Alabama Football: LSU Tigers defensive preview

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /

As Alabama football gears up to take on LSU in Death Valley, most of the conversation has surrounded the quarterback matchup between Bryce Young and Jayden Daniels. An alternative lens through which to view the matchup is an evaluation of the teams’ defenses. The success each unit can have in limiting the opposing offense will dictate this game.

The Alabama offense looked shaky in its last outing against Mississippi State. However, it has shown the capability to put up 50 points on any given night. It looks to get back on track in Tiger Stadium, and will filter the offense through Young and running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

The LSU defense has been pretty good at keeping opponents out of the end zone, despite conceding chunks of yardage at times. The Tigers rank 27th nationally in scoring defense (21.1 points per game allowed), but also rank 70th giving up 5.5 yards per play.

This bend-but-don’t-break style requires the LSU defense to tighten up near the goal line and get red zone stops. Tight end Cameron Latu is one of Alabama’s top red zone targets and could play a key role in the game.

Alabama Football vs LSU Front Seven

Like Alabama, the Tigers have a lot of experience on the defensive front. Defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy and defensive end Ali Gaye are both three-year contributors on the LSU defensive line. Undersized Missouri transfer Mekhi Wingo has been the most productive member of the line, tallying 33 tackles and two sacks this season. Jacobian Guillory and Saivion Jones provide valuable depth.

LSU’s defensive strength is unquestionably at linebacker. On the inside, Micah Baskerville leads the team with 50 tackles. Baskerville is one of the SEC’s better linebackers and has extensive experience. He has accumulated over 220 career tackles, and is one of the few remaining holdovers that contributed on LSU’s 2019 national championship team. Sophomore Greg Penn III has also been solid, racking up 38 tackles in his first year as a starter. Former Clemson transfer Mike Jones Jr. is a quality rotational piece.

If LSU’s inside linebackers are good, its outside linebackers are freaks. Junior BJ Ojulari, who has a team-high four sacks this year and 15 in his career, is one of the conference’s best pass rushers. True freshman Harold Perkins, a Texas A&M flip, is incredibly athletic and versatile. Perkins is one of the best freshmen in all of college football, regardless of position. He is third on the team with 36 tackles and second with 2.5 sacks despite not being a regular starter.

Alabama Football vs LSU Secondary

While the LSU secondary doesn’t have playmakers in the mold of Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, or even Derek Stingley Jr., it does feature a lot of playing experience. Veteran nickel Jay Ward and safety Greg Brooks Jr., an Arkansas transfer, have stood out amongst the defensive backs. Brooks is just one of many transfers that make up this secondary.

Louisiana transfer Mekhi Garner, McNeese State transfer Colby Richardson, and Oklahoma State transfer Jarrick Bernard-Converse have meshed well to form an effective cornerback rotation. All three are big defensive backs with good physical tools, and combined to have eight years of starting experience before even arriving in Baton Rouge.

Joe Foucha, another Arkansas transfer, has returned from a four-game suspension and been a playmaker at safety. He came to LSU as a three-year SEC starter and has 242 career tackles and five interceptions. Sophomores Major Burns and Sage Ryan give the secondary depth while being groomed to take on key roles next season.

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This defense lacks the top-to-bottom talent that past LSU defenses have boasted, but it is a very seasoned group that is improving every week. The Tigers will provide a stiff challenge for Bryce Young and the Alabama offense, who hope to assert themselves as one of the nation’s best offenses.