After several years of producing high-profile talent, the 2014 LSU defensive line finds itself scraping the bottom of the barrel for experienced players.
The entirety of the Tigers’ defensive line totals just 24 career starts heading into its season opener against Wisconsin on Aug. 30 — 13 from senior defensive end Jermauria Rasco and ten from junior Danielle Hunter. By comparison, the Badgers’ projected offensive line has 74 starts between them.
“They’re young, but young defensive lines have come through here in the past,” said senior center Elliot Porter. “The thing is, we had experience issues last year with [former defensive end Anthony Johnson] and Ego [Ferguson] and they ended up turning out well.”
Freshman defensive tackle Frank Herron said the unit takes it personal that people have concerns about their experience, but sophomore defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, who recorded 11 tackles in 13 games last season, said they’re trying not to focus on things like that.
Along with Hunter and Rasco, junior defensive tackle Quentin Thomas is the only other LSU defensive lineman to register a start last season and has the most experience of any of the tackles. But a torn bicep during camp was originally reported to keep him on the sidelines for the entire season.
At LSU Media Day, LSU coach Les Miles named Herron the starter in Thomas’ absence, but Thomas returned to the field last week and had “full range of motion” in the team’s scrimmage on Aug. 19, according to Miles. Miles did not say if Thomas would be ready to play by Wisconsin.
“We’ve got several guys that could be the next guy and they’ll have to get ready to play,” said LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. “It’s unfortunate for Quentin, I really feel for him, but we can’t look back. We have to move forward.”
Chavis listed freshman Maquedius Bain and sophomore Lewis Neal along with Herron as the leading candidates to take over starting duties for Thomas.
“[Herron] is a young guy who hasn’t taken a snap at LSU but he’s very talented along with several other guys,” Chavis said. “We’re going to grow them up in a hurry. It’s something we’ve done before and something you have to be prepared for, and we are.”
On the edge, LSU returns Hunter and Rasco who have some of the highest expectations on the defense this season after combining for seven sacks and 113 tackles, including 14.5 for loss, in 2013.
Hunter said he could feel the pressure building to fill the shoes of past LSU defensive ends but is ready to keep the tradition alive of strong play at the position.
“Those guys are mature and they’re proven veterans,” Chavis said. “We’re excited about where [Hunter] is, and those two guys together give us a good pair of ends, no question about that. It’s always exciting when you have guys on the edge that have already proven they can play at this level.”