BATON ROUGE (AP) – At first glance, it would seem like the LSU football team could have some depth issues this season with the recent departure of three defensive linemen.
An injury or two could be critical, especially inside at defensive tackle, where the Tigers have only three scholarship players who have received significant playing time and two others who have had limited snaps in games.
In addition, there are only six scholarship players at defensive end, a group that includes two new starters along with two sophomores and two true freshmen.
While there may be some concern among the LSU faithful, the Tigers aren’t listening to the noise coming from outside the football operations center after the first four days of preseason practice.
The main reason is the confidence the players who are here have in new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
“Coach O is definitely going to find a way to make it work,” sophomore defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said Saturday. “He’s going to find a way. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first predicament he’s been in where he didn’t have a lot of guys. Let the fans know we’re going to be ready.”
Yet, there are questions, especially inside, even though Godchaux and Christian LaCouture return as the starters.
Of the other tackles who figure to be in the mix for spots in the rotation, Quentin Thomas is coming off an injury-riddled junior season, and Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore played sparingly a year ago.
Three players who were expected to be in the mix — tackles Travonte Valentine and Trey Lealaimatafao, and tackle-turned-end Maquedius Bain — recently left the team.
Valentine and Bain both transferred, and Lealaimatafao was dismissed from the squad.
Despite the exodus of that trio, Godchaux said the Tigers will be fine.
“We have enough guys,” he said. “It was those guys’ fault to make their own decisions. We were with them, and I’ll still talk to them today if they called me up, but they made the wrong decisions.”
Like his running mate, LaCouture said coaches and players alike aren’t spending a lot of time thinking about the situation.
“The coaches just talk to us about going out there and playing,” he said. “We’re just going to take it one repetition at a time. If we have to play the whole game, we’ll be ready to play the whole game.”
LaCouture knows that feeling well. He said he played every snap on a warm and muggy night against Florida in Gainesville last October and is ready to do that again if called upon.
“If Coach O needs me to play the whole game, I’ll do that,” LaCouture said. “If he feels another guy can come in and play, we can do it. We just have to have guys who are ready to go in and play. If we do that, we’ll be successful.”
Gilmore agreed, saying he and the other players can’t worry about the things they can’t control.
“Five is all we need to play at tackle,” he said. “Lots of people are saying stuff, but that’s not going to break us. We’re going to do what we have to do. We all have individual goals that will make us better as a team.
“I want to beat Christian out, and Christian wants to keep his spot,” Gilmore said. “Davon wants to keep his spot, but somebody wants to try and take it from him. Everybody is competing with that mindset. And when we come together, it’s going to be great.”