LSU just started fall camp and already has made an adjustment to its defensive line.
Breiden Fehoko has moved to nose tackle from end because starting nose tackle Ed Alexander will be brought along slowly after enduring “a minor setback” with his knees, according to head coach Ed Orgeron. The knees kept Alexander out of spring practice.
Alexander is the third nose tackle, behind Tyler Shelvin as well as Fehoko, but there’s plenty of time for him to regain his starting position before LSU opens the season Sept. 2 against Miami.
The expectation is that the move is temporary and before long Alexander will be back in the starting lineup and Fehoko will be back at end, probably as a starter.
“He had been battling some knee injuries (and is) coming along slow,” Orgeron said of Alexander. “We will see how healthy he’s going to be going into camp.”
But the adjustment is a reminder that injuries last season exposed a lack of depth on LSU’s defensive line and that the Tigers have greater depth this season. It appears they are better equipped to handle any losses on the defensive front.
“We have a lot of depth,” Oregron said. “We have some young guys there. We can rotate a bunch of guys.”
Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan are the starting ends with Fehoko’s move inside.
Last season, Lawrence missed three games, Logan missed one, Alexander missed three and Frank Herron missed six. Herron’s absence was for an unspecified violation of team rules. Those absences further limited LSU at a position that already was thin coming out of preseason camp.
Even with Herron, starting nose tackle Greg Gilmore and starting end Christian LaCouture having exhausted their eligibility last season, the Tigers can have a deeper rotation this season.
“Rashard’s coming back, giving us a lot of strength,” Orgeron said. “Looking forward to seeing Breiden in camp. He had a good spring, a good offseason. I think he’s going to have a tremendous year along with Glen Logan.”
LSU has been eager to see Fehoko in the lineup ever since he transferred from Texas Tech. Another intriguing lineman is backup tackle Tyler Shelvin, who was listed at 378 pounds when he redshirted last season.
Orgeron joked that Shelvin has gone from a “slim 390” to a “skinny 354.” He said that Shelvin has shown “glimpses” of former LSU great Glenn Dorsey, though he wasn’t ready to say Shelvin can match Dorsey on a consistent basis.
“He’s the first one I’ve seen that has that talent, that quickness, that pad level,” Orgeron said. “He’s not there yet.”
Logan had one of the better offseasons among the defensive linemen and like Fehoko he can play end and tackle.
Neil Farrell and Justin Thomas provide depth at end and three true freshmen are competing for an opportunity to get into the mix. Nelson Jenkins seems to be leading the way, followed by Davin Cotton and Dare Rosenthal.
All in all, this group could stack up against some of the elite ones the Tigers have had in recent seasons, especially when Alexande returns to form.
Orgeron, a long-time defensive line coach who held that position at LSU before being promoted to interim head coach during the 2016 season, said he plans to be more hands-on with the unit this season.
“I’m going to be very involved in coaching the defensive line this year,” Orgeron said. “Me and (defensive line coach) Dennis Johnson, we’re going to be more active. We’re going to get up the field and penetrate, and we’re going to have some fun.”