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DandyDon.com Q&A with Mike Detillier on LSU Spring Football 2019, Part 2: Defense
Posted 4/14/18 - Continued from Part 1
Scott: After the first couple of series, the defense seemed to have the upper hand in the scrimmage, and that’s encouraging considering that five potential starters were out. What’s your general outlook for the 2019 Tiger defense? Better, worse, or the same as 2018?
Mike: This team has more depth in the secondary than a year ago. And you are right because they did it without K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacob Phillips, Rashard Lawrence and Kristian Fulton.
I really like what I saw defensively in the coverage part of the game vs. some really talented receivers and the better push inside. Mike Divinity was awesome at inside linebacker along with the two freshmen players who played like upperclassmen. With a healthy K’Lavon Chaisson they have a chance to be better than a year ago and also better depth and more experience in the secondary.
They didn’t have a great pass rush a year ago, Chaisson could solve that issue and you also have an improved Mike Divinity too as a pass rusher outside.
Scott: Obviously, the two standout freshmen you’re referring to are Apu Ika and Derek Stingley. Let’s start with Ika. Just how big of a boost will he be to the D-line, and what would it mean to be able to use him and Tyler Shelvin at the nose position while allowing Breiden Fehoko to be used exclusively at end?
Mike: Whoa! It’s rare to see a big man match-up well as a true freshman. Apu pushed that inside pocket well, but for a big man he runs the field well. He’s 350 pounds and you can maybe get another 10 to 12 pounds off of him and he’s man inside in tying up blockers, but what jumped out to me was his skillset to get hard inside pressure and cause havoc.
Scott: Ika recorded two sacks in the game and had three tackles for loss. Talk a little about the advantage that comes from being able to generate a pass rush from interior linemen.
Mike: Look what Quinnen Williams did for the Alabama defense. He wasn’t good he was dominant at nose guard. Look where Clemson generates so much trouble – right up the middle – the past couple of seasons. I like what I saw from Tyler Shelvin also. He’s gotten his weight down, he’s in better condition, but he’s also much better as a technician. Ika and Shelvin give you quite a tandem inside. But Ika just being a freshman and doing some of things he has done is rare.
Scott: Alright, on to Stingley. I only recall seeing him in coverage on two pass attempts, but he sure did look good. Do you feel like all the hype surrounding him is justified, or should folks temper their expectations of just how impactful a true freshman can be?
Mike: He’s special. Stingley finds the ball in flight quickly, but you saw on a play he sort of edged that receiver to the chalk and used the sideline to his advantage. You sometimes don’t see that in an experienced player.
Look he will get burned some and he will get beat, but he’s mentally tough and he will make that QB pay the price for picking on him. Opposing teams will go after him early in the year and test his mettle as a player, but he sure looks a lot like Patrick Peterson.
Tremendous athlete and he plays the ball like a receiver. Not to mention helps out as a punt returner. Teams will pick on him, that’s what opposing teams do to freshman players, but he’s also going to make a lot of big plays. We saw early on last season teams went after Kristian Fulton and he had a little football rust on him, but later on in the year, he made them pay the price for going after him and I thought Fulton had a real strong season in 2018.
Scott: It’s too bad there’s no such things as live punt returns in spring games – although I completely understand why there is not – because that’s where I think Stingley could have the most immediate impact. You think he’s up for the challenge from the get-go? And if not him, who?
Mike: He’s ready and he can flat out fly on the field. He has running vision and “make you miss” skills few have. Stingley is the guy as a punt returner.
Scott: LSU has some big shoes to fill at the linebacker spot occupied by Devin White. Who do you think steps into his role, and what do you think of the linebacker unit as a whole?
Mike: Jacob Phillips is an All-SEC player when he is healthy. Michael Divinity is a special player and I think LSU will use him inside on 1st and 2nd down and then move him to the edge on obvious 3rd down passing plays, but he’s versatile and we know Dave Aranda likes that part of his game.
Healthy K’Lavon Chaisson is a star player and one of the best edge rushers in college football. I like the improvement I see from Andre Anthony. He has a set of moves and countermoves to get around blockers better coming off the edge.
With Patrick Queen, Micah Baskerville and Damone Clark, who Aranda has praised waiting in the wings, that’s impressive. Ray Thornton is also a player you get the feeling they will move around a little defensively.
Healthy, that’s a really good unit despite Devin moving on to the pros. And you’ve got a very talented linebacker in Donte Starks coming in and a big thumper inside in Kendall McCallum-both freshmen.
Scott: We sometimes forget that five-star outside linebacker/safety Marcel Brooks will be coming in this fall and is almost as highly rated a prospect as Stingley. Do you look for him to make an immediate impact? And what about other incoming freshmen defenders like DL Joseph Evans and athlete Maurice Hampton?
Mike: The coaching staff believes that Marcel Brooks will play the Grant Delpit safety spot. He’s built along the same lines of Delpit coming out of college and he can run and fast. It’s finding the spot.
If Hampton plays football they like what he brings to the table as a slot cover cornerback. Kary Vincent has that spot today, but Maurice could well see some playing time. It’s not a question of talent, but mentally knowing what to do on each and every play. Not just every once in a while. But if he plays college football, Hampton has a chance to be an impact player.
Joseph probably has the toughest battle to see playing time. You are going up against grown young men in college football and you can’t beat them just on power and speed. The technique part of the game comes to you at different times for D-Linemen.
I’ve got a college coaching pal of mine who insists to me that Raydarious Jones will come in and WOW the LSU coaches as a true freshman. He tried to get Jones and told me now for quite some time he really believes that Jones is a big-time player who will see time early.
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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