The LSU Tigers lost a lot of muscle to the NFL Draft this offseason, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. With a rugged SEC West to contend with, the Tigers’ chances of making it into the College Football Playoff this season likely rest on how well Les Miles can reload up front. While the Tigers have a wealth of highly-rated prospects coming in for this season that will likely play big roles on the field immediately, it will be junior defensive end Danielle Hunter who could be a breakout star for the LSU D in 2014.
At 6-foot-6 and 237 pounds, Hunter is an imposing figure coming off the edge and he started to put his game together during his sophomore season. He finished 2013 with eight tackles for loss and three sacks, flashing the kind of ability that will make him one of the best in the SEC this season. With a more prominent role in the defense in 2014 and another year of experience learning how to utilize his length and agility, Hunter’s numbers should soar with a strong junior campaign this fall.
And LSU will need him to make the leap into the elite pass-rusher category to lift a Tiger pass-rush that hit a lull last season. Usually one of the more tenacious groups in the SEC when it comes to getting after the passer, LSU finished in the middle of the pack in 2013. Their 27 team sacks were just sixth best in the conference as it was the first time they recorded fewer than 30 sacks since 2009. Getting a spark in the pass-rush from Hunter will go a long way in restoring LSU’s place as one of the elite defenses in college football.
In order for LSU to get back on top of the SEC in 2014, they need their defense to regain some of its former swagger. To do that, they have to unleash Danielle Hunter against the pass and create some negative plays with sacks and quarterback pressures. Will a breakout season from Hunter be enough to put LSU over the top this season?