SEC West Wildcard: LSU’s Defensive Line
The LSU Tigers rely on defense to be the focal point of the team under Les Miles.
Since 2008, the year after the Tigers’ National Championship victory, the team’s total defense rankings have improved. In 2008 they finished 32nd in the nation in total defense. This is due in large part to the continuing transition of players from the head coaching change from Nick Saban to Les Miles. However, with the steady improvement, Miles had the Tigers ranked second in total defense in 2011. This 2011 defense had a similar feel to the 2013 defense going into the season with lots of question marks and few returning starters.
LSU lost seven defensive starters to the 2013 NFL Draft, and it returns just a few players with extensive experience for 2013. While the defense is not exactly in shambles, some areas appear to be much worse than others. The area of the most concern is the defensive line.
The Tigers lost each of the team’s top five sack leaders from last year. This is a major concern given the team’s dominance has always started up front in the trenches. Losing all the top five sack leaders is a major concern moving forward as it is not something Miles is used to dealing with.
During this ascent in defensive rankings, LSU has never lost as much on the front line as they did this offseason. In fact, since the end of the 2007 season, Miles has never had to replace more than three of his top five sack leaders and has never had to replace all of the top three of that category. This situation for 2013 is sure to have Miles and all LSU fans worrying how the defensive line will look this season.
Although Miles has done a fantastic job in recruiting during his time at LSU by giving the Tigers plenty of solid players to cycle in to fill the holes, it may not be enough. Miles leads the Tigers into 2013 without the satisfaction of knowing that his defensive line is one of the best in college football.
While the Tigers do have key players coming back for 2013, most of those are in the back seven. The lack of a great defensive line has never been an issue in Baton Rouge. If Miles fails to find solid replacements up front, LSU’s defense could have a very rough year. Without this centerpiece, LSU will end its run as one of the top defenses in college football and may not even finish in the top five of total defense in the SEC.