In the spring, sophomore defensive end Rashard Lawrence earned a starting spot on the defensive line.
Now Lawrence has earned the title of being the most consistent player on defense in fall camp according to coach Ed Orgeron.
The former five-star recruit came to LSU as one of the highest ranked member of the 2016 recruiting class, but struggled to find consistent playing time on a talent-laden defensive line that featured four upperclassmen. Lawrence only played in nine games as a freshman, recording 6 tackles and a sack.
With departure of Lewis Neal and Davon Godchaux at the defensive end spots, Lawrence beat out senior Frank Herron to play opposite of returning seniors Greg Gilmore and Christian LaCouture on the defensive line.
A key to his ascension has been consistency and the work Lawrence has put in with defensive line coach Pete Jenkins. Lawrence said that the soon-to-be-76-year-old Jenkins has been showing the defensive line footage from the 1960s.
Lawrence’s improvement under the tutelage of Jenkins has been showing to coach Orgeron both on and off the field.
“He loves Pete,” Orgeron said in his press conference regarding Lawrence. “Pete is a master of technique. Rashard is a very smart guy, a 4.0 grade point average. He studies, he’s learned the technique, he’s learned the blocking schemes.
“Rashard has improved on his pass-rushing skills and he has been the most consistent defensive player we have had all camp. I think it is his smarts and his want-to.”
Lawrence’s improved pass-rushing ability is a plus for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who is now fully installing his defense after running a much more basic version last season. The Tiger defense is also losing its second highest sack producer in defensive end Davon Godchaux. Godchaux started at right end – the spot Lawrence is now occupying – last year, and finished behind sophomore linebacker Arden Key with 6½ sacks last season.
Lawrence’s improvement has also been noticed by Gilmore, who is a fifth senior and one of LSU’s few returning starters from last year’s defense. Gilmore echoed Orgeron’s thoughts about Lawrence’s want-to and intelligence.
“He is one of those guys who came in, he knows the LSU tradition, and he takes it very seriously,” Gilmore said. He has a willingness to get better.”
With Lawrence now in the starting lineup, four of LSU’s top five defensive linemen now weigh over 300 pounds. The added size on the defensive line that only allowed 3.3 yards a carry, provides an even bigger conundrum for offensive coordinators looking to run in between the tackles against LSU.
The 6-foot-3, 300 pound Lawrence has also stepped into a leadership role according to Orgeron.
“Any time we are in a competitive period Rashard is the one cheering on the team,” Orgeron said. “He has great leadership skills. A two-time state champion at Neville, and he was the number one player in the state for a reason.”