Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Michael Brockers; those are just a few former stars who helped establish LSU as one of the most dominant defensive powerhouses in college football.
Now, after losing seven starters from last season to the NFL draft, the Tigers need new players to step up and fill the void.
Starting with the defensive ends, junior Jermauria Rasco and sophmore Danielle Hunter will have to play to their full potential if they are going to put up similar numbers to those of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Mingo and Montgomery registered a combined 12.5 sacks for 70 yards in 2012. Rasco and Hunter barely saw the field. Serving mostly in backup roles for the past few seasons, they combined for only five tackles in 2012.
At cornerback, the Tigers return the services of Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins. Collins recorded 30 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups to earn a spot on the Coaches' All-SEC Team in 2012. Not to be outdone, Mills registered 57 tackles (fourth on the team), two interceptions, and five pass breakups. Mills was named to the 2012 Freshman All-American First Team. While both Mills and Collins had last season to establish themselves as top defensive backs, LSU has plenty of young weapons on the bench to use at their disposal. Freshman Tre'Davious White comes into LSU as one of the top cornerback prospects in the class of 2017. White was a 5-star recruit and the second highest ranked high school corner in the nation.
After the Tigers lost 2012 Butkus Award finalist Kevin Minter, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, senior LB Lamin Barrow is tasked with leading the defense in 2013. Having recorded 104 total tackles in 2012, Barrow begins his senior season on the Butkus award watch list. Senior Tahj Jones will join Barrow at outside linebacker after missing all but one game in 2012 due to an academic issue. Returning sophmores Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones will both push for more time this season after making some noise during their freshman seasons on special teams.
At defensive tackle, the most seasoned player for the Tigers coming into 2013 will be junior Anthony Johnson. Having only started in three games in 2012, Johnson managed 30 tackles and three sacks. Fellow junior Ego Ferguson will most likely join Johnson in the trenches. Ferguson is the only other experienced tackle on the roster, despite never starting a game. He appeared in 13 games last season and recorded 14 tackles. He and Anthony Johnson will be expected to complement Rasco and Hunter.
At safety, senior Craig Loston returns to lead the LSU secondary after recording 55 tackles and three interceptions last season. The Associated Press named him to the All-SEC Second Team in 2012. Joining Loston at Safety will most likely be redshirt sophomore Michael Eugene. In his redshirt freshman Season, Eugene recorded 29 tackles and three and a half sacks, despite not starting in a single game.
Coming Thursday: Offensive Breakdown