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LSU defensive end Frank Herron (97) signals an Alabama fumble was recovered by LSU in the third quarter, Saturday, November 5, 2016, at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. LSU lost 10-0.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Greg Gilmore looks left and sees a fifth-year senior.

He looks right and sees a fifth-year senior.

He looks at himself and, yes, he’s a fifth-year senior.

“Wild,” Gilmore said. “Unheard of.”

Gilmore, at nose tackle, Christian LaCouture, at right defensive end, and Frank Herron, at left defensive end, are all running with the first string as LSU hits its third week of spring practice.

One of those is not like the other. LaCouture and Gilmore have more than a season of starting experience. Herron’s next start will be his first. He’s well aware of this fact.

“Been patiently waiting,” said Herron, a native of Memphis, Tennessee. “It’s a long time coming. I’m ready to show what I can do.”

Herron’s position isn’t as secure as the others, though. It’s among the most competitive jobs on the team — the position opposite LaCouture. Monroe native and sophomore Rashard Lawrence appears to be the top candidate behind him, pushing Herron for the No. 1 gig during spring drills.

The Tigers went through their eighth practice of the spring Tuesday. Over the summer, Herron will get plenty more competition when signees Aaron Moffitt and Neil Farrell arrive. One signee, Justin Thomas, is already here. Glen Logan, who redshirted last season as a freshman, and senior Deondre Clark are competing, too.

All signs point to it being Herron’s job to lose, and he’s viewing it like that, too.

“I feel like I’ve been the starter for some time now,” he said, “but it’s time to prove it on the field by getting the starting (role).”

He’s currently in the spot, left defensive end, played last season by Lewis Neal. Lawrence is backing up LaCouture at right defensive end. Logan and Clark are rotating behind Herron. LaCouture’s decision to return to LSU for a fifth year of eligibility gave coaches an easy fix in replacing Davon Godchaux.

But Neal’s replacement isn’t so easy.

Herron had his problems, and he admits that. He missed LSU’s season opener against Wisconsin and the Citrus Bowl against Louisville because of “off-the-field issues with grades and stuff,” he explains.

He’s past those problems now, he says, and they’ve done nothing but motivate him. Gilmore was there to help in the motivation. He called Herron every night from LSU’s bowl site in Orlando, Florida, purposely rubbing the trip in his face.

“Talked junk to him — ‘I’m down here having fun,’ ” Gilmore smiled.

Coach Ed Orgeron and Herron held a conversation after the bowl game about the off-the-field and academic issues. They talked about his weight, too. Herron is curently 300. Orgeron wants him to play at 290.

“The time’s here. You’re the next man up,” Orgeron told him, as Herron recalled. “You earned the spot. You’ve got to keep it.”

That’s not always so easy.

Herron redshirted his freshman season, and he played sparingly as a redshirt freshman, entering just four games. He only began getting significant snaps his third season at LSU in 2015.

Lawrence was the top-rated player in the state in the 2016 class and played in nine games last season as a rookie.

“I’m trying to start and everything,” Lawrence admits, “but it’s all to make the team better.”

Lawrence spoke to reporters for the first time as an LSU player last week, revealing that like most freshmen, the speed of the college game was the toughest to overcome in his transition from high school.

“Being able to get out there and understand how fast things move and blocks change as the game goes along,” he said.

Herron had four years of adjusting to the speed of the game. It’s his time now, he says, following in the footsteps of guys who waited their turns at LSU recently.

“I tell people all of the time, it’s like the new thing,” Herron said. “You’ve got Deion Jones. Kwon Alexander first started it off. Now you’ve got Duke (Riley) and Donnie Alexander. Now me. I’m next.”


This is the third of a five-part series running this spring about LSU’s five most hotly competitive starting positions.

DEFENSIVE END

  • Frank Herron, fifth-year senior
  • Rashard Lawrence, sophomore
  • Glen Logan, redshirt freshman
  • Deondre Clark, senior

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.