Coach Les Miles and his LSU Tigers will open the 2012 college football season on September 1 as they face the North Texas Mean Green. In what should be a controlled scrimmage, the Tigers will rest starters in the second half as they prepare for a huge non-conference battle on September 8, as the Washington Huskies make the trip to Death Valley.
LSU finished the 2011 season ranked second in total defense, only behind BCS Champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Defensive Coordinator, John Chavis, will return five starters from that highly ranked defense that totally dominated opponents at times last season. Big name players like: Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Tharold Simon, Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu are all back in what will be a stocked defensive line and secondary. Only one starter, Kevin Minter, will return at the linebacker position. A position that LSU will need better production from in 2012 if they want to repeat as Southeastern Conference Champions.
Replacing two starters at linebacker is never easy, but if any team in the country has the depth and talent to do so, it is the LSU Tigers. Kevin Minter will lead a trio of juniors that will include Tahj Jones and Lamin Barrow. Minter finished with 61 tackles in 2011, while Jones and Barrow combined for 44. When you evaluate film and look at the two teams that were most successful moving the football versus the Tigers, both West Virginia and Alabama caused matchup problems by making LSU’s linebackers play in pass coverage. Ryan Baker, Karnell Hatcher and Stefoin Francois are three players, who along with Minter played the majority of snaps in 2011, are all gone. Depth must come from a group of freshman that are already pushing for playing time.
Speed is the name of the game for the Tigers freshman backers. Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis, Ronnie Feist and Lorenzo Phillips are already drawing praise from coaches and other veteran players. These young guys will be counted on to learn quickly and definitely contribute in 2012.
If there is one common theme out of the LSU camp, it is Kevin Minter is the leader and has taken it upon himself to make sure this 2012 group of linebackers dominate opponents, just like the Tiger defensive line and secondary is expected to.