National Signing Day Preview: Defensive Line

Stacy Revere

Breaking down the Tigers' recruiting class on the Defensive Line.

We love our defensive linemen. You can have your quarterbacks, running backs, corners and wideouts. Give us defensive linemen or give us death. It's not only a point of pride among thefanbase, but the nexus of the best teams we've fielded in the 2000's. When you think about the National title winners of 2003 and 2007, and even the runner-up squad in 2011, each featured a dominant defensive line.

Run down the list of names, and you'd be hard pressed to find a school that's more prodigiously pumped out defensive linemen in the past decade. We're not just DBU, we're DLU also, seemingly no matter who is coordinating the defense or even coaching the defensive line. Yet, the rash of underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft leaves the depth chart surprisingly thin with plenty of opportunity for young DL to make their mark.

Commits

Davon Godchaux

247: #173 Nationally, #10 Strong-Side Defensive End
ESPN: #213 Nationally, #22 Defensive End
Rivals: #114 Nationally, #9 Strong-Side Defensive End
Scout: #173 Nationally, #21 Defensive End

The recruiting sites all rate Godchaux out as a DE, but at 6'4", 270 pounds, I think he projects best down inside in the LSU defense. More recent pictures of Godchaux at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl lead me to believe he's already thicker than his listed 270.

Godchaux tore his ACL early into his senior season and soon after he pledged to LSU, praising their loyalty for sticking by him despite the injury. He remained faithfully committed throughout his Senior year... until just recently. I've covered this well before, but he's taken visits to Auburn and UCLA, and is now planning on a signing day announcement.

Good money is still on LSU to hold on to Godchaux, but it's always odd to see a player hold an announcement to announce a decision he's claimed he's already made. After all, he still maintains that he is 100% committed to LSU. I do think Godchaux will stick with LSU, and they desperately need him for additional depth up front.

Deondre Clark

247: #182 Nationally, #11 Strong-Side Defensive End
ESPN: #273 Nationally, #24 Defensive End
Rivals: #127 Nationally, #8 Weak-Side Defensive End
Scout: #118 Nationally, #15 Defensive End

Clark is the lone defensive end commit in this class and he's a good one. He was elected to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. During practices, Clark drew praise for his pass rush ability, and impressive size in the run game. Though he's on the shorter side (6'2"-6'3"), he's got good bulk and could see time immediately.

The question is: Will Clark stick with LSU? He visited two weeks ago and from all reports loved the visit. He even took the time to Instagram a picture of himself in an LSU jersey and to tag it, "Home." To me, it's quite clear that Clark wants LSU. But larger issues loom. His mother is reportedly ill, and she's quite vocal on Twitter about her desire to keep her son home for his college years. Many expect that Clark could flip to the Sooner on signing day.

Yet, others suggest he may want to get out of Oklahoma all together. Just yesterday, his older brother was booted from the Oklahoma State basketball team for his third rules violation in a short span. I truly think if Clark gets to make this decision he will be at LSU. But family reasons may drive him to OU. Right now, I think ti's too close to call.

Targets

Travonte Valentine

247: #34 Nationally, #5 Defensive Tackle
ESPN: #164 Nationally, #11 Defensive Tackle
Rivals: #59 Nationally, #3 Defensive Tackle
Scout: #74 Nationally, #2 Defensive Tackle

Valentine is a massive presence inside, but not a total slug at the position. At 6'4", 338 pounds, he's quite a bit bigger than the sleeker defensive tackles we typically pursue. Valentine's got some pass rush ability, mostly in the form of a bullrush. He's well aware of his strengths. Valentine impressed during Under Armour All-American practices, frequently being named a top performer.

Although he will need to play with a better pad level, I think his size and natural strength will allow him to play early. He's a giant grizzly bear of a DT, one you definitely want on your side, not against.

Can LSU snag him? You hate to put the cart before the horse, but I'd be very surprised if Valentine did not ink with the Tigers on Wednesday. His final two are LSU and Miami, and despite some persistence from Al Golden and staff, Valentine declined to officially visit last weekend. He's publicly stated that he's made his decision and he's ready for the recruiting process to be over. All signs point to him winding up in Baton Rouge.

Lorenzo Carter

247: #20 Nationally, #1 Weak-Side Defensive End
ESPN: #14 Nationally, #3 Defensive End
Rivals: #36 Nationally, #3 Weak-Side Defensive End
Scout: #23 Nationally, #5 Defensive End

Carter is one of the premier pass-rushing talents in this signing class, bringing a tremendous burst and speed around the edge. He's raw and unrefined at this point, but his natural athleticism make him a dangerous weapon. As an edge rusher his length and athleticism will make him a nightmare for tackles to handle.

Carter's recruitment has been interesting throughout the process. He was considered an early lean to the Gators, but his interest there may have cooled over time. Florida State was also heavily in pursuit, as should be expected. Of course, home town Georgia always offered in-state appeal. LSU didn't became a major factor until later in the process, but the Tigers have made up considerable ground in a short amount of time.

The pick trending now is for Carter to stay home and play for the Bulldogs, but the LSU side feels confident that they've put themselves in a position for a potential signing day steal. Carter's being sold on the consistency angle, while UGA and FSU undergo coaching changes on the defensive side.

While Carter seems like an exceptional long shot, we've seen Brick Haley pull off the NSD shocker before. Brick's done an amazing job even keeping LSU this close in the race. If Carter picks the Tigers, someone oughta give that man a raise.

Trey Lealaimatafao

247: NR Nationally, #33 Defensive Tackle
ESPN: NR Nationally, #27 Defensive Tackle
Rivals: NR Nationally, #26 Defensive Tackle
Scout: NR Nationally, #36 Defensive Tackle

Lealaimatafao is yet another prospect the Tigers made late head way on in this cycle. Lealaimatafao committed to Texas but eventually backed out of the pledge after Mack Brown resigned. The stocky DT spent the week in San Antonio building relationships with some LSU recruits. He never officially visited, but did make it to Baton Rouge on his own dime, staying with his sister at Southern.

His list of finalists are LSU and Oregon. He tripped to Oregon on January 24th, but all of the recent crystal ball picks are for LSU. He frequently tweets with LSU commit Jacory Washington. I think there's good odds he will announce for LSU on signing day.

Sione Teuhema

247: NR Nationally, #26 Weak-Side Defensive End
ESPN: NR Nationally, #41 Defensive End
Rivals: NR Nationally, #25 Weak-Side Defensive End
Scout: #286 Nationally, #28 Defensive End

Teuhema committed to Texas back in May of 2013, along with his younger brother Maea. At the time, many considered LSU to be the leader for his services. The two are pretty openly a package deal. From that point on, things have gone pretty quiet in his recruitment. Two weeks ago he made a trip to Oklahoma State. And just last weekend, he made a surprise visit to LSU with brother and family in tow.

Teuhema is a solid prospect. He's 6'3"-6'4" with some good length. Right now, he's only about 215 pounds, but obviously has the frame to add some good bulk too. He's thought of as a rush defensive end, though on tape it's clear he's not the fastest of prospects.

The real prize here is believed to be his brother. Maea Teuhema is a 2015 five-star OT that will likely be following Sione wherever he goes. Maea (given name Tristan) does things you'd expect a 6'4", 335 pound kid to do.

Just today, the brothers de-committed from Texas. All signs point to them being LSU bound.

What to Watch for on Signing Day

Carter, Lealaimatafao, Teuhema are the uncommitted ones to keep your eyes on. I suspect Carter goes elsewhere and we nab the latter two.

We'll also have to sweat out announcements from Clark and Godchaux. Godchaux I think sticks around, but I'm not sure what will happen with Clark.

At this point, I feel confident on Valentine. I think there's almost zero chance he would actually pick Miami.

The Future

If LSU is able to land Teuhema, Lealaimatafao, Clark, Godchaux and Valentine, it's a pretty great haul in general. That gives you two or three guys on the interior and two outside guys. If they somehow steal Carter, we're talking a great D-line class. Conversely, if Clark and Godchaux flip, Carter goes elsewhere, Teuhema sticks, etc. then this could be very troubling.

There's an opportunity for early playing time at both end and tackle. In fact, only the top three def. end spots are truly set. Next year's line will feature two new tackle starters and none of the backups will have any playing experience. DL is a spot we've seen young guys contribute early at, even last year with Christian Lacouture. If players show up motivated and focused, they can and will play.

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