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Projecting LSU Football's 2020 Spring Game Starting Lineup: The Defense and Special Teams

Switch to 4-3 will make for interesting, competitive spring camp

LSU officially takes the field for the first time on Saturday for spring practice and for the defense, it provides the opportunity to showcase the 4-3 defense on a more consistent basis. 

Much has been made and theorized about the return of Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator but coach Ed Orgeron said the transition has been as smooth as can be expected, primarily because of the energy Pelini exudes when around his players.

"He's exactly what we wanted," Orgeron said back in mid-February. "Bo's a force, he knows his stuff and he brings a lot of energy. We're a 4-3 defense, an attacking defense and our players are excited about it."

Here's a look at what a potential lineup for the spring game could look like on the defensive side of the ball come April 18.

Defensive Line: Glen Logan (senior), Tyler Shelvin (junior), Siaki "Apu" Ika (sophomore), Neil Farrell (senior)

The interior of the defensive line, meaning Shelvin and Ika, seem like solid bets to earn the starting spots not just in the spring but come fall as well. Shelvin proved to be one of LSU's best defenders in 2019 for his ability to take on multiple offensive linemen, allowing his teammates to make plays in the backfield.

As a freshman, Ika received smaller chunks of playing time but his 6-foot-4, 354-pound frame combined with Shelvin's 6-foot-3, 346-pound body, should cause problems for most opposing offensive lines. 

The defensive end position is where it gets interesting. Logan and Farrell are two veteran players and should earn the starts in the spring game.

LSU does have freshmen four-stars Jaquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory coming in the summer so the competition will step up a notch. As for players already on campus, Justin Thomas is really the only threat to take away snaps from Logan and Farrell.

Linebackers: Andre Anthony (outside), Damone Clark (inside), Micah Baskerville (inside)

The linebacker corps is probably the most interesting position group to follow this spring. LSU has a slew of incoming freshmen talent on the way including Phillip Webb, BJ Ojulari, Antoine Sampah and Josh White.

Ojulari is already on campus so he'll likely be a step ahead of the other freshmen but it'll be interesting to see how much he can push Anthony and Ray Thornton for snaps in the spring. Orgeron recently called Ojulari a future All American for the Tigers while Anthony and Thornton have primarily been backups their entire careers.

An interesting note to point out, however, is Orgeron's recent declaration that Anthony has been one of the guys stepping up from a leadership standpoint.

"Guys like Myles Brennan, Andre Anthony, JaCoby Stevens, Damone Clark, Tyler Shelvin is doing a fantastic job and then the offensive line because those guys have got to come together," Orgeron said Monday.

Anthony has the frame to be a successful outside linebacker but for whatever reason he hasn't been able to show it on the field. Now may be his last chance if he hopes to keep Ojulari at arm's length.

Clark is another name Orgeron alluded to as a leader and was always the linebacker in waiting last season. He'll hope to carry on the tradition of sideline-to-sideline play left behind by the likes of Patrick Queen and Devin White before him. 

The other inside linebacker spot will go to Baskerville for now but he'll have to fend off Sampah and White come summer and into fall.

Cornerbacks: Derek Stingley (sophomore), Cordale Flott (sophomore)

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The consensus All-American and likely best returning defensive player in all of college football is the no-brainer here. Stingley came in with the highest of expectations and not only managed to live up to them but even surpassed them. 

As a freshman, he led the SEC in interceptions and pass breakups and played a vital role in LSU capturing its fourth national championship. 

Next to Stingley this spring, fellow sophomore Flott is the best bet to draw the start at the spring game. This would've been a more interesting battle to follow had freshman five-star Elias Ricks been healthy. 

Orgeron revealed a few weeks back that--much like freshman Arik Gilbert--Ricks would likely miss most of the spring with a shoulder injury. Orgeron didn't completely shut down a return for Ricks in the spring as his injury is not as severe as Gilbert's but it does give Flott the upper hand for now.

Safety: JaCoby Stevens (senior), Marcel Brooks (sophomore), Kary Vincent Jr. (senior)

Stevens was the surprise and welcomed return of the national championship team that saw nine juniors declare early for the draft. Stevens wants to leave a legacy at LSU and will almost certainly carry on the tradition of the No. 18 jersey next season.

The safety group is possibly the deepest on the roster next to receiver as senior Kary Vincent also returns, as he will likely man that cover slot position that was his primary job a season ago. Outside of Stevens and Vincent, there will be some tough calls the coaching staff may have to make.

Brooks will get the nod for now as the third safety but Maurice Hampton showed he could play in that deep safety spot which would allow Stevens to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Senior Todd Harris is also a likely candidate to play some deep safety.

The only reason Hampton and Harris aren't in the lineup as of now is because Hampton is currently playing baseball and Harris is in a state of unknown after suffering a knee injury last year that ended his season three games in. Brooks is more likely to play behind Stevens when next season actually comes around as his skillset and anticipated role is very similar to the senior Stevens.

Kicker: Cade York

No surprises here as the freshman proved to be a reliable kicker for the most part last season. York went 21-of-27 on field goals and 89-of-93 on his extra point attempts.

In an ideal world the coaching staff would like those numbers to continue to grow as he did miss both field goal attempts in postseason play. There is not much in the way of competition for the kicking job so York is the guy moving forward for LSU.

Punter: Zach Von Rosenberg

When the offense is having the type of success that it did in 2019, the forgotten man can often times become the punter. To Von Rosenberg's credit he did his job whenever the rare occasion called for a punt.

He pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line a total of 21 times and averaged nearly 43 yards a punt. He's entering his final season with the Tigers and will be the starting punter barring any injury.

Punt Return: Derek Stingley Jr.

If there's one element to his game that Stingley can continue to improve on, it's in the punt return game. He started out the season real well as the team's primary punt returner and would finish with 163 yards on 17 returns.

A talent like Stingley's always wants to challenge for the best and the best in college football is the Heisman trophy. In order to beat out the offensive players that will post gaudy numbers, it'll be important for Stingley to have an affect on the game outside of man-to-man coverage. Punt returns provide that avenue.