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2010 LSU Preview – Defense
LSU CB Patrick Peterson
LSU CB Patrick Peterson
Posted Jul 1, 2010 2010 Preview - LSU Tiger Defense

LSU Tigers

Preview 2010 - Defense

- 2010 LSU Preview | 2010 LSU Offense
- 2010 LSU Defense | 2010 LSU Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: The defense came up with a far better year than it got credit for. It wasn’t a great D, there were way too many inconsistencies, and several players had disappointing years, but the Tigers sill allowed a mere 16.2 points per game. Defensive coordinator John Chavis did a nice job despite the lack of a steady pass rush and with a mediocre year from the front seven, and while only four starters are back, the potential is there to be far better. At the very least, this will be an ultra-athletic group led by a loaded secondary with four corners holding down the starting spots highlighted by Patrick Paterson, arguably the nation’s best corners. There are a few young, very talented ends to form a strong pass rushing rotation, but the tackle situation is a bit of a question mark as is outside linebacker with athleticism needing to overcome inexperience.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kelvin Sheppard, 110
Sacks: Drake Nevis, 4
Interceptions: Patrick Peterson, Brandon Taylor, 2

Star of the defense: Junior CB Patrick Peterson
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior FS Jai Eugene
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Morris Claiborne
Best pro prospect: Peterson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Peterson, 2) LB Kevin Sheppard, 3) DT Drake Nevis
Strength of the defense: Speed, Secondary
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Proven Outside Linebacker

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: There’s only one returning starter up front, Lazarius Levingston has to play a bigger role. “Pep” isn’t all that huge, but the 6-4, 269-pound senior can be used as a big end or a smallish tackle getting the first look at left tackle going into the fall. He made 28 tackles with eight tackles for loss, but he wasn’t much of a pass rusher on the outside. He has a good burst for his size and he should be a quick interior pass rusher as part of a rotation.

6-1, 292-pound senior Drake Nevis is the biggest body for the interior, and he’s one of the team’s better pass rushers finishing with 50 tackles with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a top reserve. It’s all in place to be a star with great size, a high motor, excellent toughness, and the strength to serve as an anchor. While the Tigers rotate their tackles on a regular basis, he’ll be on the field more often than not as the team’s key interior defender.

After serving last year as a top reserve with a start against Louisiana Tech, sophomore LaVar Edwards is ready to be the pass rusher the line has needed to find; or at least he’ll be one of them. Quick off the ball, the 6-4, 265-pounder has the ability to get around the edge, and he has the power to handle the stronger tackles making 23 stops with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.

There’s going to be a major battle for time at left end, and JUCO transfer Kendrick Adams might be the best option of the bunch. The 6-5, 252-pounder originally started off his career wanting to be an Auburn Tiger, went the JUCO route, and now will be a pass rusher on the outside with 4.76 speed and good finishing skills.

Projected Top Reserves: A top recruit last year, redshirt freshman Barkevious Mingo has special talents and skills with the potential to be a superstar before his career is up. LSU gets great athletes, and Mingo is at a whole other level for the line bulking up to 230 pounds on his 6-5 frame with big-time quickness and athleticism. He might not be a starter, but he’ll be a deadly force when he gets his time at left end.

Sophomore Josh Downs was thrown into the tackle rotation as a true freshman finishing with nine tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss in 11 games. While he’s not huge, the 6-1, 275-pounder is quick and should be a dangerous interior pass rusher with great lateral mobility to make plays against the run. He’ll be the first man off the bench in the tackle rotation at both spots, but he’ll primarily work on the right side behind Drake Nevis.

If redshirt freshman Sam Montgomery wasn’t the nation’s top defensive end recruit last year, he was in the picture. The 6-4, 240-pounder is a pure pass rusher who can fly into the backfield showing off a little of his potential this offseason with a dominant spring. While he might be built like a tall linebacker, he’s a very tough defensive lineman who could be devastating for 15-to-20 plays a game.

Sophomore Chance Aghayere was expected to be an athletic speed rusher on the left side taking over for Tyson Jackson, and while he started three games early, he ended up mainly being a decent reserve finishing with 12 tackles with a sack. He has the 6-4, 263-pound size and he has the athleticism, but he might get lost in the shuffle a bit with so many other great prospects.

Watch Out For … Mingo and Montgomery. They might not be starters right away, but they have a world of upside and could be an instant cure for the pass rush that was so shockingly average last year. They could be devastating over the next four years.
Strength: Potential. The program has reloaded with a new wave of top-shelf linemen bringing an athletic upgrade to all four spots. The rotation on the end should be incredible with far more disruption into the backfield.
Weakness: Proven rocks at tackle. LSU always has talented interior presences, but it needs Levingston and Nevis to do a bit more against the run. Levingston is more of an end than a tackle, and reserves have to shine early on to give the coaching staff the rotation they like to use.
Outlook: By LSU’s standards for great line play, the last two years have been a mega-disappointment. The pass rush wasn’t consistent, there weren’t enough big stops against the run, and the dominance simply wasn’t there. That should change, at least on the outside, with so many good prospects ready to make lots and lots of noise. This might not be a national title-level line, but it’ll be better.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: Senior Kelvin Sheppard is the unquestioned leader and star of the linebacking corps as the only returning starter and after finishing last year as the leading returning tackler making 110 stops with a sack and 8.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 239 pounds he’s just big enough to work on the inside, but he’s fast enough to move to the outside if absolutely needed. With the speed to be more of a pass rusher from time to time, and with unlimited range, he’s an all-star who’ll be the main man for the defensive front seven.

It’ll be up to junior Stefoin Francois to step up and become a major factor on the strongside after making eight tackles in 11 games of action. A bulked up speedster, the 6-1, 229-pounder hits like a ton of bricks and has the pop and the tackling skills to be a solid replacement for Harry Coleman, and while he might not be as consistent, he could be flashier.

6-0, 221-pound sophomore Ryan Baker might be the team’s fastest linebacker, and at the very least he’ll be an ultra-athletic weakside defender taking over for Perry Riley. Mostly a special teamer so far, he made 17 tackles with a sack and should be great in pass coverage and phenomenal in space. The needle is pointing up for an athlete with his skills.

Projected Top Reserves: At 6-1 and 240 pounds, Kevin Minter is a very big option for the middle who could see time here and there and allow Kelvin Sheppard to possibly see time on the outside. A pure run stuffer, he was considered by some to be a strong outside linebacker prospect, but LSU wants him for the inside where he’ll someday lead the team in tackles.

Redshirt freshman Lamin Barrow emerged this offseason as a viable strongside defender even though he’s a safety-like 6-2 and 212 pounds. A top prospect who could’ve cone anywhere, he’s a pass rusher with the quickness and cutting ability to be a solid pass defender; he’s a good enough athlete to hang with any running back coming out on short pass plays. He’ll start out working behind Stefoin Francois, but he’ll be used in a variety of ways.

The sky’s the limit for Tahj Jones , a 6-2, 205-pound redshirt freshman who’ll bring next level speed and athleticism on the weakside. A pass rusher, a pass defender, and a good tackler with unlimited range, he’s a good talent working behind Ryan Baker and possible as a fourth linebacker depending on the opponent and the alignment.

Watch Out For … Francois. Just by being at the strongside spot in the LSU defense, Francois will see plenty of plays coming his way. He needs to come up with at least 80 tackles and he has to be a regular in the backfield.
Strength: Next-level athleticism. LSU always comes up with several phenomenal prospects and great athletes, and this year’s linebacking corps is loaded with speedsters who can fly all over the field. Several mistakes will be overcome by simply being able to outrun everyone and gang tackle.
Weakness: Proven experience. There’s Sheppard and … and … uh … promise? There’s a ton of big-time potential and several very nice-looking prospects, but there aren’t any proven commodities on the outside. It might take a while before the consistency follows.
Outlook: Not much will be expected out of the linebacking corps this year with so many new players to the mix, but it could turn out to be a nice group with some excellent athletes working around a rock of a playmaker in Sheppard in the middle. The stats will be there, but consistency will be the key.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Junior corner Patrick Peterson would probably be starting for most NFL teams this year and will almost certainly be one of the top three defensive backs picks in next year’s draft (if he chooses to leave early) and he could be a top ten overall selection. All the skills are there with 6-1, 211-pound size and terrific coverage skills. While he might be not be a blazer, he has sub-4.5 wheels and fluidly cuts like a much smaller player, and he can hit like a safety. 43 of his 52 tackles last year were made in the open field, and he led the way with 13 broken up passes to go along with two picks. While he earned second-team All-SEC honors last year, he should be on everyone’s All-America list coming into this season.

With all the attention paid to Peterson on the right side (and rightly so), sophomore Morris Claiborne won’t get much publicity early on, but that will quickly change. Everyone will stay away from Peterson giving the 6-0, 171-pound Claiborne several opportunities to shine after a good offseason. The former quarterback made seven tackles in a limited role as Peterson’s understudy, but he should be great with a little bit of time with blazing, Louisiana state championship 10.76, 100-meter speed and good skills.

LSU is full of phenomenal athletes, and new free safety Jai Eugene is one of the best of the lot with next-level speed and good tackling ability in a 5-11, 182-pound frame. The senior started 11 games two years ago making 35 tackles, but he didn’t do nearly enough against the pass. A spot starter at corner last year, he made 26 stops with a pick, and now he’ll move to safety to try to replace Chad Jones. While he’s not nearly the same thumper Jones was, he’ll add more athleticism and speed to the position.

6-0, 191-pound junior Brandon Taylor went from being a little used corner to a solid starter at strong safety making 41 tackles with two picks and four broken up lasses. At 6-0 and 191 pounds he’s not huge and doesn’t bring too much pop, but he has unlimited range and made the transition without much of a problem. He’ll need to do a bit more against the run and he’ll have to use his athleticism to make more big plays, but he’s a good, versatile defender.

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Craig Loston was one of the nation’s elite defensive back recruits and was a great get for the program. Considered to be the No. 1 safety prospect by some, he’ll get every chance to take over the free safety job to move Jai Eugene to a nickel or dime position. The 6-2, 193-pound Houston native has corner speed, good hitting ability, and next-level ability. Now he needs to see time and has to live up to his immense potential.

Junior Karnell Hatcher isn’t going to push Brandon Taylor out of the strong safety job, but he’ll see time. He started in the Capital One Bowl and ended up finishing the year with 32 tackles and a tackle for loss. He has to do something against the pass, but he’s a good-hitting 6-2, 207-pounder who can be a big factor against the run when he’s in.

Sophomore Ryan St. Julien saw time as a true freshman and worked on the special teams and as a backup corner making 11 stops. At 6-1 and 180 pounds he’s a tall athlete who was a Louisiana state champion-level high jumper and will have no problem staying with any speed receiver. He’ll play behind Morris Claiborne on the left side and could see time as a nickel and/or dime defender.

5-11, 176-pound junior Ron Brooks is a special athlete who can play anywhere in the secondary. He made nine tackles and broke up a pass seeing a little bit of time, and now he’ll see most of his action at corner playing on the right side as the heir apparent to Patrick Peterson (if Peterson leaves early for the NFL). While he’s not all that big, he’s a willing tackler.

Watch Out For … Claiborne. Peterson is the next-level superstar who’ll make teams pay for daring to throw his way, but Claiborne is a rising playmaker with the speed and the skills to be an all-star, too. He’ll get plenty of passes thrown his way and it won’t be a shock in any way if he leads the team in picks.
Strength: Speed. LSU has four corners in the secondary and should be able run with anyone. No one’s going to be faster than the starting foursome led by a corner situation that might be the best in America with Peterson and Claiborne forming a special twosome.
Weakness: Pure safeties. Taylor is fine and is growing into the strong safety position, but he’s a bit of a tweener. Eugene is a great athlete who’s looking for a spot, but he has to prove himself in place of a tone-setter like Chad Jones. The safeties will be fine, but they’ll be better if Loston is the real deal.
Outlook: Without the benefit of a killer pass rush, the secondary was terrific allowing 194 yards per game and finishing 19th in the country in pass efficiency defense. With more pressure on the quarterback from a more athletic group of ends, the fast, talented Tiger secondary could flourish. The DBs aren’t going to be big-time playmakers against the run, but they’ll be tough to go deep on.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Josh Jasper has a monster leg, good consistency, and Lou Groza potential. He didn’t get much in the way of recognition last year with Alabama’s Leigh Tiffin and Georgia’s Blair Walsh also coming up with tremendous seasons, but he was almost as good hitting 17-of-20 shots. While he missed a 19-yarder against Mississippi State, he was 6-of-8 beyond 40 including a 50-yarder against Ole Miss and a 52-yarder against Louisiana-Lafayette. After missing a 52-yard try against Auburn, he connected on his last seven attempts.

The punting game was excellent helped by a great season from Derek Helton who averaged 40 yards per kick and forced a whopping 25 fair catches. While he’s not necessarily a directional kicker, putting just seven inside the 20, but the fair catches made up for it.

Gone is Trindon Holliday, an all-timer of a punt returner who averaged 18.1 yards per try last year. Star corner Patrick Peterson will get a chance to handle all the return duties for Holliday, and while he’s not nearly as fast, he could be more productive on kickoff returns. Holliday was fine averaging 24.4 yards per kickoff return, but the team averaged a mediocre 19.1 yards per try.

Watch Out For … Peterson. How do you replace a weapon like Holliday? LSU isn’t lacking for speedsters and the return game was more than just Holliday. Peterson might not be special on punt returns, but he should be fine.
Strength: Taylor. The kicking game should be great overall with Helton a solid punter, but with such a little margin for error in the SEC, having a reliable kicker like Taylor means everything. He’s automatic inside 50 yards.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. It’s nitpicking but the kickoff return game was last in the SEC and 109th in America even with Holliday averaging 24.4 yards per pop. Peterson has to steady the situation.
Outlook: Even without Holliday, the special teams should still be among the best in America with Jasper as good and as reliable as they come and with Helton a fantastic punter helping the punt coverage team allow a measly 4.4 yards per return. The kickoff coverage team allowed just 17.5 yards per try. If Peterson can be decent as the main returner, the special teams will be one of LSU’s bigger strengths.
Unit Rating: 8.5

- 2010 LSU Preview | 2010 LSU Offense
- 2010 LSU Defense | 2010 LSU Depth Chart
- LSU Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006