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Spring Football Five Things: Defensive Line

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It's a big spring for this position, involving one of our favorite recruits from this offseason.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roster/Depth Chart

Defensive Tackle

Name

Height/Weight

2014 Season

91 Christian LaCouture (Jr.)

6-5, 300

40 tackles, 4 TFL (2.5 sacks), 2 passes broken up.

95 Quentin Thomas (Sr.)

6-4, 303

9 tackles, .5 TFL, 1 pass broken up.

57 Davon Godchaux (Soph.)

6-4, 298

42 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble.

90 Maquedius Bain (Soph.)

6-4, 299

6 tackles, 1 pass broken up in 10 game appearances.

97 Frank Herron (Soph.)

6-5, 278

3 tackles in 4 game appearances.

99 Greg Gilmore (Soph.)

6-4, 305

4 tackles, .5 sack, in 6 game appearances.

56 Trey Lealaimatafao (RS-Fr.)

6-0, 300

Redshirted.

79 Travonte Valentine (RS-Fr.)

6-3, 325

Redshirted.

Defensive End

46 Tashawn Bower (Jr.)

6-5, 237

16 tackles, 2.5 TFL.

92 Lewis Neal (Jr).

6-1, 255

3 tackles, 1.5 TFL.

93 M.J. Patterson (Soph.)

6-3, 231

1 tackle in 3 game appearances.

98 Deondre Clark (Soph.)

6-3, 244

9 tackles .5 TFL.

58 Sione Teuhema (Soph.)

6-4, 232

7 tackles, 2 sacks in 9 game appearances.

What's Good?

Well, for one there's this guy.

Anybody else surprised that Coach O skips leg day? Got some drummettes down there.

Anywho. Orgeron has to love what he has to work with inside here. Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux weren't explosive backfield playmakers last season, but they really improved over the course of the season and became incredibly stout at the point of attack. And Godchaux definitely has the potential to be more -- he's built like a bigger version of the classic LSU tackle, stocky, quick and tough to get a handle on. LaCouture could fit in well as more of a classic nose, should the d-line move towards more of an "under" front.

And the depth behind them is solid. Quentin Thomas can give both players a blow in a rotation, and Maquedius Bain gave the team some nice play at times last year as well. In addition, there's Greg Gilmore and Trey Lealaimatafao, who certainly have the talent to contribute. Gilmore was MIA last season, but has drawn some nice reviews from the strength & conditioning program to date, so that's a nice sign.

Besides, with Orgeron, all of these guys have a clean slate. There will definitely be opportunities to make moves. And by the same token, nobody should feel too secure in their spot, either.

What's Bad?

As good as Orgeron can feel about the interior of his unit, the pickings are a bit slim at the end spots -- to the point that some of the tackles will likely be working out there.

There's potential. Tashwan Bower is capable of being a stout, hustle-type, similar to Jermauria Rasco. He has some decent potential to be a factor rushing the passer, but I don't see him ever being a true speed guy off the edge. The same goes for sophomore Deondre Clark, who's athleticism got him on the field from the jump last year, although he didn't produce many big plays.

The best bet for a speed guy that could work on the weakside probably comes from Sione Teuhema. He showed some real get-off last year in some limited snaps, enough that John Chavis and Brick Haley worked him on the nose occasionally in long-yardage situations. He appears to have added a little muscle as well, and if his brother is any indication, bulking up runs in the family. LSU's going to need somebody to contribute in that role, and Teuhema's the best bet right now.

Lewis Neal provides depth similar to Bower or Clark. Additionally, Bain and Frank Herron are doing some work outside. Bain's a bit of a surprise, as he's a much bigger body. Although that could make for some interesting matchups in the 5-tech spot on the strong side. Herron played end in high school, so that might be a more natural fit for him. A source tells me Orgeron's taking the approach that if a player can do at least one thing well, he'll let him do that. That might just work out for Herron.

Redshirt freshman M.J. Patterson is another lean, athletic type, and has also spent some time at linebacker this spring, which could make for some more interesting sets. He's on the thin side, but his high school tape showed some intriguing athleticism, if he can translate it.

There's also the matter of Travonte Valentine. Its been reported, and reiterated to me, that his absence has nothing to do with his eligibility to play for LSU and everything to do with maintaining the privilege. Should he, as one source relayed to me, "grow up," he'll be welcome back on the squad and competing for a spot. Disappointing, but sounds like Valentine has nobody to blame but himself.

What's the goal this spring?

Orgeron wants to find a 10-man rotation for this group, which amounts to at least two players at every spot, plus another pair for the rotation. I doubt it's that cut-and-dried in terms of the laying out of the numbers, but the goal is to make sure that no one player is getting too worn out.

Arden Key should almost certainly be a factor this year, but the less that he's needed to be, the better. Finding three-four ends that LSU can count on to both hold up versus the run AND get to the quarterback, is imperative.

What am I watching for?

There's some expectations here, mostly because of Orgeron. Between his folk-hero status among most fans, and his reputation as a position coach, people are going to be expecting big things from this unit in the spring.

I'm curious to see what changes Orgeron brings. He typically prefers his units to be active in terms of movement, shifts and line-stunts, which is a big change from Haley and Chavis, who valued a very controlled and disciplined rush and really emphasized gap control. Likewise, there are some intriguing talents here, and a player that I think could really break out in Godchaux.

The biggest key is to find guys that can get up field and make plays in the backfield. That's something the last two LSU defenses severely lacked. It's not necessarily even about big sack numbers; so much as it is affecting the quarterback and making tackles behind the line when the opportunity is there. The Tigers are going to have the secondary to allow Kevin Steele to really send pressure when he wants to. But if the defensive line can provide some without help from the back seven, that's a real luxury. One that would take this defense to another level in 2015.