by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
"THIS IS GOING TO BE A VIOLENT DEFENSE."
-Defensive Coordinator Daronte Jones, first press conference
When LSU signed new D-Line Coach Andre Carter, bringing his legendary skills to Baton Rouge after nearly 90 career sacks and 25 years of combined experience at the NFL level, Coach Orgeron and Carter's shared vision for our 2021 defensive line sealed the deal.
Sure, every intention has been made concerning the DL future (just look at their unbelievable recruiting pace) however Coach O understood just what kind of talent he would have on roster coming into this season....and whoever was getting the job had to be someone capable of maximizing the prodigious talents of these young men.
Someone who could garner respect, develop, teach, lead, organize......command.
Defensive Line-minded Coach O first pursued his apprentice Ryan Nielsen, who's deal to become LSU's new defensive coordinator / DL Coach fell through after a contract clause prohibiting a collegiate move was discovered by the Saints;
Orgeron looked at Christian LaCouture, a Tigers Legend as a player and National Champion as a highly effective Graduate Assistant;
But as seamless as Nielsen would've worked alongside Orgeron, or as loved by the players as LaCouture will always be, neither boast Andre Carter's complete package deal of experience, NFL-level coaching or "knocking on Canton" status.
Once he arrived in Baton Rouge, you could feel the instant reverence the members of LSU's D-Line had for Carter:
There's a regimented discipline emanating from the former St. Louis Ram & two time New England Patriot: The former Pro Bowler isn't militaristic, yet the authority he wields as a Coach and DL reference point, ensures his practice sessions come damn close to a boot camp for rock star D-Linemen.
His devotion, commitment and strident intensity towards every fiber of his craft became apparent the moment he spoke at his first press conference, continuing his brutal quest for SEC / CFB dominion on the practice field with a renewed purpose.....
He knows the kind of unit he's coaching right now....Orgeron does too...you can see it in their eyes when they coach these young bulls:
They're ready to bleed the SEC.
Coach Carter didn't accept this job for some titillating return to college or the excitement & pedigree of coaching in the SEC.....those are major aspects of his decision, of course, but I believe what interested Andre most had to be the opportunity to coach this elite unit's bottomless NFL-ready talent, believing he alone is best suited to develop & capitalize on this current group's high octane talents: turning endless possibilities into historic statistical consequences.
Looking across the names & their histories, Carter's 2021 D-Line possess one powerhouse name after another (B.J Ojulari, Ali Gaye, Jaquelin Roy), as well as a slew of upperclassmen Tigers who've gone under the radar but continue to make an impression in Spring (Joseph Evans, Phillip Webb, Jacobian Guillory or Eric Taylor), a selection of veteran National Champion leaders playing in their second senior season for boosted Draft stock and a chance at a 2nd title (Andre Anthony, Neil Farrell, Glen Logan) and then you have an explosive array of freshmen coming in (early enrollees Landon Jackson & Maason Smith, Louisiana-native Saivion Jones, the highly touted Bryce Langston).
Top to bottom, this is an unfathomably perfect collection of defensive linemen...nearly every profile has been attained and crossed off the board in the blood red stains of upcoming opponents:
Carter or Orgeron can deploy thick DTs capable of disturbing, clogging and immobilizing any protection scheme, athletic interior guys who can grab sacks like an edge rusher, DEs who eat quarterbacks for breakfast, edge rushers who are so robust they can be kicked inside on certain packages, long tall linemen who force quarterbacks into batted passes, interceptions or incompletions, run-stuffing mercenaries.....every profile is fulfilled along this potentially epic 2021 defensive line.
Beyond the surface personnel I just rattled off, LSU hold additional hybrid LB/DEs on roster who can function as both an edge rushing defensive end, as well as an outside linebacker in the right setting (from the 2019 team 6'5 "Mr. Colossus-Adonis" Desmond Little, freshman edge rusher Zavier Carter who's been mostly practicing with the linebackers and the aforementioned Phillip Webb, a special specimen).
Altogether, LSU's 2021 defensive line stands as an overwhelming embarrassment of riches, with Coach Ed Orgeron even announcing the other day: "Maason Smith is our best pass rusher"....
Remember, Maason should be in high school right now, and yet he's now the Tigers' #1 pass rusher? Also, defensive tackle is a position where Smith could get 3 sacks in 2021 and be considered a mega success...but proving how ahead of the curve he is, the Terrebonne Eraser logged 3 sacks during Saturday's scrimmage alone.
What does Smith's rise really mean?
If Maason is LSU's best pass rusher, then Andre Carter's D-Line are in an unbelievable state of grindhouse serenity at the moment:
A competitive domino effect will now take place, igniting double senior Andre Anthony (who'll be chomping at the bit after his team-leading 5.5 sacks from last year), sophomore B.J Ojulari will feel now is his time after an incredible freshman debut, junior Ali Gaye has to be thinking 1st Round for the 2022 NFL Draft...and to make that happen, he must improve on his 2.5 sacks from last year; then Neil Farrell Jr and Glen Logan are two Tigers who started out at defensive end way back in 2017 and are now on the inside during this final chance to juice up their Draft stock; on the other side of the coin, both Farrell Jr and Logan will have to push through new blood Maason Smith or sophomores Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory & Joseph Evans to grab reps.
So far in Spring, the names we've heard mentioned most by the coaching staff have been (in order) Andre Anthony, Maason Smith, Jaquelin Roy, Joseph Evans, B.J Ojulari, Ali Gaye all contributing well, with specific mentions going to Joseph Evans as a prime candidate for a starting spot at DT. The former center, turned nose tackle, turned center again, turned back to DT is a gritty lineman with a smart football IQ.
Jaquelin Roy is another name mentioned, grabbing 2 sacks in the second scrimmage and 1 during the first, all 3 from the interior DT spot.
Regardless, when watching the little footage LSU Odyssey received of scrimmages and practices (over 24 minutes total of three scrimmages), the hype is to be believed for the aforementioned names, albeit with a few more highly promising figures who need mentioning):
Bama defector Eric Taylor could be seen punishing guards Ed Ingram and Chasen Hines both, fighting relentlessly above his weight and size with admirable mobility; Jacobian Guillory will become the contributor we expected throughout his injury-riddled 2020, showing an increased fire following each day.
Another name to look out for we flashed by, LB/DE hybrid Desmond Little, a freakish athlete who's 6'5 length will be utilized by Coach Carter in "creative ways" I was told by someone within the program. In that same category, Phillip Webb, a calculating destroyer who should see a B.J Ojulari type ascendancy.
Before his injury, the robust, vicious National Championship team member Jarrell Cherry was also enjoying a strong Spring thus far, too.
Despite the wide range of linemen to pick from, Coach O has chosen to highlight the youngest guys: Maason, Roy, even name-dropping freshman Saivion Jones & saying Bryce Langston "may be the most talented DL he's recruited at LSU" before he's stepped on campus.....why just the young guys? Are they truly ahead of the Tigers' veteran D-linemen?
When talking to the media recently, Coach Orgeron knows what he's doing when he gives these young stunners credit....he not only gives the new guys confidence, his words also wake up the upperclassmen and forces a reaction from every player involved..."are you gonna take this?! Or are you gonna stand up?! Are you gonna let a freshman take your spot when it's your time?!"'
Competition for reps will be so fierce at D-Line, I wonder just how in the hell DL Coach Carter and Coach O can effectively rotate the unit out there......If you aren't on your game, you simply won't be on the field, that's just the kind of elite defensive line we're discussing here:
NO PASSENGERS OR SEATBELTS ALLOWED ON THIS RIDE...
Orgeron spoke of "using 3 defensive tackles" during the last press conference, saying "yeah we can do that, we can do a lot of things"....a flicker in his eye and a nod forward from his low, game-face brow line. He wasn't going to say "this is the greatest defensive line I've ever seen in my entire life"....but I knew Coach O thought about saying those words...I can see the salivating look in his eyes as he watches the group individually or together.
Meanwhile, Coach Carter isn't going to wait to "know" anything about his players: he's staying on 'em throughout, ready to grind alongside these young men through a long season ahead.
Coach Carter has been getting very specific to the finest detail and he hasn't been afraid to get after anyone loafing or routinely repeating the same mistakes. He's taking guys aside, one on one and showing them what they're doing wrong (while applauding what they're doing right, too).....we can only wonder the kind of NFL stories he may be sharing.
No matter what, there's one key factor which could make this D-Line equal or even surpass our current fanbase hype:
Iron sharpening Iron from natural competitive capitalism: Winning some...losing some....always learning, always improving. Expect veterans such as Neil Farrell Jr to really turn it on this year because of the added competition drawing out their best.
Everyone will have to roll with the punches as the coaching staff experiment with the formations, personnel groupings or points of attack; due to this intense necessity from so many guys to prove themselves on the field, LSU's 2021 defense will be the ultimate benefactor.
While 2020's defensive line were a highly effective pressure & havoc-creating unit, their hard work often died in vain after opposing quarterbacks were able to get the ball off at the last possible moment (linebackers & safeties were often nowhere to be found when stopping the run, aiding the pass rush or picking up the pieces after the catch).
Often behind LSU's 2020 barrelhouse front four???
Twenty yards or more of open space with zero edge containment, followed by slapstick missed tackles and one explosive play after another from the Tigers' LBs / secondary.
If the same pattern repeats during 2021, it won't matter if the Tigers lead college football in pressures or havoc created, that hard work won't turn into sacks, tackles for loss, batted passes or turnovers unless the entire defensive squad plays as one cohesive Freight Train of Purple Reign Pain..
But, if it all starts up front defensively...if the secret to a great defense lies in the craven majesty of the trenches, then we can expect an all-around improved 2021 defense thanks to what could be the nation's best defensive line.
When you flank this phenomenal front using the two best cornerbacks in America, back them with a wide range of Tigers beginning to lay siege upon the safety position, supported by multi-faceted talents emerging at linebacker & led by their hungry new coaches aiming to achieve history....every piece of LSU's 2021 defensive puzzle becomes stronger behind our #1 defensive line loaded up on all kinds o'nasty.
STARTING LINEUP A:
(Based on current Spring performances)
STARTING LINEUP B:
DT FARRELL JR
STARTING LINEUP C:
STARTING LINEUP D:
STARTING LINEUP E:
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: AD!!!! Such a good friend and one of the best Tigers fans I know! He's a D-Line fiend! This is for you you Irregular Regular! Follow him @aperkins2113 now!