Greg Gilmore has set a lofty goal for himself for his redshirt sophomore season.
“I’m trying to get 10 TFLs,” he said with a confident smile earlier this week.
A TFL is a tackle for loss, for those who don’t know. Danielle Hunter, LSU’s defensive end who turned pro after last season, had the most on the team last year with 13. No other player had more than 7.5.
Gilmore is shooting high because, he says, he’s the No. 3 defensive tackle, the guy behind starters Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux expecting to rotate on a regular basis. That would be something new for the 6-4, 323-pounder from North Carolina.
Gilmore, rated as high as the No. 5 defensive tackle in the 2013 class, has played in six games in his two seasons in Baton Rouge. He has no starts and four tackles. His tackles for loss count: a half of one.
He admits it – he thought he would play more as such a highly touted guy. He knows why he didn’t.
“You’ve got to come with that mindset and I don’t think I was ready,” Gilmore said. “(Former defensive line) Coach Brick (Haley) is a great coach and he coached me good, but I wasn’t ready mentally and physically. And now that I’m ready … I’m ready.”
He’s more confident in the defensive calls and offensive “formations recognition,” he said. It’s a reason that each year he’s moved up the defensive tackle depth chart.
He was the fifth defensive tackle as a freshman, seemed to be the fourth defensive tackle last season and is, now, the third this year. They’ll need him. The depth has been a storyline this preseason.
LSU lost defensive linemen Trey Lealaimatafao (dismissed) and Travonte Valentine (transferred) during the off-season. Frank Herron, another redshirt sophomore, and Quentin Thomas, a fifth-year, injury-plagued senior, are considered to be tackles No. 4/5.
They could all see rotation behind Godchaux and LaCouture.
“I expect to push my guys, Davon and Christian, push them for a starting spot and make them a better player,” Gilmore said. “I’m trying to split time with them, but it’s all according to what the coaches want. Whatever they want, I’ll do whatever they want, but I think this year I put in the amount of time and effort and got a little better in my skills to make more of an impact.”
The loss of starting safety and nickelback Jalen Mills has sparked some shuffling and experimenting in the Tigers’ secondary, and cornerback Dwayne Thomas shed some light on that subject during interviews earlier this week.
Thomas’s role has grown. The junior from New Orleans has the lead at the cornerback spot opposite Tre’Davious White in LSU’s 4-3-4 base defense – something secondary coach Corey Raymond indicated at LSU’s media day on Aug. 16. Thomas also says he will be the nickelback in the Tigers’ five-defensive back set (Nickel) and the six-defensive back set (Dime).
Sophomore Ed Paris and freshmen Kevin Toliver and Jackson are competing to play cornerback opposite White when LSU is in the Nickel and Dime. Freshman Xavier Lewis is playing some nickelback along with Thomas, and Jamal Adams and Corey Thompson are rotating at the dimeback in the six-DB set.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and Raymond are “trying to see who fits where at each position,” Thomas said.
Mills had surgery on the ankle, Miles said Tuesday, and a source says he’ll likely miss six weeks. Mills started at safety in the base defense and played nickelback in the Nickel set. That job now seems to belong to Thomas, an expected move.
It might be the only sure thing for a position group that’s enduring shuffling.
Who knows what LSU’s defensive secondary will look like on Sept. 5, but White has confidence in the group.
“We’re going to click,” he said. “We’re going to get it together. Preparation is everything. We’re going to have a great year.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.