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LSU Spring Football Five Things: Defensive Line

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A unit in transition under a new coordinator.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Depth Chart

Defensive tackle

Name

Height/Weight

2014 Season

91 Christian LaCouture (Sr.)

6-5, 307

35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss (including 1 sack), 1 pass break-up, 1 forced fumble.

57 Davon Godchaux (Jr.)

6-4, 293

41 tackles, 9.0 TFL (6 sacks), 1 forced fumble, 1 recovered and 1 pass break-up.

97 Frank Herron (Jr.)

6-5, 289

23 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack) and 1 fumble recovery.

99 Greg Gilmore (Jr.)

6-4, 313

13 tackles, 1.5 TFL (1 sack).

Defensive End

92 Lewis Neal (Sr).

6-2, 264

48 tackles, 9.5 TFL (8 sacks) 6 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble.

98 Deondre Clark (Jr.)

6-4, 253

1 tackle in 4 game appearances.

Talking about LSU's defensive line is a little dicey because some four defensive ends will be playing the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position in Dave Aranda's new 3-4 defense. Hence the grand total of six players listed above.

What's Good?

Whether they're all playing in the same spot or moving around, LSU returns the top seven defensive linemen from last season. Every player here has logged a ton of snaps and proven that they can handle SEC competition. While LSU will almost certainly use 2016 freshmen in the rotation due to the talent level of the defensive linemen coming in, for the most part this position will be manned by adults, for lack of a better term.

Aranda will likely use multiple fronts with this group, including some with just one or two guys with their hands on the ground. But the constants will likely be seniors Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal, and junior Davon Godchaux. LaCouture should be a natural fit on the nose in a 3-4 base. He's a big, strong player. Maybe not built like the ideal one- or zero-technique nose tackle, but still somebody who has shown the ability to hold his own as a two-gap player. Godchaux's position likely won't change either, as he'll mostly line up as a three-tech and play his gap. He didn't quite make the leap that I expected last season, but he was still solid. As the rest of the front develop arounds him, I would expect him to improve.

Lewis Neal is a bit of a wild card here, and per reports he'll likely line up as a traditional end and move around some as well. He was a very nice surprise last year, leading the team with eight sacks as a relentless, all-out-effort type of pass-rusher. He's not the kind of freak athlete that most teams seek out as a rusher, but he's stocky and strong, and should be something of a matchup toy that Aranda can play with, even as he handles some regular duties.

Behind the starters, Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron finally started to show some promise down the stretch, emerging as quality rotational options. Gilmore should fit in well on the nose behind LaCouture, while Herron is a natural three-tech behind Godchaux.

What's Bad?

Yeah, they only have to fill out three true defensive line positions, but six bodies on the defensive line is still a pretty low number. Things will work out -- Rashard Lawrence, Ed Alexander, Glenn Logan, Caleb Roddy and Sci Martin could all join the party this fall and there are another four bodies that are cross-training at linebacker.

Still, keeping this core healthy is a major concern for the spring.

What's the goal this spring?

Aside from the aforementioned need to keep people healthy, Aranda will be really trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together for this entire front seven in the spring. Who fits where, who does what well, and who can do more than one thing.

Guys like Neal, Godchaux and Herron can all get into the backfield and make things happen from different angles, so he can use them in concert with linebackers like Arden Key, Kendell Beckwith and Tashawn Bower to give offensive linemen a lot to think about. LaCouture and Gilmore should adapt to playing on the nose pretty well for run downs.

The freshmen will play a role in some capacity, but in the meantime Aranda and Ed Orgeron need to figure out what the rotation looks like right now.

What am I watching for?

It's year two of Ed Orgeron running things here, and with his reputation it's fair to expect to see some guys take some steps forward. The questions is, how that fits in with what Aranda wants out of the defensive front.

We know things will be multiple, and there will be a mix of one- and two-gapping techniques, which is all fine and good (and necessary), but I wonder how that will fit with a group that has largely done more of the latter. Players like Godchaux, Neal and Herron are largely more of the quicker, penetrative type, and while Godchaux could likely handle a two-gap load, it would be a waste of his talent on more of a regular basis.

But that goes to my concern -- or more of a question -- with how Aranda will implement thins here. The 3-4 came up last year with Kevin Steele, and my thought at the time was that it wouldn't make much sense with LSU's current roster and the talent that typically comes through. Granted, shifting an under front from a 4-man line to a 3-man one mostly just involves that weakside end, but it is something to watch.

That said, with Aranda's reputation for utility, one would expect the transition to be more seamless.