Dig Baton Rouge

Tough in the Middle

By Andrew Alexander

The LSU defensive line has many reasons to expect a productive year in 2014. Two of those reasons happen to be attached to defensive end Danielle Hunter’s shoulders.

Pictures of Hunter’s arms have become somewhat of a viral sensation among college football fans. Sporting an impressive four percent body fat, Hunter’s veins can be see bulging as he lines up at practice.

Hunter attributes his physique to his Jamaican heritage, but was surprised when he actually saw a picture of his arms.

“Damn, that’s a lot of veins,” laughed Hunter.

A junior from Katy, Texas, Hunter – who recorded 57 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks last season – believes that he has worked hard in the offseason to improve every facet of his game and become an even bigger force up front.

“I’ve focused on hand placements, get-offs and back side techniques,” Hunter said. “I work on the little things so they will become muscle memory. I used to think and hesitate a lot. This year I’m just going out on the field just playing football.”

Besides Hunter’s biceps, the Tiger defensive line returns senior Jermauria Rasco, a 13-game starter in 2013. Rasco led the team with four sacks last season, while adding 6.5 tackles for loss and 56 total tackles.

LSU lost both starters at defensive tackle, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, to the NFL, but the Tigers do return sophomore Christian LaCouture, who played in all 13 games last season.

Behind LaCouture, a slew of redshirt freshmen, including Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Maquedius Bain, are battling for the chance to start this season for the Tigers at defensive tackle.

“I wanted to try to take a leadership role and help the young guys out this year,” LaCouture said. “We have a lot of young guys playing defensive tackle. We’re just working hard everyday to get ready for Wisconsin.”

LaCouture, the lone defensive tackle early-enrollee from the class of 2013, recorded 11 tackles last season while gaining valuable experience playing alongside Johnson and Ferguson.

“Those guys are my role models,” LaCouture said. “They taught me little things like technique and coming off the ball.”

Bain said the competition has been good for all the tackles to push each other daily in practice.

“Every position is up for grabs, and nothing is set in stone,” said Bain.

Redshirting allowed Bain, Gilmore and Herron – who switched from defensive end to tackle since arriving in Baton Rouge last summer – the chance to acclimate to life in the trenches of the SEC.

“I got stronger, and learned how to play low, keep my pads level and use my hands a lot,” Bain said. “It’s the SEC, it’s kind of hard because you can’t just shoot gaps, you have to use technique a lot more.”

“It’s been a tough transition from end to tackle because you’re hitting every play,” Herron said. “I’m looking to play fast and physical each down.”

“I just want to win football games,” Gilmore said. “It’s all about bringing the legacy and intensity. We’re all going to be ready.”

“I feel like we’re ready. Competition has been great,” added LaCouture.

The potential depth at defensive tackle will be crucial for the Tigers if junior tackle Quentin Thomas has a prolonged absence due to a bicep injury.

Regardless of how the depth chart shakes out, Hunter has seen enough of these guys in practice to trust whoever is beside him on the field once the game starts.

“We’ve got a rotation with the young guys, something we didn’t have last year,” Hunter said. “We made a lot of mistakes last year. The guy’s are more mature this year.”

 

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