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March 25, 2012

Following the plan

One look at the LSU depth chart at defensive end in 2011 indicated there was no lack of talent.

There were five defensive ends who had started games in their college careers - Kendrick Adams, Lavar Edwards, Chancey Aghayere, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. That rotation would be difficult to crack for any true freshman.

That was the situation which Jermauria Rasco entered last August. The top defensive playmaker for Shreveport Evangel teams which twice defeated perennial power River Ridge Curtis for Class 2A titles, Rasco seemed headed for a redshirt season.

However, Rasco had different ideas.

"At the start of last year, I didn't get many reps," Rasco said. "My goal was to prove to the coaches that I could play. Every time I took the field, I tried to make as many plays as I could."

Rasco didn't get into a game until week four when the Tigers took on West Virginia in Morgantown. Once Rasco got the chance to log playing time, he went about accomplishing his task of making the coaches take notice of him.

"My first big play came against West Virginia," Rasco said. "I remember that it was a draw play. I was ready to hit the running back and then I got pushed into the back. Then, I heard my name (for making the tackle) over the loudspeaker."

After the West Virginia game, Rasco began to be prepared for another role. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey wanted Rasco on the kickoff coverage team. That responsibility is quite unusual for a 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end.

In the second half of the season, Rasco earned a spotting position on the kickoff team. He also received some limited snaps as the No. 5 defensive end behind Montgomery, Adams, Mingo and Edwards. Rasco made his presence known with 17 tackles, including 3 behind the line of scrimmage.

"Coming in as a freshman, I expected to be a role player," Rasco said. "I wanted to do anything the coaches told me to do. Everything they told me to do I tried to do better. I wanted to help the LSU Tigers win."

Rasco was rated the No. 8 defensive end in the country following his senior season at Evangel. In his last two high school campaigns, Rasco was credited with 178 tackles, including 31 sacks. Rasco felt that he was well prepared for Southeastern Conference football.

"I had played defensive end and a little linebacker at Evangel," Rasco said. "The speed of the game was different. I had to get my strength up and I watched more film. But, the adjustment really wasn't hard. Byron Dawson coached me at Evangel. He played at LSU and he told me that I had to watch film."

With Adams out of eligibility, Rasco has moved one spot up the depth chart in spring practice. He finds himself as the No. 4 defensive end behind Montgomery, Mingo and Edwards. That spot on the depth chart just suits Rasco fine.

"I am glad Sam stayed so I can learn more from him," Rasco said. "Sam is Sam. He tells me everything. Mingo knows everything about defensive end since he has played both sides. Lavar knows all the little things about the position."

Rasco is also getting help from another one of his teammates - offensive tackle Alex Hurst. Rasco spends most of the scrimmage time going against Hurst, who has started at right tackle the past two seasons.

"Hurst is a grown man," Rasco said. "I try to get extra information from him. He'll tell me how to beat him. Alex lets me know the technique I need to use on every block."

Rasco may need to develop very rapidly this season. Edwards is a senior, while Montgomery is expected to leave for the NFL after the 2012 season. There's a chance that Mingo could give up his last season at LSU. So, Rasco could be the No. 1 defensive end as soon as 2013.

"Most of my reps are coming with the second team in spring," Rasco said. "Mingo, Sam and Lavar are rotating with the first team. (Defensive line coach) Brick (Haley) is watching me this spring to see if I can contribute. I want to prove to the coaches I'm ready to play."

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