Where does ESPN rank LSU’s defense entering 2023 season?
LSU returns a lot of talent in 2023 coming off a 10-win, SEC West championship season last fall.
That is especially true on offense, where the team returns starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, all of its top running backs, its two best pass-catchers arguably in Malik Nabers and Mason Taylor, as well as an offensive line that is young but promising and brings back all but one starter.
Defensively, though, there are a few more questions. The Tigers lost a good amount of production including their two starting defensive ends and much of their secondary. However, coach Brian Kelly hit the portal once again to rebuild.
After adding players like JK Johnson and Denver Harris in the secondary, as well as linebacker Omar Speights and defensive line additions like Bradyn Swinson, Ovie Oghoufo and Paris Shand, this group looks promising despite featuring a lot of new faces for the second year in a row.
Still, ESPN is buying the unit and ranks it as the No. 7 defense in the country entering the season.
2022 future defense power ranking: 9
Scouting the Tigers: LSU’s defense is in a good spot after a solid but not spectacular 2022 season under a new coaching staff. The unit brings back star power, especially with linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. for at least two more seasons. But there are some holes to fill, especially in the secondary and up front, as B.J. Ojulari moves on to the NFL. The return of dynamic defensive tackle Maason Smith, injured while celebrating during the 2022 opener, helps a line that loses both Ojulari and end Ali Gaye. Smith and Mekhi Wingo, a third-team AP All-America selection who had three sacks and six tackles for loss, give the Tigers two interior stalwarts, both with multiple years of eligibility left. Junior end Sai’vion Jones could see a bigger role after finishing third on the team in sacks (4.5) last fall. Jacobian Guillory and Arizona transfer Paris Shand provide depth inside. Ovie Oghoufo, a Texas transfer with 13 career sacks, should help fill the pass-rushing gap.
The Tigers have one of the nation’s best linebacker tandems in Perkins and Omar Speights, an Oregon State transfer who earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2022. The group also boasts junior Greg Penn III, who finished second on the team in tackles last season (78). Junior West Weeks is a solid depth player who had 28 tackles last season. Veteran safety Greg Brooks Jr. will lead the secondary after showing production and playmaking in 2022. Brooks and junior Major Burns project to start at safety. The cornerback spot is a bigger mystery, although LSU has options with transfers Duce Chestnut (Syracuse), Denver Harris (Texas A&M), JK Johnson (Ohio State) and Zy Alexander (Southeastern Louisiana), as well as holdovers such as Sage Ryan, an ESPN top-65 recruit in 2021. LSU also signed Javien Toviano (cornerback) and Da’Shawn Wommack (defensive end). The team’s overall defensive recruiting remains promising.
With the offseason additions plus the return of a budding superstar in linebacker Harold Perkins, this defense is certainly promising. You can never know for sure how a defense filled with transfers will look until it takes the field, but there will be no shortage of defensive talent in Baton Rouge this season.
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