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LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCouture bears down on the target during drills at LSU practice Friday.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

Christian LaCouture has a new appreciation for boxers.

That’s because LSU’s senior defensive end spent his summer boxing. He used the sport as a way to lose weight and increase his hand-eye coordination, jabbing at a trainer, wearing hand pads, for several minutes at a time.

It wasn’t easy.

“You do three sets and get a 15-second break, and you’re back into it,” he said. “First time I did it, I went for an hour, and I was almost dead.”

LaCouture lost 12 pounds, trimming to around 300, a weight coaches hoped he’d reach to play defensive end in LSU’s new 3-4 defense. It’s a common theme. Even those playing nose tackle are losing weight. Greg Gilmore, backup to Davon Godchaux at nose tackle, lost 12 pounds, too, he said.

LSU’s defensive line is taking shape, literally and figuratively, through the first four days of preseason camp. Coach Les Miles closed camp to reporters starting Sunday, but the first three days of drills painted a picture of a veteran group of starters and backups who are expecting a few burly freshmen to assist.

“That Rougarou!” Gilmore exclaimed to a confused group of reporters Saturday. “His nickname, the Rougarou. Ed Alexander. Big Ed, dog. First off all, he’s my roommate, and he snores a lot. He’s a great kid and wants to learn. Big dude. I think he’s going to be a great guy, especially at the nose tackle position.”

A St. Thomas Aquinas product, Alexander — listed at 6-foot-2, 330 pounds — drew attention over the past few days with his sheer size. A late qualifier, Alexander joined the team Wednesday, two months after most freshmen enrolled. He’s just beginning to make an impression.

It’s a big one.

“This Ed Alexander is a big horse — my goodness,” Miles said. “He’s kind of just knocking them around in there.”

Alexander is one of three hulking defensive line signees, joining Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan — a trio that weighs about 1,000 pounds. The three spent time banging against a sled at Thursday’s practice in the indoor facility. The metal structure rammed against a wall so hard that the exterior padding on the wall collapsed to the turf.

Miles called Alexander and Lawrence “ready-made nose tackles,” and Lawrence, a Neville product, practiced with the veterans and starters Saturday morning. Sci Martin, playing at the outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid spot with Arden Key and Isaiah Washington, also practiced with the veterans Saturday, a promotion or sorts from working in the afternoon with mostly freshmen and reserves.

Alexander, like Gilmore, is almost exclusively playing at nose tackle. Lawrence and Logan are moving around, seeing time at nose and end, Gilmore said.

“(Rashard’s) got a good mindset. He wants to work,” Gilmore said. “He has a lot to work on. We all do. That’s part of being a freshman.”

The spotlight may be on the hefty new trio of linemen, but the freshmen will find it tough to crack a presumed starting group that includes LaCouture, Lewis Neal and Godchaux and experienced backups in Frank Herron, Deondre Clark and Gilmore.

Where exactly are they all playing? It depends on the day, LaCouture said.

“It changes every day. We have nickel packages, base packages, pass-rushing packages,” he said. “If a guy’s doing great one day, they might put him in. It changes throughout the process.”

For instance, in the base 3-4, LaCouture plays end. But in the Tigers’ five-defensive back package (nickel), he slides inside to an old defensive-tackle role, he said.

Neal is expected to play end and will stand up, sometimes, during pass-rushing plays. Godchaux is settling into a versatile role. He’ll play nose and move outside to end at times.

LaCouture is the most-veteran of the experienced group. No lineman has more career starts (23) than him, and none of them have graduated. He received his degree after the summer session, freeing up his time to spend on football this fall.

“I think one of my classes is actually golf,” he chuckled. “I still have to take 12 hours to make sure I’m eligible for games and stuff, but a lot less stressful for me. Just focus on football.”

He hopes a relentless summer training regimen turns into big plays. LaCouture participated in four different workouts over the summer, taking part in all of them at least four days a week while juggling an internship at Traction, a Baton Rouge-based training facility.

There was the 6 a.m. workout with LSU’s strength and conditioning staff, a few hours interning at Traction and then three more workouts: lifting with a personal trainer at Traction, the boxing session and working on his footwork with his father in a sandpit.

By the end of the summer, he took the boxing session outside — in the 100-degree heat.

“You know how Louisiana weather is in the summer. It’s not fun,” he said smiling. “I feel like I’m in great shape. I’m prepared.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.