Signing Day Preview: Defensive Line

USA TODAY Sports

A look at what to expect on National Signing Day at defensive line.

Defensive line was perhaps the most critical position for LSU in the Class of 2013. The Tigers lost six contributors from last year's defensive line, and they need some of these newcomers to play right away. That opportunity for immediate playing time is present at both tackle and end, and it was a big selling point for LSU's staff while on the recruiting trail over the last year. The results look promising, and LSU has one of the best defensive line classes in the country....and they may not be done yet.

Current Verbal Commits
Frank Herron - Herron has NFL size at 6'5" 250; but despite his big stature, all anyone talked about at camps, combines and at the U.S. Army All-American Game was his explosion and his quickness. Obviously, that combination of size and quickness bodes pretty well for Herron's future on LSU's defensive line. Herron doesn't yet have top level strength, but that should come with time and when it does, he'll have the whole package. He's reportedly still a bit raw in terms of his technique, but that's fairly common among defensive linemen at this stage of their career. Herron's stock has really risen over the last few months and especially after his performance at the US Army game. Some have speculated that Herron could eventually grow into a defensive tackle, but I don't see that happening. He could maybe play inside on some Mustang looks, but I see him as a bigger defensive end in the mold of Marcus Spears, Tyson Jackson or Lavar Edwards. Unfortunately as we approach Signing Day, Herron's commitment to LSU looks shaky. Seemingly out of nowhere, Herron took an official visit to Texas on the final weekend. New Longhorns' assistant Larry Porter has a ton of ties to the Memphis area, and he used those to coax a last minute visit out of Herron. Will it be enough to flip him from LSU? Possibly. There are a lot of rumblings out there that he really enjoyed the visit. Herron has a year long relationship with LSU's staff and other commitments. His relationship with most of the Texas staff is brand new. Add in the extra distance from home and it doesn't seem like the Horns should be able to turn him. We should all be nervous until his paperwork comes in on Wednesday. At the time I'm writing this, it looks like a 50/50 thing.

Rivals: #3 DE, #23 overall 5 stars
247: #7 DE, #75 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #23 DE, #292 overall 4 stars
Scout: #5 DE, #66 overall 4 stars

Michael Patterson - Patterson is a fine looking prospect and the kind of in-state player that you simply can't let sign with another school. My biggest concern with Patterson is his size. Even though he's listed in the 6'3" or 6'4" range and at 230 pounds or so, he sure looks smaller than that and doesn't look like he has the frame to comfortably carry 250. What stands out about Patterson is his technique. It's excellent for a high school prospect. His athleticism isn't too shabby either. He frequently lined up at wide receiver in high school and looked comfortable out on the edge and explosive with the ball in his hands. Of the ends in this class, Patterson may be the most likely to redshirt. Similar to a guy like Lavar Edwards, Patterson could be a consistent contributor throughout his career and a starter or heavy contributor by the time he's an upperclassmen.

Rivals: #17 weakside DE 3 stars
247: #12 weakside DE 4 stars
ESPN: #53 DE 3 stars
Scout: #50 DE 3 stars

Lewis Neal - Neal comes to LSU from North Carolina after an insanely productive high school career. As a senior, Neal had 121 tackles and 12 sacks from his defensive end position. Neal is awfully short. He swears he's 6'1" but people who have seen him say he's 6'0" at best. However, Neal does have really long arms which help him play a bit bigger than his height would normally allow. He's also got very good quickness, surprising strength, and plays with a ton of effort. He consistently stood out in camp settings, but he was at his best when the lights came on. At a minimum, Neal could make a significant impact as a specialty pass rusher who comes into games for certain situations. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he did so as a true freshman. Neal was once committed to Ohio State and also had offers from North Carolina, Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Rivals: #22 weakside DE 3 stars
247: #28 weakside DE 3 stars
ESPN: #39 DE 4 stars
Scout: #30 MLB 3 stars

Greg Gilmore - Like Neal, Gilmore also joins LSU from North Carolina. Gilmore looks like a perfect fit as a defensive tackle in LSU's defense. He's very quick and should be able to do a nice job attacking and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. One concern of mine with Gilmore is that his production has never seemed to match his talent. He did not put up huge stats in high school. He has always excelled in camp settings and was perhaps the top player during the week of practice at the Shrine Bowl. But in the game itself, onlookers were surprised at the lack of impact Gilmore had. I'm not implying he's not a good prospect by any means. But it's a slight cause for concern, and he'll have to translate his immense talent to the field a bit bitter. He did counter with a nice performance at the Under Armour All-American game. Gilmore chose LSU over offers from Florida, Alabama and many others.

Rivals: #16 DT, #246 overall 4 stars
247: #5 DT, #59 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #8 DT, #83 overall 4 stars
Scout: #5 DT, #35 overall 5 stars

Maquedius Bain - Quay Bain comes to LSU from Florida and does so with a TON of potential. Bain shows a lot of strength and athletic ability. Bain doubles as a pretty good player on the basketball court, which is a testament to his athleticism and feet. That will serve him well at the next level. At 6'3" 310 pounds, Bain carries his weight extremely well. He's very raw right now. He plays too high and made plays in high school based solely on size, strength and athletic ability. So he may need some time to develop and get coached up before he's ready to really contribute. However, his strength may help him get the nod for early playing time. I really believe that Bain has the potential to be one of the stars in this class by the time his career is over, and I believe his ceiling is higher than Gilmore's.

Rivals: #41 DT 3 stars
247: #48 DT 3 stars
ESPN: #13 DT, #130 overall 4 stars
Scout: #32 DT 4 stars

Christian LaCouture - LaCoutre is a big defensive end that will almost certainly play inside at LSU. He has good size in the 6'4" or 6'5" range and currently weighs about 265. He'll likely end up playing at around 290 at LSU. LaCouture is already enrolled at LSU and will participate in spring practice, giving him an edge in the race for playing time next fall. LaCouture's calling card is his strength, and he'll make his hay by eating up gaps and collapsing the pocket. He's a guy whose effectiveness may not show up on the stat sheet. He doesn't show the same level of quickness as Gilmore or Bain, but he's not terrible in that department either. He's capable of beating his man in pass rushing situations and making an impact there at times. LaCouture was once committed to Texas A&M and then to Nebraska. He finally settled on LSU.

Rivals: #18 DE 3 stars
247: #15 DE 4 stars
ESPN: #45 DT 3 stars
Scout: #14 DE, #128 overall 4 stars

Tevin Lawson - Out of Denham Springs, Lawson has been committed to LSU since March; however, his situation is currently up in the air. Due to some lingering academic issues, LSU apparently asked Lawson to take a grayshirt. Lawson quickly put together a visit to ULL, which tells me he didn't care much for the grayshirt option. However, LSU is supposedly checking with the NCAA regarding a couple of Lawson's courses. If they check out, he could still sign with LSU on Signing Day. At this point, I'd say it's doubtful that happens. As a player, Lawson has spent more time on the offensive line than defense over the last couple of years. He's got some good skills that could, with time, develop into being SEC caliber. But at this stage, he's clearly behind the other three defensive tackles in this class. He does offer some versatility with his ability to play on the offensive line.

Rivals: #21 DT 4 stars
247: #42 DT 3 stars
ESPN: #6 OG, #152 overall 4 stars
Scout: #49 DT 3 stars

What To Watch For On Signing Day
The first thing to watch is that Frank Herron's paperwork comes through on Signing Day. That's the stressful and probably the most important thing to watch because Herron is one of the top players in this entire class. But LSU is also still aggressively pursuing a pair of other defensive ends, one of which happens to be the #1 overall prospect in the nation, Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche took a last minute visit to LSU on the last weekend before Signing Day, and LSU put their best foot forward. Nkemdiche is still a huge lean to Ole Miss but has always had an affinity for LSU, and the fact that he decided to get in his car and drive to Baton Rouge has to say something. His announcement is absolutely worth paying attention to now. LSU is also still after New Jersey defensive end Tashawn Bower, who visited last weekend. Bower has been committed to Auburn since the summer, and he visited the plains this past weekend. However, LSU is still very much in the mix for Bower's signature.

The Future
With the departures of Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere, that leaves just a handful of players competing for playing time at defensive end. Only Jermauria Rasco has any significant playing time. In other words, it's wide open for a guy like Herron and Neal (or Nkemdiche/Bower) to come right in and play significant minutes immediately. Defensive tackle isn't much different. Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson have a lot of experience, but nobody else does. Spots in the playing rotation are wide open, and I suspect Gilmore, Bain and LaCouture will compete for those. Having so many of these guys playing early in their career bodes well for the long term future of LSU's defensive line.








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