A consistent pass rush has been a missing component of LSU’s defense for the past few seasons, but this year’s crop of defensive linemen are working to buck that trend.
Junior defensive end Tashawn Bower said he and his fellow linemen keep a running count of sacks accumulated at each practice session.
With new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron emphasizing pass rush, it’s a way to foster heightened competition.
“There’s always some kind of trash talk,” Bower said. “But at the end of the day, we’re all competing, having fun and enjoying it. Competition is a thing that keeps everyone going and hungry for big plays and sacks.”
The Tigers managed only 19 sacks last season, 8.5 of them generated by players who either graduated or entered the NFL draft. Those 19 sacks ranked LSU 101st nationally among 125 FBS teams.
Despite the lack of returning production and depth up front, Bower said he expects the sack numbers to rise because of chemistry and a few wrinkles in first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s system.
“We’ve been together for a while,” Bower said. “We’ve grown as people, as defensive linemen and as a team. When you have that type of chemistry and have all those guys together, it’s a lot easier to be successful.”
Added to the equation are two new additions in the defensive line’s rotation — speedy freshman ends Arden Key and Isaiah Washington, who have been practicing with the veterans and are expected to contend for serious playing time.
So what are the Tigers doing to improve their pass rush? Other than running Orgeron’s up-tempo pass rush and strip drills, they’re spending a little extra time in the film room.
Junior defensive end Lewis Neal said Friday that Orgeron frequently breaks out film of NFL linemen to demonstrate proper technique.
“He shows us different guys that work different moves,” Bower said. “When he thinks someone has a great move, and he knows the player, he’ll grab the guy on film. It really all depends on the move. But he tells us how to go in there and watch it ourselves.
Bigger might be better for senior tight end Dillon Gordon.
At 308 pounds, Gordon outweighs junior left tackle Jerald Hawkins by three pounds. A fearsome blocker for the last two seasons, his larger frame should help him generate even more push up front.
“I feel like I’m the most dominant blocking tight end in the country,” he said.
But Gordon will need to be more than just a bruiser. During interviews Friday, junior tight end DeSean Smith said he expects the tight ends to be more involved in a passing game centered on spreading the ball around.
Gordon registered no catches last year but pulled in six passes for 88 yards in 2013.
Should LSU’s quarterback — whoever it may be — look his way, the senior is confident he can make a play.
“It all depends on the game plan,” Gordon said. “I’m probably not a deep threat like (junior tight end Colin Jeter) or DeSean, but I’m very capable of catching the ball.”
Freshman offensive lineman Maea Teuhema joined the veterans at Saturday morning’s practice after spending the first two days of camp with the rookies and reserves.
Teuhema, a 6-5, 327-pound four-star prospect from Texas, was the only new freshman added to morning drills. He joined five others who have been working with the vets since Day 1 on Thursday: DBs Donte Jackson, Xavier Lewis and Kevin Toliver and DEs Arden Key and Isaiah Washington.
It’s unclear where Teuhema will play. He was working primarily at right tackle Saturday, but did see time at guard earlier in the week.