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Q&A with Mike Detillier on Thompson’s injury, linebackers who could step up, and more on the D-line
Scott: Well, I thought we would move on to the offense in today’s continuation of our Q&A, but unfortunately there’s yet another defensive injury to discuss first. As you know, linebacker Corey Thompson suffered a leg injury that sounds pretty serious. So, that makes three defenders injured in as many days, two of whom are linebackers (Thompson and Isaiah Washington) and two of whom were projected starters (Thompson and Christian LaCouture). If Thompson is out for early season action, as it appears he will be, how big of a deal is this and who do you foresee stepping up?
Mike: Corey Thompson was really shaping up at outside linebacker. What Dave Aranda liked about him was his speed and his ability to match-up versus tight ends or backs downfield. He had a lot of experience in the coverage part of the game. And, like the D-Line spot, there’s little experienced depth. If (and that’s a big if) Tashawn Bower is healthy, he would seem to be Corey’s replacement. But he has missed time with an injury too. It gives a lot of work again to the young freshmen in Michael Divinity who has great speed and range. He can rush the quarterback, but how well he develops his coverage skills early would be a factor. Rahssan Thornton is a really good-looking athlete and he will get extra work, but like Mike he is a true freshman. He’s strong and fast, but his game in high school was all about getting up the field and into the backfield and not so much in the coverage part of the game.
Like I said yesterday, the Football Gods sorta chip away injury-wise at a spot and for LSU it is the front seven. Thompson’s loss hurts this defense early, no question about it. So, the young men have to earn their football spurs early.
Scott: And what about Sci Martin? I hear he’s getting rave reviews.
Mike: Sci Martin was my 16th rated player in Louisiana last season. He would have been a more highly rated player, but he wasn’t for two reasons. Entering his senior season, Sci was rail thin and there was some concern about his academic eligibility. Then he blew up last season at McDonough 35 with over 30 quarterback sacks. He has a unique skill set to rush the quarterback. He’s lightning quick with his initial step toward the backfield. He also finds the ball fast. Once everything was clear on academics, LSU and Alabama put the full-court press after he committed to TCU. Coach O raved about his pass rush potential. Now, he has added over 25 pounds of muscle and can fly up the field. The one thing that jumps out, other than his speed, is that he knows how to use his arms and hands to get around blockers. Now stronger, that element will get even better. His size, skill set, and ability to get up the field reminds me of Tim Williams (Alabama) when he came out of University Lab.
You have to stop the run first and foremost in college or even pro football and the second thing you need defensively is someone or multiple folks to influence the quarterback’s throw. Pressure breaks the pipe. Martin is a pipe-breaker and watch Aranda get him and Arden Key on the field during obvious passing plays.
Scott: One more question on the defensive line rotation, which we discussed yesterday. With Valentine having reported to practice and photographed, and with players talking in interviews, is there any change on what you thought about Neal, Godchaux and Herron being the front three? Options for how the line shapes up is what everyone is talking about the last two days.
Mike: Good question, Scott. We went though some options yesterday and it came down to two scenarios with experience for me. My first thought was Neal, Godchaux at noseguard and Frank Herron. Makes sense. I know they love what Godchaux can bring on the nose. Another option is Neal, Greg Gilmore at nose and Godchaux being moved over. Nothing’s set in stone at this point. Gilmore got time in the spring and looked good, so moving Godchaux to defensive end makes sense early on also. So, you would have Neal, Gilmore and Godchaux, a group that had experience working together in the spring. Gilmore has been more potential than production, but we discussed this in an earlier post – this is his chance in 2016, like what happened to Al Woods. Gilmore now has to take the reins and go with it. With that said, bet the bank they will have defensive concepts with Davon Godchaux on the nose. They saw in the spring the havoc he can cause inside over the center. Gilmore is not a pass rush threat like Godchaux is. That will vary from game to game based on who they face at quarterback, but the quickest spot to influence a quarterback is right up the middle and Godchaux can give you that.
I think it will boil down to experience. Coach O has liked what he has seen from Gilmore, so he’ll probably get the first shot. Frank Herron should be the key reserve off the edge in that alignment. Also, he worked all spring with the concepts and terminology Dave Aranda put in. But he will get some heat from the freshmen. Rashard Lawrence, Ed Alexander and Glen Logan have a shot here to see time as reserves and Coach O has always wanted to rotate eight defensive linemen in the lineup. He wants fresh pass rushers for late in the game to influence the quarterback. It is what he coached at Miami (Fla.), USC, Ole Miss and Tennessee. He just didn’t have that luxury of talent last year.
Lets see what happens with Travonté Valentine. As I said, he could be an exciting difference-maker. They will give him and the freshmen a long look. Remember this is Dave Aranda’s defense and he will show you a lot more looks than in the past and also with different personnel groups.
Scott: Now let’s move on to the offensive side of the ball, where there’s also a lot to be excited about, but also reason for concern because of injuries….
To be continued...
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier’s NFL Draft Report. He’s also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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