Even with starting ends Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman returning, the depth behind them is making it harder for LSU's coaches to keep Alem and others off the field.
"There's going to be more rotation," said Alem, a junior who prepped at St. Augustine. "Last year we were developing, and this year we're more mature. Coach trusts us more, so there will be more rotation."
I've been saying it for a while, that last year's defensive line needed a rotation. I think one of the reasons LSU's pass rush wasn't really all that great was because we just didn't have any kind of a rotation. Tyson Jackson never left the field. In tough games we played usually 2 or 3 defensive tackles. Kirston Pittman occasionally came off the field for Rahim Alem, but not all that often, and not enough to really rest Cousin Kirston.
This year, if the above quotation (from a little puff piece on Rahim Alem) is accurate, we can expect the team to take a little more advantage of depth by playing backups in tough games a little more.
It just makes so much sense. I remember watching the World Cup a couple years ago, and noticing how teams used substitutions. A substitution allowed a spent player to be taken out and replaced by a player with energy. This allowed both players to play the whole game with more energy than the guys who had to play the whole game.
The same is true in the American form of football. If a guy knows he has to play all game, he has to conserve a little energy early to have some left at the end, particularly in the trenches, where players are getting leaned on by 300 pounders and are trying to carry 300 pounds around on their own bodies. Fatigue has to be a big issue, moreso than at, say, cornerback.
However, if a guy knows he's going to get chances to rest, he can spend more of his energy when he's in. No plays off. No conserving energy. Just go full speed all the time, knowing that you're going to get opportunities to rest and get your energy back. Wear out the guy opposite you instead of the other side around. And the guy who comes in to substitute, he can also use up as much energy as he likes. Everyone plays better, every down, when there's a good rotation on the lines.
Of course, you can only do it if the coaches feel they can rely on the 2nd string to come in and play solid football. Judging from the above, that wasn't so much true last year, but is this year. It should make us a stronger team where it really matters.