The rise of LSU defensive lineman BJ Ojulari has been a prominent figure for this Tigers squad with three games under their belt. His sheer force and ability to get to the quarterback at will has put this LSU defense in perfect position to keep offenses alert at all times.
Playing Ojulari a bit wider has opened up the defensive line as a whole, even giving them the chance to rush just three linemen at once to expand the secondary.
“It’s definitely given us more of an attack mentality,” Ojulari said. “Widening us out a bit to get after the quarterback, I think it was a group idea with coach Jones and his defense and coach Carter with the way he wants us to attack. We definitely have more free reign to elude the tackle and get a free rush on first and second down situations.”
The growth from the entire defensive line, not just Ojulari, has been a focal point through three weeks and a major factor in their success is Coach Andre Carter. Holding this defensive line to a higher standard and using his NFL experience to teach is what has this unit so disciplined.
“He [Carter] can definitely put on the pads in practice,” Ojulari said. “He’s very engaged in practice. He’ll do anything he needs to do to give us the right look before Saturday. He’s a great coach and he’s taught us a lot technique wise coming from the NFL and playing in the NFL, so it’s a great experience to learn from him.”
With the loss of Andre Anthony, this defensive line just got that much frailer, putting immediate pressure on Ojulari, Ali Gaye and the rest of this unit to perform to their highest capabilities.
Ojulari has become a consistent three-down guy, making him one of the most lethal forces in the entire SEC. His diligence in the weight room and taking pieces of other players techniques is what has given him the chance to stay on the field throughout any situation.
“It’s been a steady progression, just looking up to guys like Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye and just seeing what I can take from their game into the run stopping side of defense,” Ojulari said. “Then even with pass rush, they’re still teaching me things because they have more experience. Then Andre Carter and Coach O, so it’s just an ongoing development every day to get better.”
Up to 4.5 sacks on the season already, with 2.5 of them coming last week against Central Michigan, Ojulari earned SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after his dominance against the Chippewas. He's currently among the nation leaders in sacks and his confidence will only grow with more playing time.
As news broke regarding the severity of Anthony’s injury, the time is now for Ojulari to step up to the plate and assert his dominance. His versatility on the line and ability to play wider than most is what can take this defense to the next level.
The Tigers focus this week has been on the air raid offense of Mississippi State and how defensive linemen like Ojulari can pressure the quarterback to alter his throws.
Kicking off SEC play, the Tigers now have the chance to prove they have the talent to compete against the best of the best with their first true test coming in Starkville against the Bulldogs.
“I definitely think it’s going to be a big game for us this year, to see where we’re at against another SEC opponent,” Ojulari said.“Just coming into this week, we have to have that mentality of coming to work and getting it done this week.”