LSU Tigers: Michael Brockers

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.

Alabama, LSU form NFL pipeline

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Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com recently wrote suggested that an NFL roster comprised exclusively of Alabama and LSU players wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

As he points out, according to a listing on ESPN.com, there are 49 players from LSU in the NFL and 41 players from Alabama.

In reading that piece, I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I had with former Alabama offensive line coach Joe Pendry just prior to the first Alabama-LSU game in 2011. Pendry retired following the 2010 season and had served as offensive coordinator for both the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans in the NFL before joining Nick Saban at Alabama.

Realizing how much talent would be on the field that night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, especially on defense, I jokingly asked Pendry how anybody would score.

He estimated that somewhere around 18 to 20 of the 22 defensive starters would end up playing in the NFL.

Looking back, he was dead on.

Of the 22 defensive starters that night, 16 were selected in the NFL draft. Six other defensive players who played in the game were also drafted. That’s a total of 22 players. Two other players that went undrafted spent last season on NFL practice squads.

We’re talking high-round draft picks, too. Of the 22 who were drafted, 14 went in the top three rounds.

Moreover, as many as seven other defensive players from that game who are still in school are likely to be drafted in either 2014 or 2015. Among them: Linebackers Adrian Hubbard, C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson and safety Craig Loston of LSU.

So, the final tally of defensive players from that game (some played on special teams) who were either drafted or have spent some time on an NFL roster will likely end up being 30-plus.

No wonder those two teams played eight quarters that year, and only one touchdown was scored between them.

Here’s a rundown of the draft picks from that game on defense:

ALABAMA
LSU

LSU D-line's talent trumps experience 

March, 18, 2013
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Anthony JohnsonCrystal Logiudice/US PresswireLSU junior Anthony Johnson (90) will lead an inexperienced D-line into 2013, but the new faces dotting the lineup show plenty of promise.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- For LSU fans who worry about how the defensive line will look in 2013 after the Tigers lost all four starters, seeing Danielle Hunter walk into a room would ease their minds.

LSU Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Lamin Barrow, Josh Williford, Tahj Jones and Craig Loston will be looked at as old, old men next year when they enter their fifth-year senior seasons at LSU.

In a program that has made an art of the three-year recruiting cycle, they are only players left from LSU's 2009 signing class that was ranked No. 1 in the country by RecruitingNation.

[+] EnlargeMorris Claiborne
Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesMorris Claiborne was picked No. 6 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, one of several former LSU standouts from the 2009 recruiting class that was ranked No. 1.
That they are gone doesn't reflect poorly on a class that already has three players in the NFL and at least five who are likely to be high picks in the upcoming NFL draft. For those who stayed four years, they enjoyed three consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more, an SEC championship and a trip to the BCS championship game.

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LSU's best recruiting sleepers 

January, 22, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Whatever you do, don't try to out-evaluate LSU coaches.

LSU has been one of college football's premier producers of pro talent in the Les Miles era, and more often than not, the eventual high draft picks are players who were unheralded recruits. For every Patrick Peterson, who was everybody's blue chipper coming out of high school, there's a Morris Claiborne who was anything but that coming out of high school.

So when you look at LSU's recruiting results, don't focus on how many 5-star studs they beat everybody else for. Look for the guys like the ones below who went from unheralded to unstoppable:


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Countdown to signing day: Greg Gilmore 

December, 31, 2012
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney will break down every commitment in the Tigers' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: DT Greg Gilmore, Hope Mills, N.C./South View, 6-foot-4, 285 pounds

Committed: Nov. 8, 2012

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LSU hopes reputation leads to big weekend 

December, 14, 2012
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BATON ROUGE -- LSU already has a top 10 class, but this weekend the Tigers will be pitching to make it even better.



The Tigers will host a pair of ESPN 150 players on official visits with Maquedius Bain, a defensive tackle from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Priest Willis, a safety from Tempe, Ariz., both scheduled to be on campus this weekend.

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Sarkisian, Chavis primed for rematch

September, 3, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- On a beautiful, sun-drenched early September Seattle day in 2009, Steve Sarkisian coached his first game as Washington's head coach, beginning an unenviable task of turning around what had recently become a wretched program.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Steven Bisig/US PresswireLSU will face a tough test against Washington QB Keith Price on Saturday.
Opposite Sarkisian on the shores of Lake Washington that day, John Chavis was in his first game as defensive coordinator at LSU, tasked with turning around a defense that had grown unusually porous during an 8-5 2008 season, the worst season yet for head coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge.

If you were to judge from that day's outcome, one might believe it was Sarkisian who was headed for big success.

Sarkisian's Jake Locker-led offense piled up 478 yards and Washington hung close to the 11th-ranked Tigers, who prevailed 31-23, sending a downtrodden UW team to a 15th straight loss.

The two will match wits again Saturday in Baton Rouge and their stories have taken different turns since that day. It didn't take long for Chavis, the former Tennessee defensive coordinator, to make the Tigers' defense one of the best, if not the best in college football. Sarkisian has UW a long way from 15-game losing streaks, but at 20-19 in his fourth season, he is still got a ways to go to turn his team into a juggernaut.

Sarkisian, a former BYU quarterback who moved up the coaching ladder as an offense coordinator and quarterback guru at USC before going to Waashington, has replaced Locker, now a Tennessee Titan, with 3,000-yard passer Keith Price. Locker threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns in the 2009 game. LSU players are expecting Washington to try to similarly go after a young Tigers secondary with Price.

"We know Washington can throw the ball," said LSU safety Eric Reid after the Tigers' 41-14 win over North Texas Monday. "I know we can make those corrections and improvements [from the North Texas game]. We have to stay focused and I have to do better."

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When one breaks down the 15 returning starters on LSU's football teams, the list does not include junior cornerback Tharold Simon, a fact that may cause one to do a double take.

[+] EnlargeTharold Simon
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezLSU cornerback Tharold Simon is expected to have an even bigger impact in 2012.
Simon emerged as a one of the team's rising stars last season as LSU's third cornerback, a backup role that plays almost starter-level snaps. He led the team with 10 pass break ups, tied for second on the team with two interceptions and tied for the team lead with 12 passes defended.

With so many teams playing multiple wide receivers -- either because of a spread scheme or because LSU's potent defense forces so many long-yardage situations -- the Tigers often go to the third cornerback, and fifth defensive back in total, to boost the coverage schemes. That allowed Simon to log plenty of snaps last season.

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Countdown to kickoff: Houston ties 

August, 2, 2012
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Welcome to Houston, LSU.

Ok, that's a bit dramatic. Anyone who has been paying attention to LSU football during its run of dominance this past decade knows that Houston has been a big factor in that success.

Brandon Lafell, Michael Brockers, Terrence Toliver, Danny McCray, Jarrett Lee -- all are LSU alums in the NFL, and all came from Houston or its outlying area. This year, starting safety Craig Loston and slot receiver Russell Shepard hail from Houston. Seventeen Texas-based players are on the Tigers' roster going into fall camp, and eight of them come from the Houston area.

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Five things to know: D-line 

May, 31, 2012
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With the dog days of summer hitting Baton Rouge, here are the five things to know about perhaps the hottest position in LSU's program, the defensive line.

[+] EnlargeSam Montgomery
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesSam Montgomery hopes to continue LSU's legacy of dominant defensive linemen.
1. The talent well runs deep: When the St. Louis Rams moved to shore up its run defense by picking LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers with the 14th overall pick in the NFL draft, it was further evidence of what anybody who has paid attention already knew: few schools produce NFL-quality defensive linemen like LSU.

Brockers' selection marked the ninth straight year an LSU defensive lineman was picked in the draft, including four in the first round. The Tigers' line streak figures to continue in the 2013 draft with defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery both in the top five on Mel Kiper's big board. It's a remarkable run considering how difficult it is for most programs to find dominant defensive linemen.

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Eight sign as undrafted free agents

April, 30, 2012
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Only five of LSU's NFL hopefuls made it into the seven rounds of the NFL draft, but plenty more were involved in a flurry of free agent activity during the weekend.

[+] EnlargeJarrett Lee
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireThe San Diego Chargers signed former LSU QB Jarrett Lee to a free agent deal.
Following the draft's conclusion Saturday night, NFL teams began contacting valued undrafted players about signing free agent contracts. To date, eight LSU players have joined the professional ranks as undrafted free agents, the school announced Monday morning.

Several of those players will be joining their draft pick counterparts. Both center T-Bob Hebert and tight end Deangelo Peterson signed with the St. Louis Rams, who drafted defensive tackle Michael Brockers 14th overall Thursday night.

After San Diego drafted Brandon Taylor in the third round Friday night, the Chargers signed quarterback Jarrett Lee to a free agent deal. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also picked up multiple LSU products, as they signed both linebacker Ryan Baker and quarterback Jordan Jefferson to contracts.

Defensive end Kendrick Adams signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and guard Will Blackwell signed with the Carolina Panthers. Fullback James Stampley has been invited to a free agent tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.
Anyone that wants an example of LSU's success at the defensive tackle position need only have tuned into the first round coverage of this year's NFL draft on Thursday night.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brockers
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMichael Brockers will leave a big hole for LSU to fill.
The Tigers' success at creating next level defensive tackles was on display in New York City, and the evidence was hard to miss in the form of 6-foot-6, 322-pound Michael Brockers, who was selected No. 14 overall by the St. Louis Rams.

Brockers' success, fueled largely by his dominant play on LSU's path to the BCS Championship game, is only the most recent story in what is becoming quite a tradition of success for defensive linemen. LSU is currently getting plenty of publicity for being Defensive Back U, as it is the home of first round picks and Thorpe Award winners Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, as well as Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu.

The DBU hype is deserved. But consider this stat: the Tigers have had at least one defensive lineman taken in the NFL draft in nine consecutive years, including Brockers' selection Thursday. Nine straight years -- that is not a typo.

Of course not all of those have been defensive tackles, but the point remains the same. LSU has captured two national championships and four SEC championships in the last decade with a lot of help from dominant defensive fronts, and that onfield success has translated well to the professional level.

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LSU has two picked in first round

April, 26, 2012
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When the Dallas Cowboys drafted LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday, he became the latest to prove that where one is ranked on the recruiting boards in high school does not predict where one will eventually be on draft day.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brockers
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMichael Brockers used his time at LSU to emerge as a premier defensive tackle.
In fact, a disconnect between how players are ranked -- and even what position they’ll eventually play -- is what marks the early picks in LSU's NFL draft class. Of the two LSU players picked in Thursday’s first round and the ones who might go in the second round, two were unheralded and only one plays the position he was projected to play coming out of high school.

Take Michael Brockers, who was projected as a defensive end coming out of high school, but emerged Thursday as a first round pick as a defensive tackle at No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. Or safety Brandon Taylor, who will likely go in the second or third round today after projecting as a cornerback by recruiting services out of high school.

Claiborne was an unheralded recruit coming out of Fair Park High School in Shreveport, La., in 2009. A high school quarterback, Claiborne became a dominant corner for his home-state Tigers, showing NFL scouts not just speed and good size, but impressively fluid hips and ball skills.

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Morris ClaiborneAP Photo/Gerald HerbertCornerback Morris Claiborne performs at LSU's pro day in March in Baton Rouge.

Mercifully, draft day has dawned.

It's been a winding road of workouts, interviews and speculation in the more than 100 days since Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers announced their intentions to enter the 2012 NFL draft on Jan. 12. With the draft finally beginning Thursday, the pair that helped anchor LSU's Southeastern Conference championship defense look like a lock to be selected in the opening round.

ESPN's Mel Kiper has projected Claiborne, the Thorpe Award-winning cornerback to be a top-six pick. Brockers' stock has been a little more volatile, as he's jumped from No. 27 to No. 8 before falling to No. 15.

As Brockers is quick to point out, none of that matters now.

"It's in God's hands right now," the defensive tackle said. "It's in the hands of the GM's and the coaches and whatever they think is the best fit for their team."

That relaxed attitude is easy to talk about, but perhaps a bit harder to follow through on. From the day of their announcement, through the NFL combine to LSU's pro day workouts and everything in between, LSU's first round prospects have gone through the gauntlet of media and league scrutiny. At the start of this final week, Brockers said he was doing his best to avoid the talk.

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