LSU Football: 5 Players Most Important to Rebuilding Tigers' Defense
Quick! Name one team in college football that is losing more talent on the defensive side of the football than the Tigers?
I didn't think so...
LSU is going to face a tough task in 2013 as the Tigers are preparing to replace seven of 11 starters on defense. Gone is All-American safety Eric Reid. Gone is the dominant two-headed monster at defensive end, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Gone is one of the nation's best middle linebackers in Kevin Minter. The list goes on and on.
So now we ask, who are we going to replace these departed LSU defensive stars with?
Let's go ahead and take a look at five players who will be important to rebuilding this LSU defense in 2013.
Bleacher Report Style!
Photo courtesy of Media.247sports.com
One staple in LSU's dominant defense over the past couple of years has been their exceptional pass-rushing defensive ends.
Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are both expected to be first round NFL Draft picks this season, and both will be tough to replace on this LSU defense.
One of the young, talented defensive ends expected to vie for a starting spot in 2013 is 6-foot-5, 235 pound Danielle Hunter.
Hunter has an NFL ready body and has received plenty of praise for his play on LSU's scout team this past season.
With Montgomery and Mingo moving onto the NFL, the Tigers need someone to step up and fill that pass rush void.
Hunter looks to be just the guy to do so.
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Craig Loston had a breakout year this season, and with the departure of his running mate, safety Eric Reid, even more will be expected of Loston in 2013.
Loston was a mega-recruit coming out of high school in 2009, but he struggled with injuries and never seemed to live up to the hype during his first three years on campus.
However that all changed this past season when the hard-hitting safety got his shot to shine in LSU's talented defensive backfield.
Loston will be a senior next year, making him the oldest and most experienced member of this LSU secondary.
The Tigers have had a recent run with producing exceptional defensive backs—Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid, to name a few.
Next season, look for Loston to add his name to that list.
Photo courtesy of scout.com
It is unclear at this point how the void at middle linebacker will be filled with the graduation of Kevin Minter.
However, if I had to make a guess at this point, I think that redshirt freshman Ronnie Fiest could very well be the starting middle linebacker for this LSU football team heading into next season.
Fiest was a big recruit out of high school, and he has the skill and physicality to excel at the middle linebacker spot at the next level.
If Feist doesn't win the job, my guess is that LSU moves Lamin Barrow over to the middle linebacker spot, but either way, Feist will be on the field in 2013, and he is an important part to LSU's rebuilding effort on the defensive side of the football.
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In all honesty, Anthony Johnson probably should have been a starter this past season, but Miles and the LSU coaching staff elected to go with senior Josh Downs.
With Downs now graduating, this will be Johnson's starting spot, and he has the necessary talent to really excel in this role.
Johnson is a big boy standing at 6-foot-3, 305 pounds. But don't let his size fool you, this kid can move and is active on the interior of that LSU defensive line.
Johnson was a mega-recruit for LSU in 2010, and he should live up to those lofty expectations in 2013. He will be looked at as a central rebuilding piece on the LSU defensive line next season.
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As mentioned earlier in this article, LSU is going to be faced with the challenge of replacing two exceptional defensive ends in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, both of whom are expected to be first round selections in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
While Danielle Hunter is the new guy in town expected to take on of those spots, Jermauria Rasco is the veteran of the group, who has patiently been waiting his turn.
Rasco will enter his junior year in 2013 and is expected to be a starter on this defensive line. He was another local recruit who had a lot of hype when he arrived in Baton Rouge.
Rasco finished the 2012 season with 10 tackles in a reserve role. Look for that number to skyrocket next season.