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August 20, 2010

Does Size Matter? A look at LSU's Defensive Line

In my youth, playing defensive tackle was a whole lot more fun than playing linebacker or offensive line.  There is nothing more thrilling than shooting through the gap between the guard and center and blowing up a play in the backfield.  By the time you get into college, not many defensive tackles are able to successfully "shoot the gap" but, speed can still be a big factor. Speed advantages combined with gang tackling are factors that LSU's defense may have to rely on this year.

Last year LSU's defensive line did not play up to the high standards set in previous years.  This year that needs to change.  Two keys to winning consistently are time of possession and field position.  It is rare that a team loses when they win these two categories. Winning in the trenches is the foundation of winning time of possession and field position.

LSU is suspect across the defensive side of that trench because of a lack of size.  The line is anchored by the defensive tackles.  In last year's NFL draft defensive tackles taken in the first three rounds ranged from 263lbs. to 354lbs. While that was the range, 10 of the 14 defensive tackles taken in the first three rounds fell between 295lbs. and 305lbs.  LSU's projected starting defensive tackles Drake Nevis and Pep Levingston officially weigh 285 and 280 respectively.  The largest two defensive tackles on LSU's roster are Chris Davenport at 311 and Michael Brockers at 300. No other LSU defensive tackle weighs in within that 295 to 305 mark.

At LSU media days, defensive coordinator John Chavis pointed out that this defense is probably the fastest defense he has ever coach. Barkevious "KeKe" Mingo and Sam Montgomery will be able to get the man with the ball at a blazing 4.5sec/40yd speed.  Ken Adams who is expected to start at defensive end with Montgomery is also faster than most offensive linemen and as fast as or faster than many of the quarterbacks that he will face.

Add to that speed, the fact that almost all of LSU's defensive linemen have come in fit with added lean muscle.   Last year Drake Nevis showed that he has the strength to push around much larger offensive linemen.  There is also much talk that Brockers will be rotated in regularly and that he may even have a shot at starting early in the season.

Here is how the LSU projected starting front four weigh in versus North Carolina's offensive line.  Ken Adams and Sam Montgomery are listed at 255 and 245.  Drake Nevis and Pep Levingston are 285 and 280.  North Carolina's offensive tackles are 300 and 305.  North Carolina's guards are 305 and 335. And the UNC center is 300lbs. So 1065 pounds of defensive linemen will square off in the trenches against 1545 pounds of offensive linemen.  To be fair, there are 5 offensive linemen and only 4 defensive linemen, so that works out to LSU's defensive line averaging just over 266lbs per player and the North Carolina offensive line averaging 309lbs per player.  It is going to take a lot of quickness and strength to overcome that kind of weight differential.

North Carolina's projected defensive line starters are 275, 305, 305, and 270.  LSU's projected offensive line starters are 318, 295, 300, 303, and 329.  North Carolina's d-line totals 1155lbs. and averages 289 per player.  LSU's o-line totals 1545lbs. for 309lbs per player average.  So LSU's line should have a healthy weight advantage over North Carolina.

I read in a recent interview that Will Blackwell, LSU's starting right guard who is a converted defensive tackle, that playing on the offensive line left less margin for error than playing on the defensive line.  So quickness and technique means everything across the line.

On paper, LSU appears to be at a real size disadvantage to North Carolina.  Good thing games are settled on the field and not on paper.     



Anonymous said...

Of course size matters,but unless the teams LSU plays football against are elephants, I do not see the difference.
I keep read people say that LSU is undersized,where,who?

Anonymous said...

He just told you where and who. 235lb DE's? When we won the BCS in 03 Spears was 295 and Hill was 290. They weren't just big, they were big AND fast. That same yr our interior was Chad Lavalais at 300 and Kyle Williams at 295. Both big AND fast.

In 07, we had Dorsey at 300 big and fast. Francoise at 305 big and fast. The DE's also were in the 290 range, big AND fast.

Funny, those guys didn't have notoriety issues either. The entire country recognized the talent and the potential and wrote about it. Sometimes you fly below the radar not because you're missed, but because the other guys have players better to write about.

If you had to trade size for speed, that would arguably in most cases be the way to go. The trick is, why trade? Wheres the Spears' the Hill's the Lavalais and Williams' today? Sure, they're fast if the reports are to be believed. And fast is good.

Just we used to also be big AND fast. One cant but wonder why.

BayouBabe said...

Bob,those are sobering facts. Like you I am still excited about the Tigers and I believe that they will find a way to win. These facts will make winning even more special. You do win on the field and not on paper!

Anonymous said...

I guess that a guy who weighs 20 pounds heaver, will be the better of the two,because of that reason only right.
Are you kidding us?
I think Bear Briant was the one that said something like,"It not the size of the dog,but the size of the fight, in the dog."
What you think,did Bear Briant know a little something about football?
What wrong with you,do you want Les Miles to lose so bad, that you are making up reasons?

Anonymous said...

Whether we want something or not has nothing to do with what happens on the field. How much you drink, or cheer, or tiger bait the other teams fans children. It doesnt matter.

What does matter, is can your fast guys stop my big and fast guys. I'll take big and fast most of the time.

Theres a reason Trindon Holliday didnt play defensive end. That guy had more fight in him than most three players. Just watch him tear apart the Auburn cornerback when Perriloux fumbled back in 07. That guy was a warrior.

But, I doubt he'd have gotten around Andrew Whitworth, or Herman Johnson, or Ben Wilkerson. On the other hand, Marquise Hill could have, so could Marcus Spears.

As far as quoting dead coaches goes, it'd be more respectful if you spelled their name correctly (Bryant). Funny though, when Bryant said that, he always had the bigger and faster players. When Sam Cunningham and USC showed up in 1970 and ran all over his 'faster' players, Bryant went out and got bigger faster (black) players the next year. So much for quoting old dead coaches whose names you cant spell.

Having 235 lb DE's is not wishing LSU to lose, its interesting in that most SEC teams havent depended on DE's that size since the 1980s. Perhaps theres a reason. Also, when LSU won the BCS twice the DE's on the team were over 290, and fast. Just sayin.

Thats not wishin' LSU to lose, and sadly, its not making up reasons either. The article references the facts, the history is there, though if you cant get Bryants name spelled correctly, you may have trouble with Lavalais, Hill, Spears and Williams also.

Interesting article, fast is good, but big and fast is a lot better. Just go look at the BCS trophies in the cabinet. They were won by parade AA's not by project players of limited size but 'lots of fight'.

And besides, wasnt it Marquise Hill that said 'People buy dogs cause their afraid, don't see no dogs 'round here'. And he was big too.

Of course he also was sage when he said, "We 'aint overrated like Auburn". LOL. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

I think you might need a ice cream, and relax, and look for you self at LSU play football,as a college football fan,and forget about the wise guy, who keeps digging him self into deep dumb holes

Anonymous said...

Advice on stupidity, from the broken English crowd. Well, at least its something you'd be familiar with.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this in the LSU Rev - The 6-foot-4-inch Levingston is listed at 280 pounds but claims to be “292 plus.” Levingston dismissed any concerns fans may have about the defensive unit.

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