LSU Spring Football Five Questions: Defensive Line

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Taking stock of an atypical question mark for LSU in the spring.

Roster/Depth Chart

Defensive Tackle

91 Christian LaCouture (Soph.)

6-5, 298

11 tackles, 1.5 TFL (1 sack)

95 Quentin Thomas (Jr.)

6-3, 290

9 tackles, .5 TFL, 2 pass break-ups & 1 fumble recovered

96 Mickey Johnson (Jr.)

6-0, 307

3 tackles in 4 game appearances.

47 Maquedius Bain (RS-Fr.)

6-4, 308

Redshirted.

97 Frank Herron (RS-Fr.)

6-5, 275

Redshirted.

99 Greg Gilmore (RS-Fr.)

6-4, 311

Redshirted.

(returning starters in bold)

Defensive End

59 Jermauria Rasco (Sr.)

6-3, 255

56 tackles, 6.5 TFL (4 sacks), 5 pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.

98 Jordan Allen (Sr.)

6-6, 254

16 tackles, 2 TFL (2 sacks), 2 pass break-ups.

94 Danielle Hunter (Jr.)

6-5, 241

57 tackles, 8 TFL (3 sacks), 2 pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

46 Tashawn Bower (Soph.)

6-5, 243

3 tackles in 6 game appearances.

54 Justin Maclin (Sr.)

6-4, 237

2 tackles in 5 game appearances.

92 Lewis Neal (Soph).

6-1, 238

7 tackles, .5 sack in 10 game appearances.

93 M.J. Patterson (RS-Fr.)

6-3, 215

Redshirted.

What's Good?

This unit was one of the main contributing factors in LSU's defensive struggles last season, and while there are some big names gone, the idea of a clean slate isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Of course, there's no question that there's talent. Danielle Hunter was a nice surprise in that he was remarkably complete as a run defender for a defensive end that was primarily expected to be mostly a pass-rusher. If he can continue to improve, the sky is the limit.

Through the first few practices, there seems to be a sense of enthusiasm among the second- and third-year guys to step up and claim a spot. There are some particularly good vibes about Christian LaCouture and Frank Herron (reportedly north of the 290 pounds, hence the slide inside to tackle) at defensive tackle. Jermauria Rasco is missing spring practices with a shoulder injury, but honestly, Brick Haley and John Chavis know what they have there. More reps for the younger guys like Tashawn Bower, Lewis Neal, etc...is a good thing.

What's Bad?

All that said, there's no sugar-coating that this is probably the least-proven returning LSU defensive line in some time. The Tigers didn't get a ton of production out of their veterans last season, yet the staff still never really threw the young guys in there to try and take a spot, either. Injuries were a factor with defensive tackles like Herron and Greg Gilmore, but LaCouture, Neal and Bower never really seemed to push the older guys.

And of course, older guys like Rasco, Quentin Thomas, Justin Maclin and Jordan Allen also failed to distinguished themselves in the rotation. Allen came out like a house on fire in the first two games, but seemed to disappear the rest of the season.

What's the Goal this Spring?

There's going to be some big-time talent arriving this summer, like Travonte Valentine, Deondre Clark, Davon Godchaux and Trey Lealaimatafao. But the fact remains, this is a unit that needs to really establish its rotation.

Hunter has tremendous breakout potential, and you're going to see a ton of him. But the other three spots are all virtually up for grabs. Yeah, the newbies will have a great shot at seeing the field next August, but for now, this group has to form some sort of structure. You can bet on LaCouture and Herron playing prominent roles inside, along with Thomas.

The other end spot is interesting though. Yeah, Rasco started last year, but he was solid at best, and inconsistent. There's a prime chance for a young guy like Bower to assert himself. Allen could also be tough to handle if he got it all together.

What am I Watching For?

There's just too much talent on hand here for me to expect another underachieving unit. They can't all underachieve, some playmakers will emerge.

I'm really watching the second-year guys, particularly Herron, Bower and Maquedius Bain.

From the time he arrived, we've been big fans of Herron here. He looked the part of a tall, big, explosive athlete that was a pass-rushing end in high school, but with a Michael Brockers-like frame that could probably hold around 300 pounds as a defensive tackle. A torn meniscus led to a redshirt year, and I understand that he's already around the 290-pound mark and really looking the part. He may have the most potential of anybody on the interior.

Bower is another guy that never really stood out in very limited reps, but his high school highlights suggest he could possibly develop into a strong two-way end that can handle the run and get after the quarterback. A year's worth of development, plus the extra reps due to Rasco's absence, could help him break through.

Bain, meanwhile, is already the 300-pound type that I talked about with Herron. Most expected him to be a bit of a project and a redshirt candidate anyway, so his lack of playing time wasn't a big surprise. He split time between offense and D in high school, so he's still pretty raw as a pure defensive tackle. Very interesting to see how he looks with a season's worth of coaching and development has done for him.

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