LSU will sport an impressive defensive lineup, ripe with depth and athleticism, in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s third season in Baton Rouge.
Aranda was pursued heavily by Texas A&M and new head coach Jimbo Fisher, but elected to stay, earning a four-year, $2.5 million contract extension in the process.
The two anchors of the defense, junior linebacker Devin White and sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams, will look to build on All-SEC seasons in 2017, with both being projected by multiple outlets as first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
White never left the screen last year, compiling a team leading 133 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The next closest Tiger in tackles was LaCouture, who compiled 66 total tackles his senior year.
Williams was equally impressive in his freshman year, not allowing a single touchdown in coverage with an SEC-leading six interceptions and 38 tackles on the year.
“Greedy has all the ability in the world, and he’s got confidence,” Aranda said. “The stage is never too big for him, and I’m just excited about what the future holds for Greedy.”
White and Williams have received numerous accolades leading up to the 2018 season, including being listed as preseason First Team All-Americans by Sporting News.
The Tigers have some replacing to do up front after losing vocal leader Christian LaCouture and team sack leader from the 2017 season, Greg Gilmore. Returning for the Tigers are juniors Rashard Lawrence and Ed Alexander and sophomores Glen Logan and Neil Farrell Jr.
Lawrence, Alexander and Logan all received heavy playing time last season, each making appearances in 10 games. All four, including Farrell, should push for starting roles this season and, at the very least, receive abundant playing time.
LSU will also add junior defensive end transfer Breidan Fehoko to the mix, who will challenge for a starting spot on the roster. Fehoko transferred from Texas Tech and was forced to sit out the 2017 season after being a highly-coveted prospect in 2015.
Aranda said the defensive front has the possibility of being one of the best fronts in college football next year.
“I’m excited for this group,” Aranda said. “We have the depth and the talent, and it’s just about getting everyone on the same page. We now have the ability to rotate a lot of guys, whether a team goes big or small.”
The linebacking core brings depth and experience to the middle of the defense with White being front and center. Returning are sophomore edge rushers K’Lavon Chaisson, Ray Thornton and Andre Anthony.
Chaisson received the most playing time last year, compiling 27 tackles, with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. Aranda has lauded the work Chaisson has put in, and it showed in the spring game when the sophomore was unstoppable with his quickness off the edge.
Thornton appeared in six games in 2017 for the Tigers with 10 tackles on the season, while Anthony spent time on the practice squad.
As far as inside linebackers are concerned, Devin White has one spot firmly locked up, but the emergence of sophomore Patrick Queen, Aranda said, might be able to spell White a few series.
“Devin played just about every snap last year,” Aranda said. “We’re still building that group up. Along with depth, we have to be able to execute. They need to be fundamental masters of their positions.”
Also returning this year is sophomore Jacob Phillips ith 18 total tackles last season, junior Michael Divinity with 15 tackles, a sack and two fumble recoveries in 2017, and sophomore Tyler Taylor, who racked up 34 total tackles and 1.5 sacks as a freshman.
The LSU secondary always seems stockpiled with talent, with Williams in the forefront of a unit. Yet, there are some questions to answer heading into fall. The secondary lost juniors Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver to the pros after the 2017 season.
Williams is expected to fill one of the outside corner positions, but the other slot remains wide open.
Sophomore Kary Vincent Jr. and senior transfer Terrence Alexander are two names that will be pushing hard for the outside slot. Alexander is a Stanford transfer who committed to LSU after a medical redshirt year allowed him one year of eligibility.
Alexander made 57 tackles and one interception in his career at Stanford.
Vincent Jr. appeared in 11 games, making three starts in 2017 with nine tackles and one interception. Vincent was the first name to come to Aranda’s mind about the competition at the cornerback slot.
“That’s a guy that’s got a lot of explosiveness,” Aranda said. “He’s coming off of a year where he was able to play some, and I think he’s got some ability to conceptualize a defense and know the ins and outs of it.”
At safety, starters Grant Delpit and John Battle are returning as the leaders to win the jobs. Delpit appeared in all 13 games for the Tigers last season, with 60 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss with one interception.
Battle started all 12 games he appeared in and made 61 tackles, with one interception in 2017. Behind Delpit and Battle include senior Ed Paris and sophomores JaCoby Stevens and Eric Monroe.
If the 2018 defensive squad can come together as Aranda hopes, LSU fans could be in for a stout squad with plenty of depth and lots of playmaking.