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2023 DEFENSIVE DEPTH CHART / LINEUP PROJECTIONS

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

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In the wake of LSU's Scrimmage Game this past Saturday, we learned a bit more about where the coaches see these players fitting on this team....and where they fall in line on the field.

Much like the coaching staff, we've arrived at a few conclusions about this LSU squad, here in year II under intrepid Head Coach Brian Kelly.

We'll reveal two for each side of the ball, one for the 11 Tigers the coaches will trust to start week 1 in Orlando, and another made up of the 11 Tigers who I feel should start for LSU.

Let's Geaux...and as always, post your lineups too, right down below in the comments section, I want to see that section flooded with the blood of our opinions.


CHECK OUT OUR OFFENSIVE PROJECTIONS HERE FROM YESTERDAY


DEFENSE


(COACHES' PICKS)

DE OGHOUFO

DT SMITH

DT WINGO

DE JONES

LB PERKINS

LB SPEIGHTS

NB BROOKS JR

S SAM

S BURNS

CB RYAN

CB ALEXANDER


(LSUODYSSEY PICKS)

DE OGHOUFO

DT SMITH

DT WINGO

DE JONES

LB PERKINS

LB SPEIGHTS

NB RYAN

S BROOKS JR

S BURNS

CB CHESTNUTT

CB ALEXANDER


Okay....this'll be intriguing to dissect.

LSU lined up in the coaches' pick XI for the scrimmage game, moving Sage Ryan from nickel to cornerback and Brooks Jr from safety to nickel, while Andre Sam held it down at safety.

You could easily swap them back and forth; depending on the opposition, Ryan could play nickel or corner, you could add an extra man in the front seven and split Perkins or Speights wider at nickel, too, as we've seen Coach House experiment with his linebackers.

LSU's defense will be stronger the more lineups defensive coordinator Matt House can create that supply mismatches; that'll mean Womack, Wiggins, Swinson, and Howard (among others) should play key roles.

The Tigers' defense fields the two most high profile defensive tackles in the conference, lining up through the middle with Wingo and Smith, backed by linebacker Perkins and safety Burns....aka the spine of the 2023 LSU defense.

Through the gut, America's best inside DL tandem Smith & Wingo are backed by capable athletes in their own right, Jacobian Guillory, Tygee Hill, Fitz West Jr and transfer Jalen Lee.

On the edge, the line's trickiest spot, Oghoufo makes sense as a starter for week 1, given his experience and trust with Head Coach Brian Kelly, as well as his boundless strength and hulking athletic profile; Ovie could be an absolute wrecking ball, keeping superstar talents like Quency Wiggins and Dashawn Womack behind him on the depth chart.

Meanwhile, Saivion Jones is a lock on the opposite flank, producing brilliant moments all offseason, following 4.5 sacks last fall.

Prince Malbrue continues to rise through the ranks, sacking the QB in both fall scrimmage and the spring game, while making strides through fall.

John Jancek / Jimmy Lindsey's defensive line possesses a litany of talented pieces, though many unproven at the highest level....leaving some to wonder: are LSU actually thin up front?

At linebacker, LSU may be even thinner, with starters Perkins, Speights and Penn III backed by just one experienced Tiger, West Weeks; then, behind his one year of SEC experience, Coach House has just two freshmen, his brother Whit Weeks and Christian Braithwaite.

Linebacker, in all actuality, is a very bone thin room for LSU when one really examines the group, name by name.

Carrying those deficiencies, the Tigers' front seven looks to be the strongest element of House's defense, while LSU's secondary continues to bring concern, though there are still plenty of talented pieces that can fit within Steeples and Cooks' puzzle.

Freshman Javien Toviano can play all three coverage positions well, transitioning from high school corner to safety; Ryan Robinson Jr keeps breaking up passes or making hard nosed tackles, routinely battling on the outside (or at nickel) like a hungry DBU representative should.

Starting for most of fall camp, Syracuse transfer CB Duce Chestnutt fell to the 2nd Team behind Sage Ryan and Zy Alexander, however he still provides a higher level of coverage than we've seen from the majority of LSU DBs, breaking up 5 passes.

It's hard to keep Zy Alexander and Sage Ryan out of the secondary starting lineup; while Ryan allowed some big plays through the air, he also created the most turnovers of any Tiger defender last fall, forcing 2 fumbles (Tennessee, Alabama), recovering 2 (vs Southern), before batting a ball into the air to create a Quad Wilson pick six (vs Purdue).

He's still a growing coverage DB, too, someone capable of shutting down top opposition receivers when on his game.

Zy Alexander is constantly tested by Nabers, Lacy, Thomas Jr etc, yet he repeatedly comes out strong in the end; Against the predictions of many analysts, including myself, the Southeastern transfer is already locking down a starting spot.

Andre Sam is playing well at the backend of fall camp, being given a big chance to start when Brooks Jr moved to nickel. Breaking up a few passes while intercepting two more, Sam displays a solid reading of the game.....although his speed tracking deep balls over the top against grade A receiving talent is suspect and could be exposed by Florida State.

Jordan Allen, a former cornerback & nickel in-training, is now switching to safety this off-season, making a strong impression with some expert plays in the backfield, registering 2 total TFLs over last season and the 2023 spring game across limited action.

Allen could either be a work in progress or a DBU king ready to rise up and destroy opponents if given the opportunity....but one thing cannot be denied: he plays the game with a hard nosed intensity that gives him an edge over many in the same scenario.

Another safety is Matthew Langlois, a 2021 prospect who arrived with promise but only found one injury layoff after another in his way.

Langlois' pace may be off due to the injuries, however he remains a wicked, punishing hitter when on the field. Perhaps he makes an impact on special teams first, finding his way to the field through smash mouth 3rd phase dominance??

We're not giving up on Matthew.

Walk on safety Welton Spotsville sent his name all over the LSU fanbase this last weekend by picking up a sack and a diving interception on QB Rickie Collins.

One of the more talked about cornerbacks from fall camp?

Freshman Ashton Stamps, a Rummel High Raider local boy who continues to carve out a niche as one of the first rotational cornerbacks off the board.

Stamps is consistently among the first pool of DBU names mentioned, and if injuries or poor performances plague LSU's secondary, Stamps' searing pace and improving blanket coverage could very well be called upon earlier than expected.

Then there's the question of Denver Harris; most believed the A&M transfer would be a firm starter at this point, yet a suspension combined with lackluster camp showings are burying him on the depth chart.

Among DBU 2023's most purely talented cornerbacks, Harris still holds an incredible opportunity in his hands. In a season where LSU are looking for answers every which way at corner, it's time for Denver to deliver on a small, but promising freshman sample size.

Painted as a villain by many online college football fans after his exile during fall camp, Denver could become DBU's ultimate hero in 2023....if he can put it all together.

LT Welch was fantastic throughout spring, yet dropped off a bit this past month. Welch does have the fire and competitiveness to get back into the driver's seat once again, though it may take the Acadiana corner a few strong in-game showings to make it happen.

There's a scattering of freshmen who've caught our eye as strong contributors, either as rotational assets or special teams ballhawks.

Debutant safety Ryan Yaites and freshman cornerback Jeremiah Hughes both made solid plays on special teams with their advanced tackling skills, impressing coaches and winning over their teammates.

Neither made any glaring mistakes when taking snaps for the 3rd or 2nd Team units; both Yaites and Hughes have a high football IQ, playing for complex, top rated defenses at Guyer and Bishop Gorman, respectively.

Kylin Jackson, a freshman, is a superior talented safety, however he's suffered a few injury set backs. Could he contribute meaningful snaps in 2023? Doubtful, although with his abilities and LSU's lack of depth, you never know.

DBU 2023 is going to be a position group where you see a fluctuation of different players in varying roles all throughout the campaign, thanks to their versatility, and....well....let's face the facts: some of these guys are so new, they don't have a home position at this point.....it may require half of a season to iron it all out.

I get the sense that DBs Coaches Robert Steeples (CBs) and Kerry Cooks (safeties) will have their hands full with this year's unit, littered mostly with young yet unproven talent, unknowns and uncertainty, all with a degree of concern attached.

It will take the coaching job of Cooks and Steeples' careers to figure this season's secondary out, but the fact they're willing to experiment, across the board, tells me two things:

A. They're smart thinkers and are trying to figure out how best to elevate their versatile talent.

And....

B. They're not fully satisfied when analyzing their units at the moment.


DEPTH CHARTS


DT

WINGO

SMITH

GUILLORY

LEE

JEFFERSON

WEST JR

LANGSTON

HILL


DE / JACK LB

JONES

OGHOUFO

SWINSON

MALBRUE

HOWARD

WOMACK

WIGGINS

SHAND


LB

PERKINS

SPEIGHTS

PENN III

WEST WEEKS

WHIT WEEKS

BRAITHWAITE


SAFETY

BURNS

BROOKS JR

SAM

ALLEN

TOVIANO

YAITES

SPOTSVILLE

JACKSON

LANGLOIS

ABRAHAM


NB

RYAN

TOVIANO

ROBINSON JR

ALLEN


CORNERBACK

ALEXANDER

CHESTNUTT

RYAN

STAMPS

ROBINSON JR

LT WELCH

HUGHES

HARRIS

WILSON


As you can see, we do not prefer Brooks Jr at the nickel position;

Yes, that's a great vantage point for LSU's 2022 leader in defensive snaps to attack the backfield, however, he's been ruthlessly exposed in coverage at times (surrendering the most catches of any Tiger defender last fall).....at nickel, he would become a mismatch nightmare, I fear.

We believe in Javien Toviano backing up Ryan at nickel or Burns, Brooks Jr or Sam at safety. The young freshman is proving his worth out there as a primal superstar in the making....indeed, Toviano may just play two different positions as a first year Tiger.

But we also give experience the boost it deserves: second year Tigers like Jordan Allen or LT Welch deserve a shot if things with our main lineup go awry, especially after hungry showings this offseason.

We prefer Sage Ryan at nickel, Brooks Jr and Burns back at safety, Chestnutt and Alexander's experience on the corner flanks to start, plus a frenetic looking front 6 of Harold Perkins, Maason Smith, Mekhi Wingo, Saivion Jones, Omar Speights, and Ovie Oghoufo....quite possibly a very savage front 6 carrying a scorched earth mentality, aiming to cause enough havoc and turnovers to buoy their secondary.

While Womack is buried on our depth chart, we feel he must be given opportunities to play, lest you waste a possible game-changing force.

It's also time for second year stud athlete Quency Wiggins to produce in the purple and gold.....but once again, he must be afforded chances to write his magic, action packed script.

Once again, as long as LSU's defensive spine of Smith, Wingo, Perkins, Speights, Burns and Brooks remain healthy & solid throughout the campaign, communicating nonstop, heads on a swivel, chinstrap locked and loaded for some serious rampaging violence, we should see a strong defensive group in 2023.

I feel that combination above places LSU's best defensive athletes and minds on the field at one time.

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc, a subsidiary of Uninterrupted Media LLC

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