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Good news is here for college football sickos and junkies who’ve suffered in silence since the national championship – Spring ball is around the corner. LSU will take the practice field on March 5, and today’s Spring primer will focus on the defensive line. Brian Kelly completely overhauled his defensive staff after a historically bad defense offset an elite offense in 2023. The new additions will soon get a better idea of what they’re working with.

LSU Spring Practice – Defensive Tackles

Newly minted Defensive Line Coach Bo Davis didn’t catch any breaks regarding personnel retainage, as both Mekhi Wingo and Maason Smith declared themselves eligible for the NFL Draft. It’s not ideal for an 85th-ranked rushing defense to lose its best two defensive tackles. The Tigers will return the 320-pound, run-stuffing Jacobian Guillory for his senior season. Guillory is LSU’s most experienced defensive tackle.

6’3”, 310-pound Jalen Lee is LSU’s only other returning scholarship defensive tackle, but he played sparingly during the 2023 season. Obviously, the Tigers will need more help at such a critical position. They’ll get it from their latest recruiting class in Shone Washington. The former Georgia Bulldog took a detour to junior college in 2023 and is now in his third year of college football. The pressure is on Davis to turn Washington’s size and experience into production.

LSU could get significantly better in fall camp with the arrival of five-star defensive tackle recruit Dominick McKinley. Kelly capitalized on the coaching changes at Texas A&M to flip the top player in Louisiana in 2024’s class. The Tigers also signed New Iberia native De’Myrion Johnson, but he could need time to develop before being ready for SEC play.

Considering the depth LSU has at defensive end, expect natural ends like Paris Shand to get reps inside this Spring to increase depth. The Tiger staff must see who else can play the position and create enough depth to get through Spring practice. The staff will likely further address the position through the transfer portal.

LSU Spring Practice – Defensive Ends

The Tigers’ defensive end group has more experience, production, and potential than the defensive tackles. Rising senior Sai’vion Jones is likely to start at the strong side defensive end position again. Davis will be challenged with molding Jones back to his more disruptive form of 2022. On that note, Bradyn Swinson was LSU’s most consistent pass rusher last season. He’ll also return with the goal of turning quarterback hurries into quarterback sacks.

As mentioned earlier, Shand will return and has the size and potential to help out at defensive tackle. True sophomore Dashawn Womack will carry higher expectations this year. The former blue-chip recruit showed flashes last year but needs to be a key contributor off the edge in 2024. Jaxon Howard is listed as a linebacker but will be a defensive end if Blake Baker brings the same 4-2-5 base defense he used at Mizzou. St. Amant native Dylan Carpenter will look to make an impression on the new staff after redshirting his first year.

LSU will have two early enrollee defensive ends available for Spring practice in north Louisiana natives Gabe Reliford and Ahmad Breaux. Some considered Reliford to be the best prospect in the state in 2024. He was clocked at over 20 mph during his senior season at over 250 pounds. Breaux does not have the hype or freakish measurables of Reliford. He played out of position at nose tackle for a state-champion Ruston team. His mentality to sacrifice stats for team success should be commended.

This defensive end room has an ideal blend of size, speed, youth, and experience. This group can have one of the biggest turnarounds after an underwhelming 2023. To do so, they must get the help they need inside and get back to playing fundamentally sound football.

Perkins Possibilities

Linebacker or not, Harold Perkins has to be in this discussion. One of the biggest questions surrounding the new defensive staff is how they will utilize Perkins. Perkins burst onto the scene as a freshman who couldn’t be blocked with limited playing time. He had similar stats as a sophomore, but most would agree the former defensive staff did not use him in a fashion conducive to reaching his potential. Perkins could have a future as an inside linebacker in the NFL. However, if Baker is not forcing offenses to at least game plan around Perkins as a pass rusher, then he’s giving offenses a break. This Spring will provide the first glimpse of how this staff plans to get the most out of the All-American caliber player.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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