The level of DL play at LSU has noticeably dipped since 2011. They were close again in 2012, struggled in 2013 and were average last season. Blame can partially go to depth and youth issues. Some blame could also go to Brick Haley, on the developmental side. But the evidence is pretty plain that LSU simply didn't dominate up front the way the 2011 team did, nor like others preceding that one. Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson were recruited and hyped as the next Glenn Dorsey types and proved to be solid, but not spectacular. Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco were both thought to be future dominant pass rushers, in the mold of Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, but neither ever stepped into that light. Both Hunter and Rasco were strong against the run and active in pursuit, but neither ever become a dominating force to be accounted for on every snap.
By hiring Ed Orgeron, Les Miles hopes to return to that level of dominance. Orgeron brings a sterling reputation as a recruiter, and his list of NFL pupils is as impressive as any you can find. To get there, LSU must first find the talent. The depth chart is currently loaded with impressive young defensive tackles including Davon Godchaux, Greg Gilmore, Maquedius Bain, and Travonte Valentine. But the DE depth chart is fairly barren. LSU features Only five scholarship players, none of which have ever started. Of those five, only Tashawn Bower has played considerable snaps for the team. Lewis Neal, Sione Teuhema, and Deondre Clark have all found their way on to the field in various capacities, but it's hardly experience you can lean on. Adding depth here has proven an essential piece to the 2015 recruiting class.
Isaiah Washington, DE
6'4", 240 pounds
247: ***, UR Nationally, #32 Weak-side DE
Rivals: ****, #219 Nationally, #8 Strong-side DE
ESPN: ***, UR Nationally, #72 DE
Scout: ***, UR Nationally, #62 DE
Washington is one of the 2015 signing classes earliest commits, pledging back in February of last season. At 6'4", 240 pounds, he's a nice-sized end. That type of size should grant him the opportunity to contribute immediately, especially on a depth chart that's seeking serious contributors. Washington isn't a great athlete, but he's strong at the point of attack and disciplined as a run defender. He's not a guy that's going to be able to bend, dip and rip around the edge with great athleticism, but he may be able to make his hay with a bullrush. To me compares best to a guy like Ken Adams, who played a lot of snaps for LSU, though was never a dominant player.
Arden Key, DE
6'5", 230 pounds
247: ****, #37 Nationally, #3 Weak-side DE
Rivals: ****, #247 Nationally, #13 Weak-side DE
ESPN: ****, #24 Nationally, #6 DE
Scout: ****, #109 Nationally, #9 DE
Judging by pictures, Key is probably thinner than his listed 230 pounds. He needs to add some bulk, but opposite of Washington, he's got those athletic tools that can be turned into dominant pass rushing. His frame and wing span, should allow him to create separation from OL. But I love his explosiveness and flexibility. Key looks to have the makings of a Sam Montgomery type coming off the edge, perhaps with a touch more explosiveness.
Prince Tega Wanogho Jr.
6'8", 250 pounds
247: ****, #79 Nationally, #7 Strong-side DE
Rivals: ****, #130 Nationally, #9 Strong-side DE
ESPN: ****, UR Nationally, #26 DE
Scout: ****, UR Nationally, #28 DE
Wanogho was the first target Coach O visited when he came on board. He seemed to make a great impression on both he and his HS coach. However, people continue to state he's likely to head to Auburn, where the family he lives with attended. Others talk up the connection between he and surprise LSU OL commit Chidi Valentine-Okeke, but I'm not buying the significance of that to Wanogho's decision. This one won't be resolved until after National Signing Day, as Prince will take his time deciding.
CeCe Jefferson, DE
6'2", 275 pounds
247: *****, #11 Nationally, #2 Strong-side DE
Rivals: *****, #20 Nationally, #2 Strong-side DE
ESPN: *****, #9 Nationally, #5 DE
Scout: *****, #13 Nationally, #3 DE
Jefferson is a dominant HS DL, that did a little bit of everything. He's exceptionally strong at the point of attack, and relentless in pursuit. Considering his height, I'm not so sure he's not long for DT in the future. He could still make a great end, though. That said, Jefferson tweeted this morning, fresh off his LSU visit, that LSU is not in his top four:
Wednesday I will be deciding between Auburn,Ole miss,Florida, or Alabama... Thanks for everything!— 7 (@cecejeferson7) February 2, 2015
Could he be seeking to pull a shocker and pick LSU to surprise everyone on Wednesday? Maybe. But I doubt it. Good money is on Florida or Ole Miss in this one. Don't count out Bama, either.
LSU struck out a lot on the DL this year. DT wasn't as much of a priority due to depth, but a guy like Daylon Mack may very well have wound up in Baton Rouge had John Chavis stuck around. Ditto goes for Kyle Phillips, who I think we will look back on and say, "that's the one that got away from the class of 2015."
Arden Key commits tonight and would be a tremendous addition. A class of Washington and Key would give the roster some nice additional depth. Adding Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. would just be an additional cherry. Key is the big piece here, though, since he's the most likely add, and perhaps the best of the bunch.