Thursday, January 3, 2013
Where LSU will need help: Defense
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- The commitment of Maquedius Bain to LSU on Wednesday made perfect sense.
Bain, the No. 6 defensive tackle in the ESPN 150 and the highest-rated of the Tigers' 24 commitments, figures to play at LSU early. And he'll play a position where the Tigers have a tremendous recent track record for getting players to the NFL. Part of the reason there is a need for defensive tackles in this LSU class (Bain is one of four DT commitments in the class) is the presumed early departure of junior Bennie Logan to the NFL.
If Bain does play immediately, it will continue an LSU trend: Tiger freshmen should come ready to play because many of them will play. LSU used 15 true freshmen in the 2012 season, including four who started and a fifth who was a special-teams starter.
Let's see where, on defense, LSU will most likely need immediate help from the 2013 signing class. On Friday, we'll do the same on offense.
Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson figures to have a breakout season in 2013.
Possible freshman impact: Anthony Johnson and Ferguson played a lot as LSU rotated two deep. A former No. 2 overall player in the country, 2013 figures to be Johnson's breakout season. But Ferguson's performance was underwhelming (13 tackles), creating the impression that freshmen could come in to compete not only with the little-used Thomas and Johnson for second-team snaps, but possibly even for starting time. And Johnson was basically beaten out for the starting job by the hard-working Downs, so a freshman who is diligent with his effort can really stand out in the crowd.
Possible freshman impact: Mingo and Montgomery were the starters and Edwards and Aghayere were top reserves, so LSU will probably be starting over, which is good news for incoming freshmen looking to make an impact. Only Rasco played significant snaps this season and Allen missed most of the season with an injury. LSU is hoping to be able to land Robert Nkemdiche, plug him into the lineup, and everything will be fine. If that doesn't happen, it'll be interesting to see who emerges in a battle between unproven lettermen and newcomers.
Junior likely to depart: FS Eric Reid (projected second-round NFL draft pick)
Possible freshman impact: With LSU often going to five or six defensive backs against spread offenses, Cutrer will have an opportunity to push for playing time. Martin figures to replace Reid, if he indeed leaves. Many see Eugene as a player destined to fill the dime role. It's notable that durability has been an issue for Loston, so there's a good chance for young players to emerge at both safety spots. If the Tigers can land Priest Willis here, he would be able to compete for quick playing time.
Possible freshman impact: LSU is ecstatic about its two cornerback commits, both exceptionally fast athletes with tremendous ball skills. Collins and Mills, who both played significantly as freshmen, will have their hands full competing with the other three cornerbacks returning and the two incoming freshmen. The X-factor is Simon, who did not have a great junior season and could come back to school. If he does return, LSU will have incredible depth at the position.
Possible freshman impact: At no position is LSU in better shape coming back on defense. Even with Minter -- the team MVP and a graduate -- likely headed for the NFL, the Tigers are stacked with young talent and have four players back who have started at least a game at the strong-side linebacker spot. Jones will likely wait his turn and even a superior talent such as Kendell Beckwith would have the luxury of learning the position behind more game-ready veterans. If Beckwith comes in and plays, it will be a testament to his enormous talent.