Same idea as earlier. I’m breaking down both teams by position and giving the edge to the better group. I am not comparing, for example, the Husky defensive line to the LSU offensive line, so it is not a head to head matchup. I’m just comparing, say, the Husky secondary to the LSU secondary as far as which group is more talented or deep. If the whole thing seems a little awkward, bear with me. I’m just trying something so that this isn’t just another straight up breakdown of the opponent’s players.
Defensive Line: If there is a single position that could all but guarantee a Husky loss through a dominant performance, it is the defensive line. The two ends, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, are both destined for the NFL, probably after this season, and they are both highly experienced. No matter who the Huskies decide to start at tackle, it will be a mismatch. Micah Hatchie and either Kohler or sophomore Mike Criste will need to play at an incredibly high level to allow Keith Price the time to make throws. If they fail, the final score will not be pretty. In all likelihood, it will be the LSU defensive line, or perhaps the mediocre play of the Husky offensive line, that decides this game. Watch for Josh Shirley to manage a sack or two and for the 317 pound Danny Shelton to play alongside the 340 pound Semisi Tokolahi to try to make up size, though, to be honest, I’m not sure anything Sark does will make this a fair fight.
Linebackers: Even though Kevin Minter is the only returning starter, both outside backers, Luke Muncie and Lamin Barrow, played heavily last year. Not a lot of known depth beyond those three, but once again, this is LSU. The talent is always there, and the defense will always play at a high level. For the Huskies, linebacker suddenly seems like a source of confidence. John Timu, playing in the middle, is a defensive captain who played solidly against San Diego State. Travis Feeney, an outside linebacker who entered camp as a safety, was one of the stars against SDSU, but has not dealt with an offense this powerful. It’s nearly a wash, but just due to experience, I would give the edge to LSU.
Mar 31, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (7) walks off the field after a play during the 2012 spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Cornerback: If I had to break down LSU last year, the level of talent would have been tough to compare to the horrific Husky defense of 2011. But Morris Claiborne is gone, and Tyrann Mathieu is gone, at least until next season. That leaves Tharold Simon, a junior, who had two interceptions and forty-two tackles last year, and freshman Jalen Mills. Simon is hardly a star, and Mills is playing in the second game of his career. Not exactly overwhelming. The Huskies have Desmond Trufant, a good player who has often been a part of such bad defenses that he has been made to look mediocre. The other starter, Tre Watson, came in to camp as a walk on transfer from Central Washington University, but he earned his scholarship in camp, and had a pick against SDSU. Greg Ducre will also play, though he sprained his foot in practice yesterday. Very close, but I think I have more confidence, personally, in the Husky corners.
Safety: The Tigers are still very talented at safety. Junior Eric Reid is an NFL level player, finishing 2011 with two interceptions and 76 tackles. At strong safety, new starter Craig Loston will have to step up after only notching fourteen tackles last season. But once again, this is LSU, and he very well could have been starting for a lesser team years ago. The Huskies have SS Sean Parker, who, in my opinion, is extremely underrated. Will Shamburger wasn’t even a lock to start last week, and may still be swapped out for Justin Glenn, but both are solid options at free safety. Shaq Thompson, technically a nickelback, will also play the majority of snaps as a sort of roving safety/linebacker hybrid. While Eric Reid may be the best safety on the field Saturday, I have great trust in his Husky counterparts, and I give them the slight edge.
Note: I was mistaken in calling LSU corner Jalen Mills highly touted. As it was pointed out in the comments, he was only a three star recruit. The fact that he signed with LSU means Les Miles sees something more in him, as the average three star recruit does not get an offer from LSU, but he is no consensus five star.