LSU Tigers: Denico Autry

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, David Helman talked with the Clarion-Ledger's Brandon Marcello in a preview of this season's matchup with Mississippi State.

Q: If you look at the Bulldogs' schedule, Mississippi State could be set up for a hot start before games against Alabama and LSU. Does the softness of the schedule give fans hope for a statement season?

When you look at that schedule, State can start maybe 6-1 or 7-0 -- if not that then at least 5-2. The only team in the first seven games that went to a bowl game last season is Auburn. I know it's early, but that game is kind of the pivot point. If they can knock off Auburn, it becomes even more important going down the stretch, because they play Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas toward the end of the season, which is just a murderer's row. They're hoping to get some momentum going so they can contend with LSU and Alabama.

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We ranked the guys in the trenches on Friday, so now it’s time to take a look at the outside guys on the defensive line.

Below is the way we would rank the top 10 defensive ends in the SEC heading into the 2012 season. One thing to note is that Florida’s Ronald Powell, who plays a hybrid end/linebacker role for the Gators, is not on this list because he’s recovering from ACL surgery and could miss the first part of the season.

Here’s what we came up with:

[+] EnlargeSam Montgomery
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesSam Montgomery led the Tigers with nine sacks last season.
1. Sam Montgomery, Jr., LSU: The SEC’s most complete defensive end, Montgomery is big enough and explosive enough to stuff the run as well as rush the passer. He had nine sacks last season.

2. Jadeveon Clowney, Soph., South Carolina: His freshman season was just a glimpse. Clowney had eight sacks and five forced fumbles and was playing on talent alone. He’ll be an every-down force in 2012.

3. Barkevious Mingo, Jr., LSU: LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis predicted that Mingo would emerge as the best pass-rusher in the SEC. He’s well on his way after racking up 15 tackles for loss last season.

4. Corey Lemonier, Jr. Auburn: He’s the leading returning sack man among SEC defensive ends with 9.5 last season. Lemonier could play his way into the first round of the NFL draft with a big junior season.

5. Damontre Moore, Jr., Texas A&M: He may be new to the SEC, but Moore will quickly introduce himself to opposing quarterbacks in this league. He finished with 17.5 tackles for loss a year ago and forced four fumbles.

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We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

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