2007 LSU Preview - Defense
LSU Tigers Defense
Preview 2007 - Defense
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What you need to know: The nation's number three defense in
each of the last two years might crank things up yet another
notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most
impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might
be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a
fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the
star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan
Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and
Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon
Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect
more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the
average to bad teams.
Tyson Jackson, 8.5
Interceptions: Craig Steltz & Jonathan Zenon, 4
Star of the defense: Senior DT Glenn Dorseyackup corner experience, proven backup linebackers
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DE Rahim Allen and junior DE Tremaine Johnson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Curtis Taylor
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Tyson Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dorsey, 2) LB Ali
Highsmith, 3) Jackson
Strength of the defense: The entire front seven, corner
Weakness of the defense: B
Projected Starters: The LSU
line was going to be good no matter what, and then it became special
when 6-2, 299-pound All-America tackle Glenn Dorsey chose to come
back for his senior season when he likely would've been a top 20 draft
pick. Yet another in a long line of great LSU tackles, Dorsey went from
a solid reserve to a jaw-dropping star last season getting in better
shape and using his quickness to make 64 tackles with 8.5 tackles for
loss and three sacks. He's the anchor of the front four and one of the
nation's premier interior pass rushers.
Next to Dorsey will likely be 6-3,
294-pound sophomore Charles Alexander, who started over the
second half of the season finishing with 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks. While
not the run-stuffer Dorsey is, he's one of the team's faster linemen
with the speed to be a pass rushing end in the body of a tackle.
6-5, 292-pound junior Tyson Jackson is one of the nation's bigger
defensive ends with next-level measurables that could make him a top ten
type of pick is he puts it all together this season. He has the strength
and size of a tackle with linebacker quickness cranking out a
team-leading 8.5 sacks with ten tackles for loss and 37 stops. If
absolutely needed, he could move inside for a stretch.
The only new
starter will be on the right side where sophomore Rahim Alem and
junior Tremaine Johnson will combine to take over for Chase
Pittman. Alem is a normal-sized end at 6-3 and 252 pounds, but that
makes him a lightweight on the Tiger defensive front. He made two
tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in garbage time, and now he should
shine as a pass rusher with tremendous athletic ability.
Johnson is 6-2
and 273 pounds adding yet another big body up front. He only made two
tackles last year in ten games of action, but he was tremendous in
spring ball highlighted by two sacks in the spring game. Working his way
into becoming a pass rusher, he should thrive with all the attention
paid to the other three starters.
Projected Top Reserves: The hope is for 6-4,
260-pound senior Kirston Pittman to finally get healthy enough to
play up to his initial potential. A burgeoning superstar after making
five sacks and 36 tackles in his first two years showing tremendous
skills as a speed rusher, he was knocked out for 2005 with a foot injury
and was banged up throughout all of last year. If he's right, he can be
a killer of a pass rushing specialist behind Jackson.
295-pound junior Marlon Favorite saw a little big of starting
time last season and made the most of it making 20 tackles with two
sacks and four tackles for loss. Considered to be the nation's top
tackle prospect coming out of high school in 2003, he hasn't quite lived
up to those expectations yet, but he's not all that far off.
wasn't enough beef up front, 6-5, 324-pound sophomore Al Woods
adds even more. A good all-around prospect who made seven tackles as a
true freshman, he'll be groomed behind Dorsey to take over next season.
6-3, 281-pound Ricky Jean-Francois showed great promise as a
freshman making 27 tackles, three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Able
to play either end or tackle, he's a key backup.
Watch Out For ... this to be the nation's best
defensive line. The return of Dorsey cemented the honor as the Tigers
have a signature superstar for the other superstars to work around.
Strength: Size. When you have quick, athletic ends who check in
at 292, 260, 273 and 252 pounds, you're big up front. The all can move.
Weakness: Making big plays against the run. Nitpicking time for
a group that should hold everyone to well under 100 yards rushing, but
for all the talent and all the NFL skills, the line didn't make nearly
enough tackles for loss last year as the team only cranked out 69.
Outlook: Utter destruction. No one's running on
Glenn Dorsey, Charles Alexander and Marlon Favorite, while the pass rushing from all four
spots should be relentless. If Rahim Alem and Tremaine Johnson can be merely adequate
on the right side, this group will be a dominant force.
Projected Starters: All three
starters return to an active group that dominated throughout last
season. The leading tackler of the trio is Darry Beckwith, a 6-1,
232-pound junior who came up with 65 stops, 2.5 sacks and four tackles
for loss. A star recruit a few years ago, he lived up to the potential
last year after moving from the outside to the middle. He can play any
of the three linebacker positions, but he's found a home inside where
his speed and range should make him even more active now that he knows
what he's doing.
Returning for year another big year is 6-1, 225-pound
senior Ali Highsmith after making 159 tackles in his first three
seasons and earning a Butkus Award Semifinalist nod. Able to play either
outside linebacker position, his 4.5 speed makes him a natural on the
weakside where he's able to roam as a pass rusher and help out in pass
coverage with the ability to cover any back.
6-4, 235-pound junior
Luke Sanders is the unnoticed starter on the strongside, but he can
more than hold his own. He started on the weakside last year while
Highsmith played the strongside, and now the two will switch spots. A
great athlete who's finally got healthy after knee and shoulder
problems, he made 34 tackles and two sacks.
Projected Top Reserves: The star of the future
might be 6-1, 220-pound Perry Riley, but he needs a place to
play. He has 4.5 speed and defensive lineman strength, and now he just
needs more time after making four tackles in seven games as a true
freshman. He'll play behind Sanders at the Buck position.
man in he middle will be sophomore Jacob Cutera, a thin 6-4,
227-pounder who looks more like a big safety. He was a star on special
teams and even got a start at linebacker as a true freshman against Ole
Miss leading the team with 11 stops. He finished the year with 37 stops
and will someday be the team's leading tackler.
6-3, 228-pound redshirt
freshman Kelvin Sheppard will play behind Highsmith, but he'll
find plenty of playing time somewhere in the corps. From the same high
school as Riley, Sheppard has similar speed and strength with a nose for
Watch Out For ... a good rotation of players even
though the starting three is among the best in the SEC. Riley, Cutera
and Sheppard are too good not to get extensive playing time throughout
Strength: Speed. Some teams (like Auburn) generally sacrifice
size for speed and quickness. LSU has the same speed and athleticism but
the linebackers are big.
Weakness: More big plays. Whether in the backfield or forcing
turnovers, this group has far too much experience and skill to not make
more game-changing plays. There's no reason this group can't be regulars
at popping the passer.
Outlook: The speed and talent generally makes up
for any problems. The corps only faced one team, Arkansas, that could
pound the rock on a consistently effective basis (that includes Auburn),
and the Hogs tore off 298 yards and three touchdowns. Either this crew
will be exposed as above-average early on against Virginia Tech, or
it'll firmly establish itself as the star corps of the conference.
Projected Starters: The
defense returns loaded with talent with six starters returning to the
front seven, but the one area of slight concern will be at safety where
Jessie Daniels and LaRon Landry have to be replaced. 6-2, 204-pound
senior Craig Steltz is a long-time reserve who's been a regular
for the past two seasons making 82 tackles while leading the team with
four interceptions last year. While he's not Daniels, he's good when the
ball is in the air making his four picks in four straight games while
also having the smarts to always find a way to be in the right position.
There won't be any drop-off in production.
The bigger problem is at free
safety where 6-3, 204-pound junior Curtis Taylor has to replace
Landry, the team's leading tackler and All-America star. A big-time
hitter and a scary-big force when on the move, he made 12 tackles last
season as he got his feet wet for this year. First, he has to be back
healthy after hurting his shoulder in spring ball.
The corner spots are not just set, they're manned by two lockdown
seniors who could end up forming the nation's best tandem. 6-0,
176-pound Jonathan Zenon broke up 12 passes and picked off four
others after he took over the starting role. While not the jaw-dropping
NFL athlete you'd expect manning an LSU corner spot, he's sticky on
receivers and simply makes plays.
The star of the show is Chevis
Jackson, a great hitter who came up with 46 tackles last year to go
along with 14 broken up passes and two interceptions. Unlike Zenon,
Jackson has NFL written all over him, but first, he might earn a few
All-America honors with the speed, size, and technique to be a lock-down
defender on anyone's number one.
Projected Top Reserves: Backing up Zenon on the
left side will be sophomore Chris Hawkins, a 6-1, 181-pound
speedster with 4.5 wheels and tremendous all-around athleticism. He saw
a little bit of time last season making four tackles, and he'll be the
understudy this year before taking over the starting job in 2008.
Redshirt freshman Jai Eugene is a next-level athlete with all the
skills to be a great corner. He's 5-11, 184-pounds and has warp speed
and quickness. A former high school quarterback, he'll start next year
when Jackson's off to the NFL.
Behind Steltz will be 6-2, 203-pound
sophomore Harry Coleman, an intimidating force who made 12
tackles in his first season after learning how to play the position. He
was mostly a linebacker in high school.
6-1, 205-pound sophomore
Danny McCray is big, tough, strong, and cornerback fast at free
safety. He was a key player in nickel packages as a true freshman
finishing with 30 tackles and an interception.
Watch Out For ... this to be one of the top five
secondaries in college football even without Daniels and Landry. Steltz
and Taylor can play, and Coleman and McCray could start right now for
Strength: Corner. Jackson and Zenon don't get beat, but they
also got plenty of help form the safeties last year. Even so, stick
these two on an island against most receivers and they'll be fine.
Weakness: Experienced corner depth. Hawkins and Eugene will be
good in time, but they need playing time. Watch for them to get on the
field in a hurry as soon as games get out of reach.
Outlook: While Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than
fine, there's going to be a drop-off when you lose players like LaRon Landry
and Jessie Daniels. Even so, with the help provided from the pass rush up
front, it'll be a shock if, statistically, this wasn't one of the five
best pass defenses in America.
Projected Starters: Sophomore
PK Colt David is coming off a nice freshman season hitting eight
of 13 field goals with four of his misses coming from beyond 40 yards.
While he's a rock from inside 40, he doesn't have a consistent deep leg
topping out at around 45 yards. Even so, the coaching staff will give
him a few more shots from deep this year.
6-5, 253-pound senior
Patrick Fisher is one of the nation's biggest punters, and now he'll
have to show off a leg replacing Chris Jackson and his 41.9-yard
average. He has a little bit of experience, but consistency will be his
Early Doucet will handle the bulk of the kickoff returns
while Trindon Holliday, a 5-5, 159-pound bolt of lightning, will
help out on punt returns. Considering his world-class speed, Doucet
needs to average more than 16.8 yards per kickoff return. Holliday
returned five kickoffs on the year for an average of 32.8 yards per try
with a touchdown against Arkansas.
Watch Out For ... David to be used even more. The
offense scores so much that all he usually needs to do is kick extra
points. This year, the coaching staff will likely give him more chances
from longer range.
Strength: David's reliability. He hasn't had to come through
with a truly clutch kick, but he's been reliable enough to not worry
about him as long as the attempt is from around 40 yards and in.
Weakness: The return game. Considering all the speed, LSU was
stunningly mediocre returning kicks with Skyler Green gone. Holliday
should change that with more work. Doucet looks the part of an elite
returner, but he's not productive.
Outlook: There's nothing special about the special
teams unless Fisher starts to add more blast to the nation's 95th best
punting game. The coverage units could stand to be far better while
there has to be more pop on the returns.
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