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March 31, 2006

No shortage of DL talent at LSU

The numbers look almost as intimidating as the players who produced them.

Kyle Williams, Claude Wroten and Melvin Oliver played critical roles last year on a front four that helped give Louisiana State one of the country's top defenses.

The Tigers ranked third in the nation in total defense (266.9 yards per game) and scoring defense (14.2 points per game).

They were sixth in the nation in rushing defense (2.96 yards per carry).

And they ended the year by holding Miami to 3 yards of total offense in the second half of a 40-3 Peach Bowl triumph.

Williams, Wroten and Oliver won't be playing in Saturday's scrimmage at Tiger Stadium. Their college careers ended with that masterful Peach Bowl performance.

The victory over Miami also ended defensive line coach Karl Dunbar's LSU tenure. Dunbar took a similar position with the Minnesota Vikings and was replaced by South Florida assistant Earl Lane.

With a new coach and three new starters, can LSU's defensive line possibly match its 2005 accomplishments?

"Of course," said junior defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, entering his first year as a starter. "We can do just a well as we did last year if not better as long as we work hard and do what our coaches tell us."

Dorsey knows all too well that's easier said than done.

"It's going to be very tough," Dorsey said. "It's going to be a lot of blood, sweat, tears and time in the weight room. It's going to be a long road, but we're up for the challenge."

Dorsey and Co. have a hard act to follow.

Williams and Wroten gave LSU arguably the top pair of defensive tackles in all of college football last year.

Williams collected 61 total tackles 7 for loss and 4 sacks to earn second-team Associated Press All-America honors. Wroten was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection with 49 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Oliver tied for third on the team with 69 total tackles and also delivered 11 tackles for loss and nine sacks. In his final college game, the defensive end was named the Peach Bowl's outstanding defensive player.

That senior trio left an unspoken message for the underclassmen.

"They didn't need to say anything," senior defensive end Chase Pittman said. "It was kind of understood. We have to keep carrying on."

The Tigers have been doing just that.

Pittman has provided the leadership as the defensive line's lone returning starter. Dorsey offers plenty of potential after collecting 28 tackles in a reserve role last season.

LSU's other linemen possess less experience, but they certainly don't lack talent or athleticism.

Sophomore defensive tackle Marlon Favorite was a Rivals.com four-star prospect his senior year at Harvey (La.) West Jefferson High. Sophomore defensive end Tyson Jackson played on a state championship team at Edgard (La.) West St. John High.

Junior defensive end Kirston Pittman earned consideration on some freshman All-America teams his first year at LSU, and sophomore defensive end Charles Alexander also showed promise before injuring his foot early last season. Redshirt freshman defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois is a former Rivals.com four-star prospect and a two-time Florida prep state champion in the shot put and discus.

The new defensive line already has won praise from players on the other side of the ball.

"They've looked very good," quarterback Matt Flynn said. "They're quick and athletic. They're going to surprise some people."

But they won't surprise themselves.

For more coverage of LSU spring football, check out TigerBait.com.



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