BATON ROUGE, La. — There is still hope for LSU defensive tackle Quentin Thomas.
Thomas suffered an injury last week during fall camp that will sideline him for an undisclosed amount of time. Ross Dellenger of The Advocate reported Thomas suffered torn biceps and would be out for the 2014 season. He could be, but head coach Les Miles has not ruled him out.
Nor has Thomas.
"Mentally, I do not feel like I am out for the year," Thomas said. "My confidence was high and is still high. I'm expecting to come back and put up big numbers. I want to be All-SEC, hopefully All-American."
Thomas was projected to be a starter alongside Christian LaCouture at defensive tackle. LSU must rebound quickly as the season opener against Wisconsin is only weeks away. The Badgers are a power-running team led by Heisman hopeful running back Melvin Gordon.
Despite his injury, he feels comfortable with the talent LSU has behind them.
"I have no doubt in my mind they come in and fill in, if not perform better than me," Thomas said.
He might be right.
LSU Sports Information
Redshirt Freshmen Backups
LSU has a multitude of talent at defensive tackle that can play right away. Maquedius Bain, Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore all redshirted last season. The once-prized recruits are ready to prove their worth at the college level.
Overall, defensive coordinator John Chavis is not worried with the unit's youth.
"We're going to be young (at defensive tackle)," Chavis said. "We are getting better every day. I can assure you, it will not be a weakness."
Miles announced Sunday Herron will step in alongside LaCouture for the starting role. Herron emphasized that nothing is set in stone though until the season opener against Wisconsin.
"I don't know if I'm the starter," Herron said. "I know any one of these guys can help our team win."
Defensive line coach Brick Haley and Chavis said the competition is still open.
While Les Miles named Frank Herron the starter, Brick Haley and Chavis suggest the position of D-tackle is still open. #LSU— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) August 10, 2014
Bain and Gilmore will remain the backup duo for now. Bain said he still does not mind coming off the bench, especially with the chemistry he and Gilmore have dating back to their time together at the Under Armour All-American Game.
"He's like a brother to me," Bain said.
Bain's explosiveness has been noticed by his teammates. He has the potential to be the best defensive tackle on the team.
Bain switched his jersey number to No. 90 this offseason. The last two LSU players to wear that jersey were defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Anthony Johnson, both of whom were key pieces to the 2011 SEC Championship defense. But he said he idolizes a player on that defense who played a different position.
"I want to be like a Tyrann Mathieu, but on the D-Line," he sai. "That guy that has a swagger about everything."
Which player has more upside?
LSU's 2014 recruiting class brought in a nice group of defensive tackles.
Travonte Valentine is the biggest defensive tackle on LSU's roster and could be a huge asset in short-yardage situations. But the 6'3'', 325-pound Valentine must first be cleared academically by the NCAA Clearinghouse in order to play.
Miles said they are still monitoring the situation for Valentine's eligibility.
Davon Godchaux, like Herron, has made a move from end to tackle. Godchaux says the transition has had its rough points, but he feels he is ready if called upon.
"Three-technique is a lot more physical. But I am bringing my athleticism from end to tackle, so I feel I can make plays," Godchaux said.
LSU's history of redshirting talented defensive tackles is a tradition under Miles. He might want to do the same with Valentine and Godchaux, but both could hold their own in the SEC if called upon in 2014.
LSU's starting duo of Johnson and Ego Ferguson last season played below expectations, but in their defense, both played extensive snaps. The Tigers' talented group will need to rotate more often this season.
The Tigers must become better pass-rushers. LaCouture stressed the first goal is to slow down the run but that getting to the quarterback will be important as well.
"We are wanting to be multidimensional," LaCouture said. "We have improved since the spring, and that is a great sign for us."
Miles has been working sophomore defensive end Lewis Neal inside to help improve the quickness of the unit. Neal is undersized at 6'1'', 255 pounds, yet can certainly be a threat on 3rd-and-long.
The injury to Thomas is a blow, but it's one that is not insurmountable. The Tigers have enough depth to match up with the likes of Alabama and Auburn.
Herron says the unit feels the pressure and has a point to prove.
"I'm looking forward to showing the world we have the best defensive front in the country. Each one of us are going to play our heart out, and we are not going to leave this field without a win," he said.
LSU's defensive line might not be the best in the country, yet they have the potential to be. Nevertheless, one injury should not derail what should be an improved unit.
LSU is "Defensive Line U" for a reason.