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LSU Spring Football Preview: Defense

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(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

LSU’s spring drills get under way March 9. Recently we took an inside look at what the offense looks like at this time. Now we’ll take a gander at what promise the defense holds.

Matt House will orchestrate the defense again, but the addition of John Jancek to handle the outside linebackers is expected to bolster the Tigers further.

After a Freshman All American campaign, Harold Perkins looks to be the X-factor of the unit. He has the skills to be utilized in an assortment of ways.

With Ali Gaye, B.J. Ojulari, Jaquelin Roy, Jay Ward, Mekhi Garner and Micah Baskerville all off to the NFL, there will be ample opportunities for players to step up at all levels of the defense.

DE

Sai’vion Jones had 23 stops and 4.5 sacks last season. It is time for him to take his game to the next level.

Waiting in the wings is Quency Wiggins, a freakish athlete who flashed some talent in ’22, but the best is yet to come. With Wiggins’ combination of football and basketball skills, he draws comparisons to Marcus Spears, an All-American longtime NFL standout.

A newcomer in transfer Paris Shand from Arizona could slide inside as a 3 tech. The Toronto native participated for Team Canada in basketball. He had 39 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 4.0 sacks at Arizona last season.

At the “Jack” spot, veteran Ovie Oghoufo (6-3, 237, 4.75) played in 42 contests at Notre Dame and Texas. He tallied 128 stops with 18 TFL and 8.5 sacks. If the season began today, Oghoufo would start.

Oregon transfer Bradyn Swinson (6-4, 233) has played in 30 games for the Ducks.

A name to watch this spring is 2023 signee Da’Shawn Womack (6-4, 255, 4.65), who had 48 tackles, 26 TFL and 15 sacks as a prep senior. One can see him earn an increased role as the season progresses. Jaxon Howard (6-4, 245), another freshman, will also compete for snap this spring.

DT

Maason Smith looks to return to health following a season-ending injury in the season opener. He will be monitored during spring.

Former West Virginia transfer Jordan Jefferson (6-3, 310) can line up at the nose or defensive tackle. He played in 41 games for the Mountaineers. Possessing great strength, he squats 695 pounds, power cleans 395 and bench pressed 495. Jefferson accounted for 27 QB pressures, nine hurries and 4.0 sacks despite usually facing double team blocks.

A 2022 signee, Tygee Hill (6-3, 300) showed enough as a freshman to earn additional playing time.

Florida import Jalen Lee (6-3, 305) out of Watson was the 16th ranked prospect in Louisiana in 2020.

Bryce Langston (6-3 1/2, 293) has been somewhat silent, but he has added weight, strength and experience.

Mehki Wingo, Jacobian Guillory and Jaxson Dart
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

NT

Mekhi Wingo (6-0, 295) was a godsend last season, making a major splash after Maason Smith went down. Pro Football Focus awarded him an 84.3 grade vs. the run , good for third overall among SEC defensive lineman. He also was ranked the No. 3 returning d-lineman in the nation for 2023. Originally, Wingo was supposed to be a rotational player so he could line up at the nose or 3 tech as needd.

Jacobian Guillory has played in 425 defensive snaps for the Tigers. The 335 pounder is a strong man who demands double teams. Sophomore Fitzgerald West (6-3, 322) experimented with a move to center but he could move back to a more comfortable spot.

LB

Omar Speights (6-1, 236, 4.65) lends leadership and veteran savvy, arriving from Oregon State in the transfer portal. Had he opted for the ’23 NFL Draft, he was projected to go in the middle rounds. He had 304 tackles in 44 games for the Beavers. He’s likely the starting WILL linebacker.

Former Virginia transfer West Weeks returns for his second campaign with the Tigers. He has 59 career stops.

In the middle, Greg Penn III (6-1, 238) seemed to get better each time on the field last season. He is an every down player. Penn totaled 77 stops in ’22 and demonstrated an ability to diagnose quickly. Whit Weeks, the brother of Wes, has exceptional athleticism. He will step into a role once occupied by departed Demario Tolan.

Harold Perkins, with 72 tackles, 13 TFL, 7.5 sacks and 14 hurries, has the ability to take over a game. With his sub 4.5 speed, he will chase down a play from sideline to sideline. Perkins could leave LSU as one of the better athletes to ever don the Purple and Gold.

Interestingly, Perkins wears the same jersey number (40) once worn by Butkus Award winner Devin White. Could Perkins be a candidate for the coveted jersey No. 18 next? Christian Braithwaite (6-1, 225), a four-star in 2023, will be given an extended look.

The transfer portal at the conclusion of spring drills could be probed for more help at linebacker.

Zy Alexander

CB

The entire secondary lost seven players who were on the depth chart in 2022.

With new imports Denver Harris and Zy Alexander, the Tigers could once again line up two of the best cover corners in the SEC. Both possess NFL talent.

Harris will be a plug-and-play boundary defender. He was regarded as the 13th best overall player in the transfer portal. He exudes confidence.

Alexander, the native of Loreauville, was a three-year starter at Southeastern where he was a 2021 FCS All-American. In 31 contests for the Lions, he accumulated 97 tackles, 12 passes broken up and nine interceptions.

J.K. Johnson arrives from Ohio State where he allowed only 12 catches in 400 defensive snaps in ’22.

Acadiana’s Latterance Welch, a 2022 signee, has great length and size (6-2, 187). He was the top rated cornerback in Louisiana in the ’22 class.

A pair of 2023 signees, Javien Toviano and Jeremiah Hughes, are advanced enough in natural skills to garner attention from the staff. Either could figure into the depth chart.

NICKEL

Duce Chestnut (6-0, 198), a Syracuse transfer, made 24 starts with the Orange. He was given a 75.6 coverage grade by Pro Football Focus last season and was the 50th ranked prospect in the transfer portal. The 2021 Freshman All American could thrive in the slot.

Sage Ryan (5-11, 203), a redshirt sophomore, is a special athlete who still has room to grow. Redshirt freshman Jordan Allen (5-11, 195), a Lafayette Christian product like Ryan, has a bright future.

FS

Greg Brooks will be a tone setter. His return is vital to a newly constructed secondary. With tremendous lateral quickness, he can blitz off the edge and often manages to come up with a game-changing play at the right time.

A 2023 signee, Ryan Yaites (6-0, 190), should develop into a key component at this spot moving forward.

Matthew Langlois (6-0, 202) has the intangibles and speed to make an impact.

SS

Major Burns suffered a neck injury last fall, but the 6-foot-2, 188-pound junior will be counted on to be a ringleader in the secondary. Kylin Jackson (6-2, 196) brings immense potential as a new signee.

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