Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

The LSU Defensive Tackle Unit: How Good is Good Enough?

How Good is Good Enough?

Much has been made of LSU’s need at defensive tackle this offseason. The recent commitment of Grand Valley State transfer Jay’Viar Suggs is encouraging, but how good is championship good for this group? The performance of the units on championship teams of the past offers a glimpse of the production needed from the room to win big. We’ll take a closer look at the defensive tackle position from the last three LSU National Championship teams to get a better idea of the level of play the Tigers need to take the next step.

Defensive ends who played on the interior of the line on 3-4 defenses will be listed as defensive tackles in this comparison. The individual defensive statistics listed below are only from the championship years. Keep in mind, stats aren’t everything. Obviously, the game has changed significantly in the last 25 years. Zone-read-based offenses have made it tougher for interior defenders to stockpile statistics. Besides that, different defensive schemes have different needs from the position. This exercise is meant to spotlight the talent level and depth of previous national champions.

2019 LSU Defensive Tackles


Rashard Lawrence

  • 28 tackles, six TFL, 2.5 sacks
  • Second team All-SEC
  • Fourth-round draft pick

Neil Farrell

  • 46 tackles, seven TFL, three sacks
  • Fourth-round draft pick

Tyler Shelvin

  • 39 tackles, three TFL
  • Fourth-round draft pick


Glen Logan

  • 20 tackles
  • Undrafted free agent

Breiden Fehoko

  • 17 tackles
  • Undrafted free agent

Siaki Ika

  • 17 tackles
  • Third-round draft pick

The quality depth of this group is inarguable, despite the lack of a bona fide star. All six players in the rotation were drafted or signed with an NFL team. Lawrence’s stats suffered due to injuries, but his impact was apparent in big games.  Shelvin was the most physically talented player of this group but could only show it when his weight was in check. The production of underrated recruits like Farrell was key in constructing a good but not great defense.

2007 LSU Defensive Tackles


Glenn Dorsey

  • 69 tackles, 12.5 TFL, seven sacks
  • First team All-American
  • Lombardi Award
  • Outland Award
  • Nagurski Trophy
  • First-round draft pick

Marlon Favorite

  • 28 tackles, one TFL
  • Undrafted free agent


Al Woods

  • 22 tackles, two sacks
  • Fourth-round draft pick

Drake Nevis

  • 17 tackles, two TFL

Ricky Jean-Francois

  • Nine tackles
  • BCS Championship Defensive MVP
  • Seventh-round draft pick

The 2007 unit had the total package of star power at the top as well as NFL talent as depth pieces. Dorsey is the most decorated defensive player in the history of LSU football. Favorite was ranked even higher than Dorsey coming out of high school from one recruiting service. Al Woods went on to play 14 years in the NFL. Jean-Francois easily discarded Ohio State offensive linemen similar to the way he shook off eligibility issues that limited his participation in 2007. This was an outstanding unit that only got three games from one of its projected starters, Charles Alexander before he was injured.

2003 LSU Defensive Tackles


Chad Lavalais

  • 61 tackles, 16 TFL
  • SEC Defensive Player of the Year
  • First team All-American
  • Fifth-round draft pick

Kyle Williams

  • 41 tackles, 6.5 TFL
  • First team All-American
  • Fifth-round draft pick


Melvin Oliver

  • 31 tackles, four sacks
  • Sixth-round draft pick

Bryce Wyatt

  • 28 tackles, 2.5 TFL

While not as deep as the previous groups on this list, the production from the starters is outstanding. Lavalais could not be blocked in one-on-one situations in 2003, but he continued to get favorable matchups partially due to the phenomenal defensive ends LSU had at the time. Williams took a starting spot in the lineup midseason as a true sophomore and went on to play 13 years in the NFL. This group was the heart of a dominant defense that brought LSU to its first national championship in 45 years.

Outlook for 2024

The 2024 Tiger defense brings back Jacobian Guillory, Jalen Lee, Kimo Makane’ole, and Preston Hickey. The defense gained transfers Gio Paez of Wisconsin and the aforementioned Suggs. LSU needs contributions from junior college signee Shone Washington along with high school recruits Domanick McKinley and De’Myrion Johnson.

History tells us that LSU needs an all-conference caliber starter at the very least to have a legitimate shot at a championship. It would also benefit the Tigers to play a minimum of five players at the position. The coaching staff has done an admirable job of adding to the numbers; the big question is how good is the depth? Every player mentioned from the 2003, 2007, and 2019 teams at least camped with an NFL team. If there are five NFL players in this group, then two of them are likely true freshmen.

This doesn’t mean it’s time for LSU fans to panic. Production from the defensive tackle group will likely pick up if only from having a competent defensive staff. Furthermore, some players could be better than projected, as they held up well at times during the spring game. This simply means if the Tigers are looking to win a championship, there’s still work to be done.


Photo courtesy: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


More Posts

Send Us A Message