LSU Football 2018: An early look at the big picture on defense
When you look ahead to LSU football fortunes in 2018, you see plenty of reasons to think the Tigers can contend in the SEC. We have looked at the offense for next season recently so now we have to focus on the other side of the ball.
The biggest offseason story may have already happened. Keeping Dave Aranda at defensive coordinator gives the Tigers stability as well as coaching talent at the elite level. Of course, LSU would not be paying him $2.5 million per season otherwise.
The defensive line will be led by Rashard Lawrence who recorded 26 stops, 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks. He has All-SEC skills and he will be the leader up front. In fact, the Neville High product is the type of player who could assume the esteemed Tigers jersey No. 18.
Nose tackle Ed Alexander got better with reps as a sophomore, and this year he’ll have more rotation help for massive freshman Tyler Shelvin, who sat out ’17. Things seem to be in order for the 6-foot-3 and 378 pound Shelvin to be available for action. New addition Dominic Livingston (6-3, 340) is capable of getting reps as well.
Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron depart from the d-line roation and that will leave a void. The much-anticipated addition of Texas Tech transfer Breiden Fehoko (6-3, 305) will help provide an immediate impact replacement through his skills and leadership. He is SEC ready.
Sophomore Glen Logan (6-4, 315), Nelson Jenkins (2018 signee), JUCO transfer Travez Moore (6-6, 250), sophomore Neil Farrell (6-4, 290) and Justin Thomas (6-5, 277) comprise the group of returnees who will have first crack are spots in the rotation. Injuries and the unforeseen off-field issues could alter this. Keep an eye on rangy junior edge rusher Sci Martin to jump into fray.
Outside linebacker spots will be manned by committee. True juinior Michael Divinity (6-2, 239) has three-down potential while sophmore K’Lavon Chaisson (6-4, 240) can be a force on the edge. Chaisson had 25 tackles and 4.5 TFL with two sacks as a rookie. Ray Thornton (6-3, 228) is on par with both. Andre Anthony (6-3, 240) jins a pair of 2018 signees – Micah Baskerville (6-2, 218) and Jarell Cherry (6-3, 225) – as those with openings to be primary contributors. One or two of these players should assert themselves on defense.
The inside linebackers are talented but the spot does not appear to be exceptionally deep. A lot rides on Mr. Everything, Devin White. As the SEC’s leading tackler, White is already following the lineage of former LSU greats Kevin Minter, Bradie James, Trev Faulk and Albert Richardson at the spot. White’s talent and leadership are crucial to the Tigers’ success.
Tyler Taylor (6-2, 238) had 30 tackles in 2017 when playing time came his way. Jacob Phillips (6-3, 237) will be a year older and much better as well. Patrick Queen ( 6’1-220) and 2018 signee Damone Clark (6-3, 218) will be in the mix.
Greedy Williams is the leader of LSU’s “No Fly Zone” defensive backfield. The redshirt sophomore cornerback somehow made the loss of Tre’Davious White seem insignificant. People talk about Donte’ Jackson’s speed, but Greedy is a 4.2 guy. The All SEC and 3rd team All American for 2017 was the first Tiger since Craig Steltz in 2007 to lead SEC in interceptions.
Kary Vincent will step into Jackson’s role at nickleback when the latter heads to the pros. There is little drop off in speed there.
Jontre Kirkland has quietly grabbed the coaches attention by making tremendous strides as a first-year player.
The cornerback spot is expected to enjoy its biggest boost on Feb. 7 with the expected signings of Patrick Surtain Jr. and Mario Goodrich. Both will be immediately counted upon to contribute but many hope Surtain provides a Greedy Williams-level impact as a true freshman.
Grant Delpit, a true freshman free safety in ’17, had nine starts with 52 tackles, nine passes defended and one interception. He was a mirror image of Jamal Adams in 2014 when he recorded 66 stops and broke up five passes.
John Battle IV (6-3, 205) brings physicality and experience at strong safety. Added support from Eric Monroe, who is more than capable, make this area a strength.
JaCoby Stevens (6-2, 200) returned to the safety spot following an experiment at receiver ealry last season. The adage “too good to keep off the field” may apply to Steven n 2018/
Watch out for 2017 signee Todd Harris from Plaquemine as another player ready to make an impact. Wossman product Cameron Lewis, another 2017 addition, should shoe horn himself into the depth chart along with the most recent 2018 addition, prized commitment Kelvin Joseph.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…