Well, it's that time of year again.
The time of year you get to thinking how your team will shape up this fall under the big lights in the most crucial games of the season.The time when preseason magazines dub the nation's best and worst, and often give very talented teams no respect.
Ah, no respect.
Something the LSU defense has suddenly, after just one year, become accustomed to hearing. The defense which was torched for 50 points, more than(insert gasp) one game. The defense which couldn't stop running backs such as Knowshon Moreno and Glen Coffee, among other backs who took it to LSU's front four.
The secondary couldn't even cover guys like Julio Jones and Percy Harvin. The teams that once feared the smashmouth, nightmarish LSU defense now have yawned at it and thrown a couple of touchdowns against it.
So just what is it going to take to get the bengal tiger D back on track again and out of the Dangerfield quotes?
First is the fact that the tigers have John Chavis at DC. Chavis didn't have much talent to work with at UT, and Eric Berry was the only star player on the Vols defensive front. Chavis is expected and already has brought a new attitude to the LSU D.
An attacking, relentless style that reminds many of the way Pelini's defenses were. We should ALL pay attention to how much improvement Chavis' arrival on the LSU coaching staff makes.
Adding heralded secondary coach Ron Cooper out of USC was a plus also. LSU's secondary is as talented as Cooper has worked with, and coach cooper worked with some very talented secondaries at USC.
In comes Brick Haley, a former defensive line coach from the Chicago Bears, to try and shore up a line that was constantly burned or held back from the quarterback last year. Haley will get a hungry tigers' line ready for action.
So what position shall we start with? How about the line! The tigers have a relatively talented bunch coming back, led by senior Rahim Alem, and tackles Drake Nevis and Charles Alexander, along with under-achieving(so far) Al Woods.
Alem is a speed rushing DE who will always be near the qb.Nevis is an aggressive player, much like a bowling ball at 6'1 300. Charles Alexander adds depth and experience, being the oldest player on the line, and Al Woods is a man-child who, if he plays to his potential, could leave offensive tackles in the dirt.
Defensive end Pep Levingston is an athletic end with lots of strength, and sophomore Sidell Corley is one to watch for this year as well. One who could be making waves is defensive end Chancey Aghayere, a former standout end from Texas.
The tigers might have to rely on guys like Lavar Edwards, Chase Clement, and Cordian Hagans for depth. The freshmen, guys like Josh Downs, Chris Davenport, DE Sam Montgomery, Michael Brockers, JC Transfer Akiem Hicks, and Benny Logan could all be used to some degree and probably will be.
Grade the line?
The tigers have some experienced starters coming back, but if someone gets injured, the backups are thin, and this could hurt the tigers. I give them a B- for good players, but lack of depth.
Let's move right behind these land-movers to the linebacking corps. Perry Riley, Luke Cutrera, Kelvin Sheppard are all guys that will probably start. Look out for hard-hitting sophomore and kickoff teams star Ryan Baker, as well as Kellen Theriot, freshman Kevin Minter, and newly transitioned safety to linebacker Harry Coleman, who should make an impact with his speed and athleticism.
As long as the linebackers can take care of business and stop the run, the rest should take care of itself. The linebackers of the 09 class will have to be counted on for backups, and all haven't played a down.
It will be interesting to see how this goes, but the linebackers should manage. If they don't, well, this could be a similiar situation of LSU's, just like last year. Getting beat. I grade them as a so-so C+. No star at linebacker but a couple of very capable starters in the SEC.
Now we move to the cornerbacks, and things start to look up for the tiger's defense. On one side is potential All-SEC lockdown corner Patrick Peterson. On the other, seniors Jai Eugene or Chris Hawkins.
Look for Ryan St. Julien, Derrick Bryant and Brandon Taylor to make runs at the starting positions opposite Peterson, but expect the seniors Hawkins or Eugene to get the job. The corners are pretty good. Definetely SEC caliber.
The Tigers have a couple of shining spots on D and this is one of them. I give this section of the defense a tad bit of a bonus. I give them an A-. They will be solid. That is all i will say.
Safety. At free safety we have playmaker Chad Jones. The guy can do it all. Sack the quarterback on a free safety blitz, throw a 90 mph fast ball, return punts and cover receivers and swat away balls like it is his job(as it someday will be).
Jones is a strong point on LSU's D and will start for the next 2 seasons at least. Expect Karnell Hatcher to vie for playing time and get some, but not beat out Jones for the job. Stefoin Francois is another big-time player who should compete for PT though he is nursing an injury from the Peach Bowl.
Okay, strong safety.
The most likely candidates are Ron Brooks, a speedy and hard hitting convert from corner, and Danny McCray. But the biggest newcomer to this spot will be signee Craig Loston from Aldine, Texas.
Loston's athletic ability is raw but by mid-season he could be starting at strong safety, and play there the next 2-3 years after, securing the spot to his own. He is that good. Overall, this is the Tiger's second most solid position, but Jones will be making plays all over the field, so I'll give the bayou bengals a good A- mark.
The safety play will be spectacular, in my humble opinion. Wait till the season starts. Ron Cooper is doing wonders with a talented group of DB's in Chavis' scheme.
So, the final word? LSU's defense will have much more confidence this year. No more confused looks to the sideline or the back of player's jerseys. Think faster, stronger, and more reliable. This is what LSU's Defense was always heralded as and is meant to be.
Like fighting bengal tigers on the attack. Expect some good things from the defense as long as the line can stay healthy. Overall I'd give this defense a B+. Aggressive, slightly thin along the line and at linebacking, but excellent in the secondary with talent at every spot.
Get ready for the fear of the LSU defense to return to opponent's heads as they enter raucous Tiger Stadium this fall. As always Geaux Tigers!