Considering what he’s been through in the past year, LSU freshman defensive tackle Davon Godchaux was given a pass when he tried to celebrate a big play on the second snap of his first career start.
Godchaux got off a block and barged into the backfield to track down Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Pete Thomas, with help from teammate Christian LaCouture, as Thomas tried to make something out of a busted play inside the ULM 5-yard line.
Godchaux, who pursued from the back side, and LaCouture combined to drop Thomas for a 1-yard loss that helped end the first of 12 futile possessions for ULM, which managed just 93 total yards in a 31-0 setback.
“It was funny, because I was on the other side (at tackle) and got off my block, and he and I were right there,” LaCouture said Monday. “I looked around, and he was trying to do some type of dance. I don’t know what he did, but it was funny.”
Still, it was a play worth celebrating for the 6-foot-4, 271-pound Godchaux, a former Plaquemine High standout who played less than a quarter of the 2013 season opener before a devastating knee injury ruined his senior season.
After undergoing surgery a year ago Saturday on torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, Godchaux, who isn’t allowed to speak to media because he’s a true freshman, had an excuse to be a little rusty with his dance steps.
But as LSU coaches and teammates learned early on in camp, there’s nothing wrong with his football moves.
Godchaux turned heads with his speed and quickness, which helped him rise up a depth chart that had LaCouture and Quentin Thomas listed as starters coming out of spring drills.
Also there were three redshirt freshmen — Frank Herron, Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore — who were hoping to help fill the void left when 2013 starters Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson departed a year early for the NFL.
When Thomas tore his biceps in early August, Godchaux, a four-star recruit, seized the opportunity and made his mark in practice and in scrimmages.
That came despite an off-the-field misstep when Godchaux was issued a summons for criminal mischief July 21. He allegedly threw a lighted firecracker into a unit at LSU’s West Campus Apartments.
Godchaux, who wasn’t arrested, will take care of the charge in a pretrial diversion program.
“He came to school and talked to me for an hour. ... He owned up to it,” Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said. “There was some stuff going back and forth, but it was all in good fun and he said he didn’t intentionally try to start a fire.”
Since the incident, Godchaux has been all business on and off the field. In the preseason, he worked mostly with the second team and earned reps with the ones as summer wore on.
“During two-a-days, he really did well,” LaCouture said. “As the defense got easier for him and the game started to slow down, you could really see it.”
So did the guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
“He’s a powerful young man, and from the first day I went against him, I could see how he played with great effort,” said left guard Vadal Alexander. “I expected him to see the field and get playing time. It wasn’t one thing ... you could see he was getting the defense down and doing the things the coaches wanted him to do.”
Godchaux got into the season opener with Wisconsin early and made one tackle, then made three stops against Sam Houston. He had three tackles against ULM and should play a lot in Saturday night’s matchup with Mississippi State.
“He’s a talented guy, kind of a natural defensive lineman … he has flexibility, size, strength,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “What happens with freshmen is whether or not they’re capable, emotionally, to step in and play in games like we play in. He jumped right in and played — and is very aggressive. He did some great things.”
That he’s getting a chance so early in his LSU career isn’t a surprise to Distefano. He knew what he missed last year when Godchaux, a Class 4A All-State pick as a junior, was hurt.
What surprises Distefano is that he’s doing it so soon after his surgery, saying he was not sure how the knee would hold up when contact work started.
“I’m proud of Davon for taking advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “He’s not just standing around out there. He was taking on double-teams in the Wisconsin game.
“This just didn’t start in the summer. It’s been a year-long process. He was always a hard worker in the weight room, but he turned it up a notch after the injury and worked hard on his rehab. Davon is really focused on what’s at stake for him.”