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DandyDon.com Q&A with Mike Detillier Part 2: A focus on defense with NFL Draft Projections, Early Departures, Greedy Williams’ Decision, and more
Posted 12/7/18, continued from Part 1
Scott: Before we move on to the defense, I heard you say something on a recent radio show about how the team handled the distractions, suspensions, and departures of the summer and was able to overcome all of that. Your thoughts on that?
Mike: We all have distractions in life. It’s how you handle distractions, tough times and good times too. Coach Orgeron and his staff did a good job handling the suspensions and the off the field issues with Drake Davis, Ed Ingram and Tyler Taylor. And then two QBs left the program in Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse.
You have to deal in the present and work with who you have. No one wants to hear excuses. This is a performance-based profession and that’s how you are judged. For many folks, when bad things happen there is an excuse for it, but they are the first to say I don’t want to hear an excuse if it happens to someone else or their sports team.
Coach O and company did a good job handling it, but give a whole lot of credit to those young men who played and the leaders on the team like Foster Moreau, Devin White, Greedy Williams, Garrett Brumfield, Grant Delpit, Rashard Lawrence and others. They refused to let events they had nothing to do with take their season away.
Players control the locker room, not the coaches. Those young men did a good job handling things out of their control and took hold of what they could control. Leaders, you can’t manufacture that in life, business or sports.
Scott: Now let’s get your thoughts on potential early departures on defense. It seems all but certain that Devin White and Greedy Williams will be going pro. What about guys like Rashard Lawrence, Breiden Fehoko, Ed Alexander and Kristian Fulton (and any others I might be overlooking)?
Mike: Kristian would be the highest graded of those other than White and Greedy. Fulton had surgery on his ankle recently and that’s a two- to three-month recovery. I would give him a third-round grade, but he played lights out after the first few games. He knocked a little of the football rust off and was really very good before he got hurt. If he comes back, he could be a first-round pick. He’s that talented.
Breiden is also coming off an injury and would be a middle-round pick. I think he returns to LSU. Rashard Lawrence is graded a bit higher, but would not be a pick in the first two rounds. Great leader, super tough guy, all-out competitor, and he is terrific in run support. I hope he returns. He means a lot to this defense.
Ed Alexander battled lower leg injuries all year. He’s a heck of a player inside. Another year could really catapult his draft stock. He’s a space eater inside and he occupies multiple blockers and he makes plays getting off those blocks. Greedy and White will be top-15 picks in Round One and you just don’t really know the full answer on a prospect and why he turns pro until he tells you. I know Coach Orgeron has spoken to the players and gave them his thoughts, and if you are going to be an early round pick no one can blame you for coming out early. So for Greedy and eventually White, the decision to declare early is an easy one.
And really some guys don’t care where they get picked they just want to play pro football and help their families.
Scott: And on a related note, what do you make of Greedy’s decision to sit out the bowl game?
Mike: Not critical of it. I understand why he made the choice not to play. Some will be critical of it and so be it. But it’s Greedy’s choice and it is what is happening today. That’s a lot of money to put on the line. Remember the injury to Notre Dame’s Jalon Smith? God Bless him, he was able to overcome the severity of the injury, but it almost cost him his pro career and it cost him millions of dollars on where he would have been picked and where he was picked. He too was a projected first-round pick heading into the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. You have to do what is best for you. Coaches leave teams after great seasons and get paid a ton and they don’t coach their teams in the bowl game. But let a player do it and folks are in an uproar about it. It’s always going to be a mixed bag for players. Some will play and some will not. The dynamics of a team changes after the last game and that is part of it, like it or not.
Greedy made the right choice for him and his family. If you are a business major in college on scholarship and some company offers you millions to give up your last year of college to work for their company. Ninety-nine percent of people would jump at that opportunity. Same thing in sports.
Scott: Heading into each of the last two seasons, you’ve said LSU’s secondary was your biggest area of concern. How do you think the unit did this year and what’s your early outlook on next year’s secondary?
Mike: Thankfully the NCAA let Kristian Fulton play and for a while Greedy and Fulton was as good a combo as you saw in college football. If Fulton is on the field versus Texas A&M, the Tigers win.
Grant was fantastic and a game-changer. I wrote that Coach O compared him to how they used Troy Polamalu when Orgeron had him at USC. That is something special, and Grant is that special.
Kelvin Joseph had hamstring issues and it hurt his overall growth as a cover cornerback and probably derailed the idea of using him as a kickoff return guy also. He struggled with the size of the A&M receivers, but he made strides as a cover man.
I think in time Kary Vincent will turn out to be a good cover cornerback. John Battle was a good player when he was healthy at safety.
It’s finding the right spot for JaCoby Stevens. He is aggressive and talented. It’s finding the right fit for him. Getting Fulton back on the team made such a big difference and well Greedy was Greedy on the field. But Grant Delpit turned out to be such a playmaker in the secondary. He’s turned out to be special.
With the rules today, playing in the secondary is not easy. You are going to get beat. But this is a tough group and mentally tough. I didn’t like them not making a play late versus A&M, but they played better than I thought they would and a lot of that was about Fulton and Delpit.
Scott: As for the defensive line, it should be really stout if everyone returns, but that might be wishful thinking. How would you rate the development of guys like Tyler Shelvin, Dominic Livingston, Neil Farrell, Glen Logan and others who could be counted on for even bigger roles next season?
Mike: Shelvin got his weight down and played well down the stretch. It wasn’t a question of talent, but he had to lose some of the weight and it helped his stamina and improved his quickness. He’s a player.
Logan was someone Coach O and Dave Aranda talked highly of before the season and Glen played very well. He’s stout in run defense and he gets a good push as a pass rusher.
Farrell made great strides and I like him a lot as a player. He’s learned how to use his arms and hands better to disengage from a potential blocker and he developed better leverage skills.
Dominic is another huge man inside. He’s your classic run stuffer and someone who can tie up multiple blockers. He has to watch his weight because it does affect his conditioning, but he’s very quick off the snap and he is a power-packed player.
Would be super to get Lawrence, Fehoko and Alexander back also. But it’s an area LSU has to close strong with in recruiting this year.
Scott: I don’t think enough has been said about how badly LSU missed K’Lavon Chaisson this year. Your thoughts on that and what will it mean for the Tigers to have him back?
Mike: He’s special. There’s no one like him on this team and you could count on one hand people with his skill set in college football. K’Lavon is a rare talent as a pass rusher. His speed, quickness, leverage ability and closing speed is unmatched on this team and few and I mean very few can match his pass rush skills in the college game. I know former NFL QB Jake Delhomme watching him in practice told me he was the closest athletic talent as a pass rusher he has seen since he played with Julius Peppers. Chaisson is someone who keeps you up at night if you are an offensive coordinator in having to deal with him. He’s a difference-maker on defense and you never have enough of those guys. And top edge pass rushers are getting harder and harder to find. Getting him back in 2019 will really aid the Tiger defense.
Scott: Of course we can’t talk about LSU’s defense and not discuss the awesome year Devin White had. You see any candidates for filling his mighty large shoes?
Mike: My goodness, what a talent. He’s the best linebacker I have ever seen at LSU. His speed and quickness are off the charts and he became such an instinctive player. And he can cover too. As a coach, you don’t get many Devin White’s come your way.
Jacob Phillips has a chance to be a top player also. Goodness, he played very well this season. He’s big and physical and like White he can drop in coverage. He’s got All-SEC talent.
Three very interesting prospects to fill Devin’s shoes: Patrick Queen is a tremendous athlete who can run the field like a deer and he has great range. He’s not a huge guy, but like Debo Jones and Duke Riley he can run and get to the ballcarrier in a flash.
Micah Baskerville looks like a younger version of Kwon Alexander. He can run the field extremely well, he’s physical and he is a good openfield tackler. Micah needs to physically get stronger, but he has good leverage skills and knows how to get around bigger players.
Damone Clark is another top athlete. He runs the field well, he’s physical and he understands what is breaking down in front of him. The coaching staff raves about him.
It’s tough to compare anyone to Devin, but there is some really good talent to man that spot.
Let me say, too, what a terrific season Michael Divinity had. He really came on strong at outside linebacker and I think he has a chance to be extra special next season. He has some good pass rush moves and countermoves and he can run the field like a much small player. He flashed some very good pass rush skills.
Scott: Before moving on to special teams, give me your general thoughts on Year 3 of Dave Aranda’s defense.
Mike: They didn’t get the pass rush I think Dave thought he would get. Part of that was losing Chaisson, but that was the most disappointing part of the season on defense. Everyone will point to the play of the defense and especially the secondary vs. Texas A&M, but overall it was the lack of a good pass rush that was disappointing. That next man up theory doesn’t work when you lose someone like Chaisson. In today’s football world where you throw the ball so much that pass rush is critical.
The other part is the Tigers didn’t stop the run well. That was very surprising to me. Trayveon Williams for Texas A&M rushed for 198 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per rush vs. LSU. Alabama rushed for 281 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per rush vs. LSU. Damien Harris rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries. Florida rushed for 215 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per rush. Perine and Scarlett combined for 150 yards rushing on 31 carries. LSU did a very good job and at times a great job slowing down Jake Fromm in the Georgia game passing the ball, but Swift rushed for an average of 6 yards a carry and Holyfield averaged 8.0 yards per carry. They rushed the ball for 128 yards on 19 carries.
On the flip side, the Miami Hurricanes averaged 2.4 yards per rush vs. LSU, Auburn averaged 3.4 yards per rush and Mississippi State had 260 yards total offense vs. LSU and 201 of those yards were on 37 rushing attempts.
I know the rushing yardage upsets Coach O the most because he is a former D-Line coach and he puts such importance on stopping the run.
So it was a mixed bag of really good play, but also the pass rush they wanted didn’t come to life and in big games they gave up yardage versus the run they normally didn’t give up.
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.
This web site is not officially affiliated with Louisiana State University. Opinions expressed herein are the property of Donald Long, Scott Long and friends, not Louisiana State University.