Better Know a Freshman: Davon Godchaux

Student Sports

Plaquemine defensive lineman Davon Godchaux suffered a season-ending knee injury in September of his senior season. Can he overcome the injury to become another member of DL-U at LSU?

Injuries always suck. They remain the great enemy to the athlete. All manner of injuries, large and small, become obstacles. Through the course of a season, most every athlete will battle against the usual bumps and bruises, the types of things that would likely lay most of us mortals up for weeks. Add to that your tears, strains, breaks and head injuries and football is about as brutal of a sport that exists today. As fans we often find ourselves levying questions of toughness as these modern Greek gods when an injury we deem "minor" lays someone up for longer than anticipated. Frankly, we don't think cramps painful enough to keep Lebron James on the sidelines. So we question his toughness, despite the fact that the man has never missed more than seven games in a single full season in his career. That's incredible durability. That's incredible toughness.

Evaluation wise, injuries prove tricky. Eric Reid, for example, battled shoulder injuries all throughout his high school career and while he missed some time here and there at LSU, he largely remained healthy. Craig Loston, on the other hand, never battled injuries throughout high school and then struggled all four years at LSU with lingering issues. I don't think it's a matter of one being "tougher" than the other, so much as thems the breaks. Their careers took decidedly different paths.

Injuries derailed the career of Delvin Breaux, before it even began. Alfred Blue's hot start in 2012 evaporated with a knee injury. They probably killed any chance Glenn Dorsey held of getting invited to NYC as a Heisman contender. When a player suffers a dramatic injury in HS, it always raises question marks. How will he recover? Will he be the same player? Does he have the will to fight back? How does he deal with adversity? Is he "injury prone?" It introduces even further risk to an already scary proposition of evaluating 17-18 year old kids.

Background

Davon Godchaux, a consensus top-150 prospect entering his senior season, tore two ligaments in his knee in a season-opening matchup with East Ascension. It's the type of gut-wrenching nightmare you don't wish upon even Bama commits. Sure, Godchaux already had a U.S. Army All-American invite and a plethora of offers from the country's best including LSU, Auburn, Alabama, and UCLA. Sure, he already made a verbal pledge to Les Miles and LSU. But any dreams of a State Championship, All-State, All-District or possibly elevating himself into the heralded five-star territory? Evaporated in a matter of moments.

Godchaux responded as optimistically as possible, citing Adrian Peterson as a role model and someone who went down and came back stronger. LSU responded in turn, making it clear to Godchaux his offer was going nowhere. They stuck by the young man, despite an injury which forced others to turn away. Throughout the season, Godchaux showed up on campus for a pair of unofficial visits and always proclaimed his loyalty to the coaches who stayed loyal to him. He did make a single official visit to Ole Miss, but little came from it. He tripped to San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American bowl, despite his injury, weighed in impressively:

Reportedly he spent the week recruiting prospects for LSU while palling around with Clifton Garrett, Trey Lealaiamatfao and others. All seemed quiet on the western front. Then things got weird. Out of the blue, Godchaux stated he was no longer committed and would complete his visits. Upon being questioned, he stated he was still committed but wanted to take visits. He scheduled a trip to Auburn and stated it would be his last visit. Two weeks later, he tripped out to UCLA with Malachi Dupre, Kenny Young and others. He entered national signing day claiming he had a "tough decision" but that he was still committed to LSU. Talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Then, signing day morning, Ole Miss reporters run with a story about Godchaux giving his pledge to the Ole Miss coaches but his mother refusing to sign is letter-of-intent. LSU fans nervously awaited his decision. When the moment came, Godchaux threw on an LSU hate and put an end to all the nonsense.

Admittedly, even as closely as I follow recruiting, I'll never be a fan of these types of games. If Godchaux just openly stated he wanted to finish his visits, I'm fine with that. Malachi Dupre took every visit, tweeted out pics and thoughts about how much he loved all the spots. No big deal. But it's Godchaux's insistence on playing both sides. "I'm committed... but I still have a decision to make." To me, Godchaux got wrapped up in the fact that he "missed out" on being heavily recruited due to his injury. No doubt in my mind that Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn and Jim Mora Jr. played a big role in sowing those seeds of doubt. I don't think Godchaux ever seriously considered anywhere else, but his reactions drew the attention he was looking for. In the end, he wound up with the good guys, but I could have done without the drama.

Nevertheless, recruiting hijinks aside, Godchaux is one helluva prospect. Even injuries considered, he's a consensus four-star prospect in the composite with a .9328 rating. He's ranked as a strong-side defensive end but considered one of the 10 best at that position. Godchaux is somewhere in the neighborhood of the top 150 prospects in America, an impressive feat considering his season-long injury.

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

Tale of the Tape

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 271 pounds

40: 5.22

Short Shuttle: 4.91

Vertical Jump: 24.7"

SPARQ: 64.98

I pulled his height/weight from the official LSU site, though verified weigh-ins at San Antonio had him at a hair over 6'3" and weighing 290 pounds. Unless the coaches asked him to slim down to keep him as jumbo DE, more like a Lavar Edwards type, I'm guessing he's trending up toward that 290 mark and getting ready to play DT. The roster does list him as a DT, but that hasn't always been the most accurate source of positions pre-fall. Melvin Jones was listed as a LB all through last year, despite being a FB through fall and even making game appearances there.

Athletically, those numbers do not stand out. Especially so for a DE prospect. All this combined tells me Godchaux is a defensive tackle all the way.

Film Study

Let's see what the big man shows on tape.

Strengths: Natural Power, Hand Use, Hustle Player, Potential

Weaknesses: Lack of Explosive First Step, Lacks Great Punch

Strengths

Natural Power: Godchaux's power is somewhat deceptive. He rarely gets off the ball quickly, so he often looks defeated. Yet he nearly always gets the best of his man. At :11, you'll see how slowly he gets off the ball, only to use good leverage and power base to drive the blocker into the backfield for a TFL. 3:11 as well, he lacks that explosive first step, but his natural power allows him to stand up the blocker, hold the edge and make the play.

Hand Use: The aforementioned played at 3:11 is a good example of how he uses his hands to neutralize blockers. It's something you'll see repeatedly throughout his highlights. Look at :36. Poor first step, but he uses his hands to neutralize the blocker and his natural wingspan to keep blockers at bay. This is something that will help expedite his development in a big way. He doesn't have a refined set of pass rushing moves, but he does have the ability to use his hands to defeat blockers, almost like a linebacker. That said, some camp performances illustrate he has a pass rush move set.

Hustle Player: One of my favorite traits about Godchaux is that he's a hustler. The last play on the reel, 4:44, watch how well he moves down the line to make plays. Really, it's just about play after play he's always hustling after the ball. Considering he's probably not ever going to be a Glenn Dorsey/Drake Nevis type that blows into backfields, the fact that he's willing to hustle and chase down plays will pay major dividends down the road. He's also smart and unselfish. The play at 3:45 he gives himself up, taking out the lead blocker, coincidentally taking down the ball carrier as well. He shows a pretty good ability at reading the blocks and knowing where the ball would be headed.

Potential: My favorite play on the reel is at 1:46. There are absolutely moments of brilliance in his play. When he brings together the burst, leverage and hand use, he can control blockers, shed them when ready and make plays on the ball carrier.

Weaknesses

Lack of Explosive First Step: Boy, it's troubling how slowly he gets off the ball. It's something he absolutely must improve if he hopes to crack the starting lineup. Testing numbers illustrate he may not be an explosive athlete, but those types of players can still win with good instincts and anticipation. At the high school level, he could get away with this by simply  being bigger and stronger than most of his competition. He is naturally strong, but losing those battles in college will result in a fair amount of pancakes.

Lacks Great Punch: Similarly, when he does fire off well, he doesn't dominate blockers in the way you would expect. I don't think it's a lack of strength, but probably some technique needing refining.

Summary

Godchaux remains one of my favorite players in this class, primarily because I take a look at this and see massive potential:

That's one well put together young man. Not sure what his body looks like right now, but at this particular camp you can tell his thickly built and barrel chested without being chubby. That's not something you commonly see at his age.

His tape shows a raw prospect. There's those moments when the light bulb comes on, but other times he looks rather average. As stated above, he absolutely must develop a quicker first step. If he cannot learn how to consistently get off the ball, he will struggle to ever be anything more than practice depth, despite his natural abilities. Yet, he also looks a lot like a young Bennie Logan to me. Logan similarly showed up to LSU playing DE in high school at a lighter weight. While he never became a 300+ pound monster in college, and was never a bear at the point of attack, Logan excelled by winning with leverage and hustle. Godchaux may actually possess more natural physical upside than Logan.

The big question will be how he rebounds from the knee injury. That's truly worrisome for a young player. Considering the current depth at defensive tackle, I suspect Godchaux will be a prime RS candidate, giving him even more time to rebound from injury as well as get himself into top physical condition. But that raises another question, in a year from now, what will the DT depth chart look like? We're heading into this season with a true junior and a true sophomore starting at that spot. Quentin Thomas has an outside shot to be early departure for the NFL, but there will be even more young tackles standing in his path for playing time. Can he rise above those guys to become a standout? I anticipate we will lose a tackle or two through natural attrition. Unfortunately, Godchaux's injury could make him a prime attrition candidate. This takes us back to those original questions: How will he recover? Will he be the same player? Does he have the will to fight back? How does he deal with adversity? Is he "injury prone?"

High End: All-SEC, NFL Draft potential.

Low End: Attrition candidate due to depth and past injury.

Realistic: I think Godchaux can emerge as a starter, but it may be a slow road. There's just so many bodies along the defensive interior right now. Godchaux needs to show some grit, stick with it and start climbing the depth chart. Playing time isn't knocking at his door, so he needs to knock at playing time's door.

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