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Monday, January 7, 2013
With trio of departures, LSU DL has holes

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La.  -- It looks like LSU will be starting over on the defensive line, as expected.

Sources told ESPN's Joe Schad that Tigers junior defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan will all leave the Tigers a year early for the NFL draft. Their departures will increase LSU's growing list of defections to eight, but they are hardly the most surprising on the list.

All three have been projected as first-round picks since last spring, so the feeling for most of the 2012 season was that it would be the last for the trio of juniors. With senior Josh Downs holding down the fourth starting defensive line spot for most of the season at defensive tackle next to Logan, that means LSU will be looking to break in an entirely new starting defensive line next season.

And with the two primary reserves behind Montgomery and Mingo being departing seniors, the Tigers will be looking for replacements for six of their top nine defensive linemen. The defensive end rotation often included sophomore Jermauaria Rasco instead of one of the departing seniors, so one might count him as a returning member of the rotation.

Also back will be highly-regarded rising junior tackle Anthony Johnson, who was one of the nation's top-rated players coming out of high school in 201, but spent most of his sophomore season backing up Downs. The other returning member of the line rotation is Ego Ferguson, who was the fourth defensive tackle in last season's rotation.

Behind the three primary returning players are a group of mostly untested young players.

It's no wonder, given the inevitable early departure of the three juniors, that LSU worked so hard this year in its defensive line recruiting. LSU picked up its fourth defensive lineman commitment, and its highest-rated one, when Maquedius Bain pledged to the Tigers on ESPNU on Wednesday. The Tigers perhaps landed another defensive end when Kendell Beckwith, the highest-rated player in the class at No. 19 overall, committed Friday.

Beckwith, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who played all over the field at Clinton (La.) East Feliciana High, projects to play either linebacker or end for the Tigers, but ESPN scouts think he'll end up at end.

If so, he'll be LSU's fourth defensive end commitment, along with Frank Herron, Lewis Neal and Michael Patterson.

Bain joins Greg Gilmore, Christian LaCouture and Tevin Lawson (who might also project to the offensive line) in the defensive tackle class.

LSU might not be finished addressing the defensive line attrition. Still out there are two ends LSU would likely take, No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche and Tim Williams, the No. 23 player in the ESPN 150 and No. 2 player in Louisiana behind Beckwith. Both are still uncommitted and considering LSU, though the Tigers don't necessarily appear to be the favorite for either player.

LSU's draft class has fans looking extra hard at the 2013 signing class for immediate help. Before the defensive line departures, all-American safety Eric Reid, Team MVP and all-SEC linebacker Kevin Minter, punter Brad Wing, cornerback Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware all declared their intentions to leave early.

It might not be over. Sources close to LSU say running back Michael Ford is considering leaving and strong safety Craig Loston sent out a message on his Twitter account saying he is also pondering bypassing his senior season.