BATON ROUGE, La. — When the LSU defense takes the field Saturday night for the Tigers’ annual spring game, it will be missing the six most significant contributors from the 2016 season.
Gone are cornerback Tre’Davious White, safety Jamal Adams, linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley and defensive lineman Davon Godchaux as they await selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Also missing is pass-rushing specialist Arden Key, who left the program this spring for personal reasons but is returning for the upcoming season. And if you were to lump nickelback Dwayne Thomas in with the aforementioned six players as a significant and difficult-to-replace contributor, it would not be a stretch.
The real story of how those players are replaced will be told this fall. But from a spring game perspective, things figure to be much more interesting than usual as LSU fans are introduced to a new crop of players.
A very familiar face is returning in the form of senior Christian LaCouture, who missed last season with a knee injury. However, it still isn’t clear how much, if any, action he’ll see in the spring game.
There are other veteran presences like Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron in the mix, but from a fan perspective it might be interesting to see more of sophomores Ed Alexander and Rashard Lawrence as well as redshirt freshman Glen Logan. Justin Thomas, an early enrollee defensive end, will also be showing what he can bring to the table.
Of course, D-line play in the spring game should also be taken with a grain of salt. LSU is thin on the offensive line with Toby Weathersby and Will Clapp sitting out on top of Andy Dodd’s transfer to McNeese State.
Attrition has hit this position in a big way this spring.
Sci Martin has been out since LSU’s first scrimmage, and Isaiah Washington is sitting out as he gets his schoolwork in order. Ray Thornton is the most intriguing man left standing in the spot Key normally occupies. On the other side, Corey Thompson is back in action after missing last season with a knee injury. Thompson converted from safety when the Tigers went to a 3-4 under Dave Aranda.
This is the winner of the spring game superlative for “Most likely to be filled by walk-ons.”
The top two inside linebackers are Devin White and Michael Divinity, the latter of whom moved over from the outside due to a lack of depth this spring. Layton Garnett, a walk-on from West Monroe, is one player who might have fans asking “Who’s that guy?” in a very positive way. He’ll be joined by a host of other guys looking for their chance with Donnie Alexander sidelined.
Kevin Toliver will be eager to show he’s frontline corner after injuries and ineffectiveness torpedoed his sophomore season. Savion Smith has also had a good spring and will be in that mix to be LSU’s No. 2 man behind Donte Jackson.
Safety is a particularly interesting spot to watch. Early enrollees JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit have seen time with the No. 1 defense, though Ed Paris and John Battle remain in front of them on the depth chart.
The Tigers will probably deploy a nickel package frequently. Both Xavier Lewis and and Kristian Fulton should see time at that spot.