LSU Tigers: Kelvin Sheppard

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The idea for this week's “Position U” series actually came about during spring football practice at LSU -- which I assume some of you know was my first covering the Tigers.

During post-practice interviews with Tigers players, it was common to hear defensive backs refer to LSU as “DBU” (short for “Defensive Back University) when discussing the team's proud decision in the secondary. After hearing that over and over for a while, I started thinking about how to ascertain whether that was actually the case.

[+] EnlargeTyson Jackson
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsSuccessful defensive linemen such as Tyson Jackson made LSU 'DLU' in the 'Position U' rankings.
Is LSU actually DBU? How would you even measure that? It seemed like a fun game to play during the summer when we don't have any football to actually watch, so I came up with a formula, pitched it to the bosses and set out to determine which major programs (I tallied results for each member of the big five conferences for 2014, plus independents Notre Dame and BYU -- 66 schools in all) deserve to claim the title at each position for the 2000s.

So I gathered the results of every NFL draft, each of 20 college football's top individual awards, coaches' first-team all-conference selections and consensus All-America picks for each season since 2000-01 and came up with a point system to reward those accomplishments. The team with the most points won the “Position U” title for the 2000s.

It isn't a perfect system -- for instance Notre Dame deserves to rank toward the top of the list at tight end, but the Fighting Irish is penalized in this system by not playing in a conference and thus losing out on that category of points -- and I actually considered leaving the independents out of the equation. I decided, however, to include them and simply include that asterisk within the stories.

The system is also generous to programs such as Louisville that competed in smaller conferences and earned points against lesser competition before jumping into the bigger pond of major-conference football. But otherwise, I think keeping things simple and basing it on the criteria I selected is an effective way of gauging overall excellence.

So since this is an LSU blog, let's take a quick look at how the Tigers fared -- and there was plenty of excellence to gauge:

Quarterback: Tied for 16th place with 32 points. No. 1 overall NFL draft pick JaMarcus Russell is the headliner here as one of only two LSU first-team all-conference picks and as the only QB to go in the first three rounds. The Tigers had six QBs drafted overall.

Running back: Tied for 16th with 56 points. Eleven draft picks (including first-rounder Joseph Addai) and three first-team All-SEC picks (LaBrandon Toefield, Charles Scott, Stevan Ridley) were the highlights.

Wide receiver: Second with 124 points. I was well aware of LSU's numerous star wideouts through the years, but I have to admit being a bit surprised when I saw that the Tigers trailed only USC in the position rankings. That's impressive stuff -- and it's largely because of the 14 wideouts that the Tigers who have been drafted since 2001.

Tight end: Tied for 40th with 10 points. The Tigers have had only one all-conference pick (Robert Royal) and two draft picks at tight end (Royal and Keith Zinger) since the 2000-01 season.

Offensive line: Tied for 21st with 94 points. Although the Tigers have had nine all-conference picks and seven draft picks from the line since 2000-01, it has been a bit of a disappointment overall -- which is part of the reason why Jeff Grimes is now coaching the group. The Tigers have not had a first-round offensive lineman in this time period and only had one second-rounder.

Defensive line: First with 200 points. This was no surprise at all. Not with 21 draft picks (including first-rounders Glenn Dorsey, Marcus Spears, Tyson Jackson, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo) and a bunch of awards, all-conference picks and three All-Americans (Dorsey, Spears and Chad Lavalais). Texas was close, but the Tigers earned the top spot.

Linebacker: Tied for 22nd with 60 points. I realize that LSU's defensive star power has been on the line and in the secondary, but I kind of expected LSU to fare a bit better here. But the Tigers had just seven all-conference linebackers and five draft picks -- only two of whom (Kevin Minter and Kelvin Sheppard) went in rounds 1-3.

Defensive back: Third with 218 points. Well, they aren't DBU after all, but the Tigers did fare extremely well. With six All-Americans and four national awards, LSU threatened Oklahoma for second on the list, but finished a ways behind champion Ohio State.

Kicker: Tied for 27th with 28 points. The Tigers did have a consensus All-America kicker (Josh Jasper in 2010), but had just two all-conference kickers and one punter. Seventh-round pick Donnie Jones became the only draftee at either position in 2004.
Lamin BarrowStacy Revere/Getty Images

BATON ROUGE, La. -- If you see LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow's first name and wonder how to properly pronounce it, just remember, it rhymes with "machine."

As in, "Lamin, the Tackling Machine."

That might be appropriate for the rising senior linebacker coming off a junior year in which he eclipsed the 100-tackle mark (104), finishing second on the team behind potential NFL first-round draft pick Kevin Minter. Many expected Barrow, who accumulated his numbers playing on the weak side, to move into Minter's spot at middle linebacker, a position that, in recent seasons, been manned by future NFL players like Minter, Kelvin Sheppard and Jacob Cutrera.

That, however, hasn't happened, at least not yet as LSU experiments with junior D.J. Welter, who has never started a game for the Tigers, in the middle. It doesn't mean that Barrow won't be the linebackers' leader in a way that Sheppard and Minter clearly were.

(Read full post)

D.J. WelterDerick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsSidelined by grades most of last season, D.J. Welter has become a better student on and off the field.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- D.J. Welter struggled as a student so much that he missed all of the 2012 season because he was academically ineligible.

That has not stopped him from progressing so much as a student of the game of football that he might end up being LSU's starting middle linebacker.

Tiger Tale: Kevin Minter 

December, 17, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Leading up to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, we'll take a daily look at a key LSU player and examine how he has done and what his challenges are for the Clemson game.


Kevin Minter, LB, Junior

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Minter shines as D's surprise leader 

November, 26, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's defense seemed easy to figure out coming into the season.

The Tigers were dominant because of a defensive line loaded with NFL prospects and a secondary with a Heisman Trophy candidate in Tyrann Mathieu who was going to harass opponents into turnovers and create touchdowns for the sometimes stagnant offense. The linebackers, unspectacular a season ago, were sort of along for the ride.

It didn't quite work out that way.

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