Like with the defensive tackles, the LSU defensive ends are a talented and deep bunch led by veterans.
On the left, that is #93 Tyson Jackson, the senior starting left defensive end. On the right is #49 Cousin Kirston, the right starting defensive end. Kirston Pittman is not really my cousin, but I like to joke that he is because we have similar builds and athletic prowess. Both Jackson and Pittman have NFL futures ahead of them, and both could have bypassed their last year of eligibility and entered the NFL draft in 2008. Both chose to return.
Both Jackson and Pittman are big, strong rocks at defensive end. Jackson weighs over 290 pounds, and is therefore bigger than most of our defensive tackles. Kirston is a little smaller and quicker. He's listed at 254 pounds, but I think he's significantly bigger than that.
Jackson is probably a prototypical 3-4 defensive end, which needs to be bigger and stronger, but not quite as athletic as a 4-3 defensive end. As a pass-rusher, Jackson pretty much has one move, which is to power over the guy blocking him. Last year, Jackson spent a lot of time in the passing game just hanging back and trying to bat passes down, which he did well, but at the expense of getting pressure.
Pittman's arsenal if the passing game is a little more varied, but he's hardly the pass-rushing specialist he was early in his career. He's bigger, and perhaps a step slower than he was when he was a freshman, which was ages ago.
Kirston Pittman has had a remarkable career at LSU. He is the first and only player in BCS history to have played for and won 2 BCS championships, and he's coming back for a shot at a 3rd. Other former LSU players like Matt Flynn have two BCS championships, but none of them actually played in the 2003 BCS championship game. The others were redshirting. Kirston played in every game as a freshman in 2003, and again in 2004. Then he went through a series of injuries and had not played a down of football since the 2004 season until last year when he not only finally returned healthy, but surprisingly won the starting job at right defensive end over Rahim Alem.
He was a rock all year. It was especially satisfying to see him beat Bama left tackle Andre Smith on two consecutive plays last year.
Then, after the season was over, because he had missed two years of football, he applied for a special sixth year of eligibility and it was granted by the NCAA. So he's back for another go-round.
Tremaine Johnson (left) and Rahim Alem (right) figure to be the primary backups to Jackson and Pittman at left and right end respectively. Johnson's a senior and Alem is a junior, meaning we have 3 seniors and a junior in the two-deep at defensive end this year. That's a luxury that will not be repeated again soon.
Johnson has gotten a lot of playing time over the years at left defensive end, and it is my hope that he or someone else will emerge to really be an option for rotating with Tyson Jackson, particularly on obvious passing plays, where Jackson does not excel.
As I explained in my preview of the defensive tackles, I think it's very important to keep the defensive linemen fresh through frequent substitutions. Last year, we did not substitute out enough (except for Alem, who got a lot of playing time) a this position, and I think it hurt us.
Rahim Alem signed up for LSU when he was called Al Jones. He is safety Chad Jones' brother. He's also an academic all-conference performer, and no he is not a Muslim. Alem is probably our best pass-rushing defensive end among our veterans, and he should get not only some good series rotation, but he should also be put into the game on 3rd and long.
Alem is a starting-calibre defensive end who just found himself surprisingly behind a returning veteran. He will get his shot next year.
If anyone is going to push the above 4 for playing time, it could be sophomore Lazarius "Pep" Levingston (left) or redshirt freshman Sidell Corley (right). Pep played a fair bit last year while Corley spent the year redshirting. Corley's a big kid at 270 pounds, and I can't say I know much about him at this point, but he was highly regarded out of high school. Pep is a smaller, more agile defensive end who may be able to be a pass-rushing specialist used to spell the starters.
There are also a few incoming freshmen who figure to develop into defensive ends, but I wouldn't expect any of them to play immediately, except maybe Chancey Aghayere as a pass-rushing specialist, and even that is probably unlikely.