The Tigers' defense had a rough start to last season, claiming to be "DBU" and then giving up over 400 passing yards in week two against Texas.
However, as the season progressed, the defense gradually returned to its former glory as one of the most feared units in the nation - holding Texas A&M under 200 yards of total offense, dominating Jake Fromm in the SEC Championship, containing Jalen Hurts to less than 50 rushing yards and pressuring Trevor Lawrence into throwing under 50% in the National Championship.
The only thing that could dominate the Tigers and send them packing? COVID-19.
However, as long as college football makes its scheduled premiere, this year will be no different from many of the past. The defense is regrouping following multiple starters leaving for the NFL Draft, vacating positions and leadership roles. It will also be a year to see what new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini can do to continue to revitalize the once feared defensive schemes of the Bayou Bengals.
The defensive scheme set by Dave Aranda had three defensive linemen and four linebackers. The departure of Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko are heavy hits for the unit but hope is still left. Nose tackle Tyler Shelvin will make his return, assuming Pelini doesn’t switch back to his four linemen and three linebackers scheme that he ran from 2005-2007. Glen Logan, Neil Farrell Jr. and Siaki Ika will join Shelvin, all with experience in backing up powerhouses like Lawrence and Fehoko. The line will have depth across the board and talented veterans to lead the defense back to the prestige it had at the end of last season.
With the possibility of Pelini’s new scheme impacting the set up of the front seven, the exit of all four starting linebackers might be a relatively good thing. Devonta Lee and Marcel Brooks have switched to the linebacker position as depth was an issue before spring practices. Brooks comes undersized as he was previously a safety. Lee moves over from the wide receivers group, being more versatile on the other side of the ball, according to Orgeron. Damone Clark produced throughout last season behind Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips and should be ready to lead the linebacking core. Alongside him should be new All-American graduate transfer Jabril Cox. Cox was considered to be the top recruit in the transfer portal for the 2020 season and should be Clark's right-hand man as an experienced starter.
On the outside, depth and possibility await for a slightly less experienced staff. Andre Anthony, the fill-in for Michael Divinity Jr. during his suspension last year, should be a viable starter with pass-rushing and run-stuffing capabilities. Brooks might steal the spot from Anthony, however, if Pelini chooses to go the route of former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and use Brooks as a stand-up pass rusher. Either way, who steps up is sure to be the most interesting part of the defense once practices resume.
The exit of Kristian Fulton brings with it the second season of Derek Stingley Jr.’s dominance as the nation’s best cornerback. Alongside him will be a mixture of freshmen Codale Flott and Jay Ward with five-star recruit Elias Ricks, if he returns to peak talent after his shoulder surgery. With some depth in returning freshman Raydarious Jones, the real "DBU” has a young group that could cause problems in the beginning of the season. This young group, however, will have help from Stingley, who should show the newcomers what the difference between average and great is.
Senior Jacoby Stevens will pick up the role as “quarterback” of the defense following the departure of Grant Delpit. Stevens will be assisted by fellow senior Kary Vincent Jr. and sophomore Maurice Hampton Jr. Both are experienced at different portions of the field: Vincent Jr. as LSU's man at nickelback while Hampton Jr. stepped into Delpit's vacant safety spot while he was injured. Although Hampton isn't participating in spring practices because of his prowess on the baseball field, his presence is vital for the future of the Tigers' secondary. Lastly, the long-awaited return of junior Todd Harris Jr. brings in another well-established veteran for the Bayou Bengals. Pelini will have assistance with experience as he molds this fresh defense into what's expected of a powerhouse SEC school. Let it be known, the secondary will not be the cause for concern in the new team's defensive schemes.