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Opinion: How Good LSU Defense will be in 2023

How will cornerback depth shake out?

LSU enters this spring with plenty of options at cornerback.

Despite losing Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Sevyn Banks, and Mekhi Garner, the Tigers added four players from the transfer portal: Syracuse’s Darian Chestnut, Southeastern Louisiana’s Zy Alexander, Ohio State’s JK Johnson and Texas A&M’s Denver Harris from the portal. They also brought in three freshman signees, including top-60 national recruit Javien Toviano.

How the competition will shake out should be fascinating to watch. As a former five-star recruit from the 2022 class, Harris appears to be a favorite to earn one of the two starting spots. But, given Johnson and Chestnut’s starting experience, nothing appears to be guaranteed.

Does LSU need more depth at linebacker?

LSU lost a lot of valuable pieces at linebacker after Micah Baskerville, DeMario Tolan, Kolbe Fields, and Mike Jones Jr. all departed this offseason. The Tigers added freshmen signees Christian Brathwaite and Whit Weeks, as well as Oregon State transfer Omar Speights.

The starters appear to be set. Greg Penn III returns and should have Speights by his side, while Harold Perkins is arguably the best linebacker in the sport. West Weeks, Whit’s older brother, is a good backup option assuming Penn and Speights start on the inside with Perkins as the roving outside linebacker, like the role he had last season.

Those are SEC-quality starting options. But there’s little depth or experience behind that group. Perhaps LSU could grab one more veteran option from the transfer portal during the second window in May?

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What is John Jancek’s impact on the defense?

Jancek will serve as LSU’s outside linebackers coach while also being the Tigers’ special teams coordinator. While there are questions surrounding his qualifications as a special teams coach, Jancek should be more than capable of helping out Perkins and the rest of LSU’s players on the edge.

He has experience as the defensive coordinator at Tennessee and Georgia. In his final season with the Volunteers, they allowed opponents to complete only 50.7% of their pass attempts, the second-best mark in the SEC.

Who replaces BJ Ojulari at the Jack position?

The Tigers enter this spring without an edge rusher who can replace BJ Ojulari’s production at the Jack position.

LSU added Texas transfer Ovie Oghoufo and Oregon transfer Bradyn Swinson from the portal and signed freshmen Da’Shawn Womack and Jaxon Howard.

There’s depth and some talent, but LSU will need one of these four to play beyond expectations to replicate what Ojulari did last season.

Who will make the biggest leap on defense?

Given how raw he was last season, Perkins could steal this distinction despite how good he was last season.

Another name to watch here is Penn. After playing behind Baskerville and Damone Clark and getting a year of starting experience, Penn is primed to take a big step forward this spring.