The LSU Tigers lost nine players to the NFL this offseason, more than any other program in college football. That will lead to a lot of turnover in Baton Rouge in 2014 and a lot of young players getting pushed into the starting lineup ahead of schedule. That will be especially troubling on the defensive side of the ball if those young players don’t prove quite ready for the challenge of the vaunted SEC West. That will put the pressure on senior linebacker D.J. Welter to hold it all together in the middle of the Tiger defense next season.
Welter has flown a bit under the radar during his time at LSU thanks in part to the highly touted recruiting classes that Les Miles brings in year in and year out. But despite the more hyped players around him, Welter started all 13 games last season as the mike backer and finished second on the team with 80 tackles, including four tackles for loss and two sacks. He is a consistent presence at the focal point of the LSU defense whose leadership will be needed heavily in 2014.
The Tigers face some major questions on their defense heading into this season, starting with replacing linebacker Lamin Barrow, the team’s leading tackler from 2013. While Kwon Alexander has All-SEC talent at one linebacker spot and Tre’Davious White is poised to be the next great LSU corner, the rest of the defense is a bit up in the air at this point. How will an offseason arrest affect the status of Jalen Mills in the secondary? Who will step in to replace big Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson on the defensive line?
While the team tries to work out the questions on the defense, it will be up to D.J. Welter to lead them through adversity. The unassuming middle linebacker may not be the team’s best NFL prospect, but he just might be the most important defensive player on the Tigers’ roster for 2014.