LSU will return three nominal starters along the defensive line, and really only one lose main contributor from the 2018 group in nose tackle Ed Alexander.
But due to injuries, spring practice will be more about developing the rest of the depth here. Seniors Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko will be held out or limited in participation while rehabbing injuries. But both are known quantities at this point, not exactly in need of a ton of spring work. Ditto defensive end Glen Logan, who is full speed.
Spring will be more about preparing depth guys like Tyler Shelvin, Neil Farrell and Justin Thomas for larger roles. As well as getting young guys like Nelson Jenkins and freshman Siaki Ika ready to contribute.
Which is why the loss of sophomore-to-be Davin Cotton is somewhat annoying. He would have likely been a rotational piece this upcoming season with an eye on starting by 2020.
LSU Defensive Line: Spring 2019
|NT||91 Breiden Fehoko (Sr.)||6-4, 291||9||3||3||1.5||0||1||0|
|72 Tyler Shelvin (So.)||6-3, 362||5.5||1.5||1.5||2||0||0||0|
|62 Siaki Ika (Fr.)||6-4, 347||Four-star recruit.|
|DE||90 Rashard Lawrence (Sr.)||6-3, 317||38.5||10.5||14.5||4||0||3||0|
|97 Glen Logan (Jr.)||6-4, 297||28||4.5||8.5||4||0||1||0|
|93 Justin Thomas (Jr.)||6-5, 268||3||0.5||0.5||0.5||0||0||0|
|92 Neil Farrell (Jr.)||6-5, 295||16.5||4||4.5||1.5||0||1||0|
|47 Nelson Jenkins III (Fr.-RS)||6-4, 305||One tackle in one game appearance. Redshirted.|
In terms of talent and experience, this is probably the best core group LSU’s had in a few years. Lawrence, Fehoko and Logan weren’t flashy in terms of stats, but they set up the linebackers well. And all three flashed the ability to make some one-gap type of plays — something that could be more turned loose if they have some extra pass-rush help from the edge.
Shelvin is in his third year, and the light appeared ready to come on for the former mega-recruit late last year. If he can continue to refine his technique and improve his conditioning, he could really take a step forward this year. Fehoko started at nose tackle, but the defense usually had its best success with Alexander playing a true nose position and Lawrence, Logan and Fehoko rotating around at the end positions.
And even with the transfer of Dominic Livingston, depth at said nose tackle spot should be okay with Ika on hand as an early enrollee freshman. While some had concerns about his weight, he certainly looks the part so far. Carries 360 pounds very well, and has reportedly fared well to date.
And having third-year guys like Farrell and Thomas as backups is nice. Farrell in particular has flashed quickness at times.
Depth isn’t ideal. When it comes to line play, the general idea of depth is always kind of a theory vs. practice deal anyway — if you lose two or three starters for an extended period, that’s a problem for every line. Veteran offensive tackle Jakori Savage has been working on the defensive line this spring, but I suspect that’s just a numbers game for now.
That said, LSU could use Cotton for sure, and will need Thomas to get ready for more snaps next season. True freshman Joseph Evans will also likely have to get in the rotation as well once he arrives.
What’s the goal for this unit in the spring?
Keep folks healthy and continue to progress the younger players. A starting lineup of Lawrence, Fehoko and Logan is pretty good. But if you can develop a full rotation with an optimized Shelvin, Farrell and another body like Ika, Jenkins or Thomas and suddenly LSU is back to having one of the better overall units in the country.