2009 LSU Preview - Defense
LSU S Chad Jones
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - LSU Tiger Defense
Preview 2009 - Defense
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What you need to know: The defense wore the LSU uniforms, and it
had several players that were part of the team that won the
national championship in 2007, but it didn't look like LSU. The
pass rush was spotty, the secondary was a sieve, and there
weren't nearly enough big plays all across the board. Welcome to
2009, and welcome to John Chavis, the former Tennessee defensive
coordinator who's going to have this ultra-athletic group flying
around. The line loses three starters, including Tyson Jackson,
but it might be more productive with pass rushing terror Rahim
Alem in a full-time role and Drake Nevis about to become a star
on the inside. The linebacking corps is loaded with Perry Riley,
Kelvin Sheppard, and possibly top-tackling safety Harry Coleman
flanking Jacob Curtera, who should be an all-star caliber
defender in the middle. The secondary has speed and experience,
but someone has to pick off a pass now and then and there has to
be more production against the better passing teams.
Tackles: Harry Coleman,
Rahim Alem, 8
Interceptions: Chris Hawkins, 3
Star of the defense:
Senior LB Perry Riley
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior SS
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Drake Nevis
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Rahim Alem
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Riley, 2) Alem, 3)
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, Team Speed
Weakness of the defense: Interceptions, Proven No. 2 Pass
Who's going to replace Tyson Jackson
and his bulk at left end? Chancey Aghayere
won't bring the size of Jackson, but he'll be a better pass
rusher. Jackson made 4.5 tackles for loss, but the 6-4,
269-pound Aghayere has the speed and the athleticism to came out
in opposing backfield. A great recruit, he might not be a top
run defender right away, but he'll get to the quarterback.
Ready to break out on the other side, in place of Kirston
Pittman, is Rahim Alem, a next-level athlete
who was a pass rushing specialist last year as a key reserve and
made eight sacks with 11.5 tackles for loss and 29 tackles. Now
he'll have the job all to himself. He started one game against
Alabama, but was part of a rotation throughout last year and was
a blur into the backfield earning first-team All-SEC honors. The
6-3, 254-pound senior is smart, experienced, and worth seeing
double teams on every snap.
The one returning starter to
the defensive front is Charles Alexander, a
6-3, 310-pound senior who came off a knee injury to start eight
games at right tackle making 24 tackles with a sack. While he
was fine, he wasn't the aggressive interior pass rusher and he
wasn't the rock against the run he was before the injury. He got
a sixth year of eligibility and now he's as healthy as he has
been and he's ready to be the anchor up front at left tackle.
6-1, 294-pound junior Drake Nevis has
the look of the team's newest superstar tackle. After serving as
a spot starter, he made 16 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss,
showing off a quick first step and good toughness in the
rotation, he'll get the start at right tackle where he should be
fantastic. There will be plenty of plays made against the run,
but his worth will be as an interior pass rusher.
Projected Top Reserves: The team's top defensive
recruit this year was Chris Davenport, a 6-4,
318-pound block of granite who was out for most of his senior
hurt, but was still considered among the nation's top tackle
prospects. Very big and very active, he was a man among boys in
high school and has the body and strength to be a factor right
away somewhere on the interior.
Someone will take
Al Woods on the second day of the 2010 NFL Draft. The
6-4, 323-pound senior has the size, the tools, and the potential
to be a key rock in the rotation. He came up with a monster
spring and the light might have finally gone on after making 11
tackles in ten games. He's the type of player who'll get
drafted, will be solid in an NFL camp, and will bounce around
the league, making a lot of money along the way, for seven
years. Now, if he can be more disruptive, he'll create a bigger
While sophomore Sidell Corley
isn't as big as Tyson Jackson, at 6-3 and 274 pounds, he's a big
end who can do a lot of the same things. The sophomore wasn't
able to see too much action, playing in just two games and
making a tackle, but he'll be a part of the rotation both inside
and out working mostly at left end to add more bulk to the
6-4, 269-pound junior Lazarius
Levingston has yet to do much of anything despite
seeing a ton of playing time, making just nine tackles last
year, but he came up with two sacks and four tackles for loss.
"Pep" has the size and he has the burst to do a variety of
things on the right side, but he has to start producing more
when he's on the field.
Watch Out For ... Nevis. It's all there. He has
the size, the want-to, and the NFL Combine skills to be a
monster on the inside. He's not going to be Glenn Dorsey, but he
has the talent to be the program's next all-star tackle as both
a pass rusher and a run stopper.
Strength: The scheme. Play time is over. As if defensive
coordinator John Chavis isn't going to whip this group into
enough of a frenzy, there's Brick Haley, a former assistant for
the Chicago Bears, who has the potential to make this group
special. This year, the front four will get to pin its ears back
and get into the backfield.
Weakness: Consistency. This should change with the new coaches,
but considering there was NFL talent all across the line last
year, it wasn't that big a whoop. It stonewalled some teams
against the run, but there wasn't nearly enough pressure into
the backfield and there were too many breakdowns. With three new
starters, and Alexander the weakest of last year's starting
foursome, this isn't a sure-thing.
Outlook: The line should come roaring back after a
good, but not tremendous season. Alem and Nevis are about to
grow into stars, while Alexander is a veteran who know what he's
doing. The depth might not be fully developed or experienced
outside of Woods, but there's size. It'll be a good front four
that'll take over games at times.
Step one is replacing Darry Beckwith in
the middle, and the Tigers have their man in Jacob
Cutrera, a 6-4, 236-pound senior who was a key backup
over the last few years and got two starts finishing with 33
tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. He had a tremendous spring
showing great toughness and enough range to be the leader and
the anchor of the corps to work around. He has been groomed for
this job for the last three years and he appears to be ready.
Is Harry Coleman really going to be the
starter on the outside? The team's leading tackler, who made 71
tackles with seven broken up passes, was tried out in the
linebacking corps this spring and he might be the main man after
showing tremendous toughness on the strongside and good range on
the weakside. A monster hitter and strong enough to handle the
job despite being 6-2 and 205 pounds, he's not starting from
scratch having played linebacker in high school. As good as he
is, he might move back to safety from time to time just to get
all the linebacker prospects on the field.
240-pound senior Perry Riley came up with a
great season finishing third on the team with 60 tackles with an
interception and 7.5 tackles for loss. The Chick-fil-A Bowl
Defensive MVP will start at the Buck, or the strongside, as a
major-league playmaker who projects to be taken around the
fourth round next year. He has good enough speed to get by, and
he's an intimidating hitter with the ability to be used as a
pass rusher. With defensive lineman strength, he holds up well
against the run.
Projected Top Reserves:
So where is Kelvin Sheppard going
to be? The 6-3, 237-pound junior started five times last year on
the weakside and finished second on the team with 64 tackles
with 4.5 tackles for loss, and he's too good to not be on the
field somewhere. He has the skills with good strength to go
along with tremendous speed, but his biggest key will be his
versatility. While his best spot is on the weakside, he can play
any of the three positions and could see action in the rotation
in the middle. Wherever he is, he'll make a ton of stops.
6-1, 222-pound redshirt freshman Kyle Prater
will start out in the middle and could end up seeing
time at the Buck. A nice weakside recruit for the program
last year, he'll mostly be a special teamer this season when
he's not working in the rotation with Curtera. He might be
undersized, but he'll always find his way to the ball and he's
tough enough to handle the workload if needed.
Ryan Baker might be the team's fastest
linebacker. The 6-0, 213-pounder was the gunner on special teams
last season and saw a little bit of time in the linebacking
corps, finishing with 16 tackles, and now he'll work at the Buck
in a rotation with Riley. When he's on defense he'll be used as
a shot-out-of-a-cannon pass rusher.
Watch Out For ... Coleman. Is he really going to
stick at linebacker? It's not like the position is a problem
area, and he might just end up moving around wherever needed.
Where he lines up he'll be expected to be a major playmaker and
a disruptive force.
Strength: Tacklers. If Coleman is a linebacker, the corps will
have the team's top three tacklers from last year in Coleman,
Sheppard, and Riley. The linebackers don't miss many plays and
they'll be all over the field doing a variety of things under
the new coaches.
Weakness: Pass coverage. It's not a glaring problem, but it
could stand to be better. The addition of Coleman would help
change that up in a real hurry, and it would be nice if there
were more broken up passes and tighter coverage on short to
Outlook: The position should be the star of the
show. This isn't the most talented linebacking corps LSU has
had, but there are producers all across the unit with Curtera
about to blossom into a force and with Coleman, Sheppard, and
Riley all possible all-stars. This could end up being the team's
biggest strength as the season goes on.
If Harry Coleman really does move to
linebacker, it'll be up to 6-3, 214-pound junior Chad
Jones to try to equal the production after having a
good year. A key spot starter so far, he saw time in dime
packages and always came up with good hits making 50 tackles
with an interception and seven broken up passes. Also a great
baseball player, starring for the Tigers as an outfielder, too,
he should now make more of an impact on the football field and
he should be one of the team's leading tacklers.
to take over at free safety for Curtis Taylor is 5-11, 175-pound
sophomore Ron Brooks. A nice talent, he was
originally a corner able to use his sub-4.4 speed to be a part
of the mix and as a key special teamer. While he made 18
tackles, he didn't do anything when the ball was in the air.
With his range and his speed, he should do far more with room to
move and the ability to use his good hitting skills when he has
a head of steam.
Senior Chris Hawkins
started every game last year at left corner finishing with 50
tackles with a team-leading three picks and 12 broken up passes.
At 6-1 and 184 pounds he has excellent size to go along with the
speed to stay with any speed receiver in the SEC. He has 4.5
wheels, cut-on-a-dime quickness, and the potential to earn
all-star honors if he improves a bit from last year. While he
makes his share of plays, he'll give up big passes here and
After starting the final two games of last
year, 6-1, 205-pound sophomore Patrick Peterson
is back at right corner as part of a rotation with Jai Eugene.
He's still learning the job after making 41 tackles and a pick
as a true freshman, but with good speed to go along with his
size, he has the tools to do more. He was one of the team's top
recruits last year and will eventually do more either as either
the team's shutdown corner or as a top safety. He can do it all
and will be used in a variety of ways.
Projected Top Reserves: LSU is full of phenomenal
athletes, but Jai Eugene stands out even be the
program's high standards. He started 11 games last year and
ended up making 35 tackles, but he didn't do nearly enough
against the pass considering he's experienced and has the skills
to do far more. At 5-11 and 191 pounds he has decent size to go
along with excellent speed. One of the team's most popular
players, he'll do whatever is needed from playing right corner
or working in nickel and dime packages.
Danny McCray has done it all for the Tigers and
will be plugged in where needed. While he can work at corner,
he's better at strong safety and in nickel situations with 147
career tackles making 53 last year, good for fourth on the team.
He has great pop and is a sure tackler, and while he'll push for
starting time behind Chad Jones, he'll make a bigger impact as a
versatile all-around defender.
Craig Loston was one of the nation's elite defensive
back recruits and was a big win for the program. The Houston
native could've gone anywhere, but he's the cousin of QB
prospect Russell Shepard and joined on as a top prospect on his
own. If he's not the best safety recruit in America, he's in the
top three with 6-2, 193-pound size and corner speed. A tough,
willing tackler with everything you'd want in a safety, he has
next-level skills right now.
Watch Out For
... Harry Coleman. The teams' leading tackler at free safety
last year will still see time in the defensive backfield as the
team's top backup at the position, even though he'll work mostly
at linebacker. If he's really gone, then it's time for Brooks
and Jones to grow into steadier all-around defenders.
Strength: Speed. LSU is never short on speed in the secondary.
The backups might be faster than the starters, and the starters
can stay with any receiving corps in college football. Corners
in the SEC are always fast, but having safeties with the kind of
wheels that LSU's has is rare.
Weakness: Pass defense. Granted, the pass rush wasn't as good as
it should've been, but the secondary didn't exactly help the
cause. Troy, Ole Miss, and Arkansas bombed away late last year,
and now the Tiger DBs have to prove they can make things happen.
Seven interceptions by the secondary isn't going to cut it.
Outlook: Considered the team's biggest weakness
going into last year, the defensive backs weren't awful, but
they weren't great. There's a ton of speed and a ton of
experience returning, but there has to be more big plays from
the corners and steadier play from the safeties. With versatile
options to play around with, the coaching staff should be able
to tinker the combination throughout the year.
Junior Josh Jasper got
a little work last year hitting two short field goals, and now he'll get
the task of replacing Colt David, who had a good, but not great season
hitting 16-of-21 field goals. Jasper has a big leg and will get plenty
of chances from beyond 40 yards.
The punting was strong last
year, but junior Derek Helton should be ready to step
in with Brady Dalfrey gone after averaging 36.1 yards per kick last year
for Fort Scott CC. He got to school early and showed he can handle the
work, and while he might not put 22 inside the 20 like Dalfrey did, he
has a bigger leg and should air it out more often.
Trindon Holliday is a special kickoff returner
averaging 22.6 yards per try after averaging 26.2 yards per attempt two
years ago. He gets avoided at all costs, but when he gets his chances,
he's deadly. He greatly improved the punt return game averaging 13.3
yards per try after the punt return team struggled two years ago.
Watch Out For ... Jasper to be fine. David blasted
four of six kicks from beyond 50 yards, and Jasper has the same type of
leg. It might not be that consistent, but he can kick. He should be
reliable enough to be counted on in any situation.
Strength: Holliday. One of the fastest players to ever play
college football, he can be devastating whenever he gets the ball on the
move. He's a game-changer who can score from anywhere on the field.
Weakness: Certainty at kicker. The kicking game was a major plus
last season, and while Jasper and Helton are expected to be good, it's
asking a lot to be as good as David and Dalfrey were.
Outlook: As long as the kicking isn't a liability,
the special teams will be terrific. Holliday is an elite weapon, while
the coverage teams should be solid after allowing just 8.5 yards per
punt return and 17.6 yards per kickoff return.