The LSU football team’s defensive line is different from the last season’s front line — the No. 1 defense in the Southeastern Conference.
Sophomore defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and junior DT Christian LaCouture are slated to return as starters at the tackle positions for the second-straight season, while junior defensive ends Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal man the edges.
Bower and Neal are tasked with replacing Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. Hunter, who skipped his senior season to enter the NFL draft, and Rasco combined for 144 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks during the 2014 campaign.
Although the defensive line has just 23 career starts among them, Bower said a lack of experience isn’t a problem. Every starting defensive lineman has played in at least 19 games in his career, and LSU coach Les Miles said there is no lack of talent at the position.
“The interior guys are tough to block. LaCouture and Godchaux are horses,” Miles said. “Our guys want in that backfield. There’s an immediate pass rush that’s taking place.”
But a personnel change isn’t the only new part of LSU’s defensive line.
The Tigers underwent a schematic change over the offseason after Miles hired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and eccentric defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to replace John Chavis and Brick Haley.
Bower said the new names brought a new culture to help the defensive line — and the entire defense in general — improve on last year’s defensive rating.
“We emphasize effort, tackling and turnovers,” Steele said. “If you do those three things, you’re going have a chance. We emphasize it every day. We start the meeting with it every day. We have a video with the turnovers from the day before. We’re teaching a turnover circuit every day in practice that teaches different elements of turnovers.”
Godchaux, who recorded 42 tackles during his freshman season, echoed Bower’s statement and said the Tiger defensive line will have a breakthrough season after its sack numbers decreased each of the last three seasons, from 39 in 2011 to 19 last season.
The Tigers have a talented depth on the line, which will help them have fresh legs on the field at all times.
Miles said sophomore defensive tackles Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron will be key cogs in the trenches off the bench, and he lauded freshman defensive ends Arden Key and Isaiah Washington’s talents, saying the pair will “stay in a close-to-the-field position” on gameday to frequently relieve Bower and Neal.
“[Arden] is going to make a great impact, he just has to keep coming along,” Bower said. “He’s doing so well learning the playbook and really learning how to do well at his position in college. Same thing with Isaiah Washington. We have a lot of guys who are stepping up and are going to be on that sideline role just like Arden.”
Godchaux said bringing the LSU defensive line back to prominence is a large order, but he is looking forward to it.
“A lot of people have been saying DBU — we have great DBs and we have great linebackers — but our defensive line is the core,” Bower said. “We are going to have that mentality that the defensive line is where it all starts and that’s what people are going to talk about first.”