009, and he did fairly well.  Though undersized, Downs showed a great motor and an ability to rush the passer.  At around 275 pounds last year, he struggled with stopping the run.  I expect Downs will be a bit heavier this year in hopes to be an every down player.  He'll certainly be in the playing rotation, and he's a candidate to start alongside Nevis. 

Senior Pep Levingston started at defensive end in 2009 and performed adequately.  He will reportedly move inside to defensive tackle this season.  Levingston has played some defensive tackle for LSU in the past.  He mostly played inside as a reserve in 2008, and he played significantly in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Georgia Tech.   As a defensive end, Levingston is a legitimate SEC player but as a defensive tackle, he could be a real play maker.   One thing to watch this spring is where Levingston lines up and how he progresses if he's at defensive tackle. 

Redshirt freshman Chris Davenport came to LSU last year as a five star recruit.  However, a knee injury during his senior season caused him to be behind on his conditioning when he arrived at LSU and he redshirted as a result.   Davenport is a massive space-eating type of defensive tackle than can occupy blockers and free up the linebackers to make plays.  He was listed at 6'4" 320 pounds last year, and he's very athletic for someone his size.  He'll be counted on to contribute in 2010, and it will be important to observe his progress this spring. 

Redshirt freshman Bennie Logan was widely considered one of the steals in the Class of 2009.  Originally recruited as a defensive end, Logan has grown and will reportedly move to tackle this spring.  His skill set is very similar to Pep Levingston as a guy that could play either end or tackle.  He'll be competing in efforts to earn some playing time in 2010. 

Now, on to the defensive ends...

Sophomore Lavar Edwards (pictured) played a good bit as a reserve in 2009, and he was awfully impressive.  With limited playing time, Edwards logged two and a half sacks and four and a half tackles for loss to go along with 23 tackles.  He has ideal size for a defensive end at 6'4" 265 pounds.  I think Edwards is a lock to start at defensive end, and I think he's poised for a bit of a breakout season.  He's my early favorite to be the surprise player of the year on defense and maybe on the whole team. 

Another sophomore, Chancey Aghayere, also played a good bit as a reserve last year.  He wasn't quite as impressive as Edwards, but he performed admirably for a young player.  Aghayere may not ever be among the SEC leaders in sacks, but he looks to be a very solid player.  He's squarely in the mix to compete for a starting position opposite Edwards. 

Competing with Aghayere will likely be redshirt freshman Mike Brockers.  Brockers is a big defensive end in the mold of Marquise Hill or Tyson Jackson.  Listed at 6'6" 285 pounds, Brockers carries his weight very well and is unusually nimble for such a big guy.  He really impressed the coaching staff last year, and he's expected to play a good bit in 2010.  There's some talk that Brockers could make the move inside to defensive tackle, so that's something to watch. 

Junior College transfer Ken Adams will jump into the mix in efforts to get on the field.  Adams was highly sought after by Auburn, Tennessee and others.  He has good size at 6'5" 250 pounds, and he'll be counted on to rush the passer.  It will be interesting to see how Adams stacks up during his first spring practice. 

Redshirt freshman Sam Montgomery brings something different to the table.  Montgomery has a ton of athleticism and he can really, really rush the passer.  Listed at 240 pounds on last year's roster, I'm curious to see if Montgomery has put on any weight.  240 is probably not big enough to be an every down defensive lineman in the SEC, but he's not too far off from being where he needs to be.  In my opinion, Montgomery has more potential than anyone else at his position on the team and I'm excited about his future. 

Similar to Montgomery, former linebacker Barkevious Mingo is a guy who needs to put on some weight.  Mingo came to LSU as a linebacker but has since been moved to defensive end, and he is a terror rushing off the edge.  He was much lighter than Montgomery, so he has a longer way to go before seeing the field.  He could see some time as a situational pass rusher in 2010. 

In the fall, defensive tackle J.C. Copeland as well as defensive ends Jordan Allen and Ego Ferguson will join the mix. 

Here's a shot at a depth chart:

Depth Chart:

Nevis (Sr)
Downs (So)
Levingston (Jr)
Davenport (Fr)
Logan (Fr)
Copeland (Fr)

Edwards (So)
Aghayere (So)
Brockers (Fr)
Adams (Jr)
Montgomery (Fr)
Mingo (Fr)
Ferguson (Fr)
Allen (Fr)


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