SAFETY LARONLANDRY IS FLEET AND FIERCE. NOW HE MUST DEVELOP INTO THE LEADER THE DEFENSENEEDS
2005 RECORD 11-2(7-1 in SEC West)
KEY RETURNEES RBAlley Broussard (Jr.) LSU's top rusher in 2004, he missed last season with atorn right ACL LB Ali Highsmith (Jr.) The 6'1", 226-pound head-banger ledthe Tigers with three forced fumbles last season WR Dwayne Bowe (Sr.) Had 41catches for 710 yards and nine touchdowns in '05 but dropped too many balls.The 6'3" 217-pounder underwent LASIK surgery in the off-season
BIG MAN ON CAMPUSJaMarcus Russell has engineered six come-from-behind victories in the fourthquarter or in overtime, thrown 24 touchdown passes and won 14 of his 16 starts.Last fall the 6'6", 252-pound junior completed 60.5% of his throws for2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns in 12 games before wrist and shoulder injuriesforced him to miss the Peach Bowl and much of spring practice. Coach Les Milespronounced Russell "completely healed," but if he falters the Tigershave a capable backup in junior Matt Flynn.
Asked why hechose not to declare for last April's NFL draft, even though he was likely tobe a mid- to late-first-round pick, senior free safety LaRon Landry ticks off acouple of reasons: to win the Bednarik Trophy as the nation's top defensiveplayer, and to help the Tigers take their second BCS championship in fouryears. Then, after a pause, he adds, "And because I wanted to be part ofthe Number 1 secondary in the nation."
The 6'2"204-pounder from Ama, La., is one of three starters returning from a deep andtalented backfield that led the SEC in pass efficiency defense in 2005. Seniorstrong safety Jessie Daniels is an experienced signal-caller with 136 tacklesin 24 starts, while junior cornerback Chevis Jackson has speed to spare. Thesecond corner slot will go to junior Jonathan Zenon, another burner who sawextensive action last season in nickel and dime packages. Then there's Landry,a fourth-year starter who has been an impact player since his freshman season,when he led LSU's 2003 title team with 80 tackles. Fast and physical, he'snearly unbeatable in pass coverage; he broke up eight passes and had threeinterceptions last year. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini can't wait to turnLandry loose on the blitz this fall. "He can run and cover like acorner," says Pelini, "and he can also play like a linebacker. He givesus a lot of versatility."
That will come inhandy on a defense that has gaps to fill, with two new starters at linebackerand three on the line. Plenty of talent remains, though, including thefleet-footed Highsmith and 6'2", 284-pound tackle Glenn Dorsey, one of thestrongest players on the team, who saw extensive action as a reserve lastseason.
With a matchupagainst SEC West rival Auburn looming on Sept. 16, the defense must cometogether quickly to realize Landry's BCS goal. Pelini has been urging his starto be a more vocal leader-a role that should come easily to a communicationsmajor. "We have lots of experience in the backfield," Landry says."It's my job to help out the younger guys and to mentor them. That's goingto be so important this year."
JOEY BORDELON/ICON SMI