As is the case with the LSU offensive line, the defensive line will be returning its entire starting lineup from the 2020 season. However, unlike the offensive line, the depth behind the starters is without a doubt the strongest on the roster.
New defensive line coach Andre Carter and Ed Orgeron have to be pinching themselves with the level of talent they'll have to work with. Here are the players who will earn playing time and the many more who will have an opportunity to earn snaps.
"It’s great that you see the returning seniors coming back for another year. I think one, it shows that they’re dedicated to the program, but also two, they want to finish on a winning note," Carter said. "They want to come back and make a statement as a group. But I also am aware that coming back is also a big year for them as individuals. I just say ‘at the end of the day, you just trust yourself, you trust your technique and trust the man next to you and we’ll play good football,’ and that’s what’s important."
Projected Starters: Andre Anthony, Glen Logan, Neil Farrell, Ali Gaye, BJ Ojulari
LSU will be running plenty of 4-3 packages under new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones but the sophomore Ojulari will be playing so much that he can be penciled in as a fifth starter up front. As a true freshman, Ojulari proved to be a consistent pass rusher and is worthy of earning more and more time as a sophomore.
Of course, when Orgeron himself is hyping you up as a future All-American, there's a good chance your role will increase year to year. Ojulari recorded four sacks and five tackles for a loss in his first year with the program.
This is a group that will be in ultimate competition throughout the spring. Returning veterans like Anthony, Farrell and Gaye are returning in the hopes that they improve draft stock but will have to hold off some impressive incoming freshmen and up and coming stars.
Getting Gaye back was a huge and relatively surprising win for the program. In his lone season with the Tigers, Gaye recorded 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and six pass breakups which were among the top in the SEC. His knack for timing and deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage was an early season surprise and he could've easily elected to opt into the NFL draft after the season.
The edge rushers are pretty solidified in stone but the interior will have plenty of competition. There's no denying it was a disappointing season for both Logan and Farrell and with the incoming talent, both players will need to impress in the spring to solidify their positions. LSU likes to rotate its defensive linemen so both will get their opportunity one way or another but the young players on the roster are stocked full of potential.
Depth Chart: Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory, Eric Taylor, Joseph Evans, Maason Smith, Landon Jackson, Saivion Jones, Bryce Langston
Just typing out the depth chart makes it really hard to predict just what this rotation could look like come fall. Among the returning talent, Roy and Evans figure to be the guys who will push for more snaps this spring.
As a freshman, Roy, the No. 1 player out of Louisiana, really made the most of his opportunity as the season went on. With players out and LSU clearly wanting to get some of its younger players involved, Roy recorded 15 tackles and four tackles for a loss over the final third of the season.
Evans has moved back and forth between the offensive and defensive line but settled into rotation with players missing time during the 2020 season. With the excessive depth on both lines, it'll be interesting to see where Evans ultimately winds up on the line.
The real depth on the front four will come with the freshmen talent, mainly the Terrebonne defensive tackle Smith as well as Jackson, who are both already on campus. Jackson is more of your outside pass rusher while Smith has the potential to be a dominant force on the inside from year one.
"I've seen him grow up into a man," Orgeron said of Smith back in December. "I think he's gonna be a dominant football player and a team captain for our football program. He's always on the phone recruiting, talking to other guys, has a great personality and excited about him."
This is a unit that will be asked to play three and four down sets this season as defensive coordinator Daronte Jones has already expressed a desire to be multiple with the schemes the defense runs. One thing the defensive line did do pretty consistently in 2020 was make plays, whether it be through sacks, tackles for a loss or forced fumbles.
The spring will be a prime opportunity for Orgeron and Carter to really see what improvements have been made in the returning players before the rest of the freshmen get to campus. If there's one position group to feel really good about heading into the 2021 season, without a doubt it's the defensive line.