After opening the season against an undersized and overmatched Louisiana Tech defensive line, the Texas Longhorns’ offensive line is about to come face to face with a far more formidable front unit with the No. 6 LSU Tigers coming to Austin on Saturday evening.
On Monday, Texas head coach Tom Herman praised the size and strength LSU features in the trenches, and make no mistake about it: The Tigers boasts quite a bit.
On paper, that’s most evident in the form of redshirt sophomore nose tackle Tyler Shelvin, an imposing 6’3, 345-pound presence. Regarded as the fourth-best defensive tackle prospect during the 2017 cycle, Shelvin is still at the front end of his first stint as a starter, but LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has been impressed with how he’s adapted to the role throughout camp and ultimately, during the Tigers’ 55-3 season-opening win over Georgia Southern, in which Shelvin tallied six tackles and one tackle for loss.
Saw some good things from Tyler Shelvin at NT last night. Six tackles, one for loss, three run stops in 24 snaps.— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) September 2, 2019
And plays like this, where he eats a double team (C and LG) and frees up Jacob Phillips for a one-on-one tackle. pic.twitter.com/EMqnL1WnFF
“Big T played very well. He had a good camp. I thought he played excellent,” Orgeron said. “Now, consistency is a big factor with him. He proved to us that’s why we went to get him; he was the number one player in the state. He played with tremendous leverage. As we all know, he’s an excellent athlete and he played hard.”
However, just as Texas is set to see a much more daunting defensive line, LSU will be lining up across from a Longhorns offensive line that will serve as a substantial step up from the competition the Tigers faced days ago. Shelvin, in particular, will largely be pitted against arguably the best the Horns have to offer in senior center Zach Shackelford, a Preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection.
“But now we’re going to face a bigger, stronger offensive line, a bigger back, a better quarterback,” Orgeron added when discussing Shelvin’s impact. “We’ll see how he does in a big-time game, but I do think he’s gonna do well.”
And his backup? An even bigger body in the 6’4, 354-pound Siaki Ika, a four-star true freshman out of Utah.
Orgeron shared similar praise for the big body set to line up to Shelvin’s left, junior defensive end Glen Logan.
“Glen Logan played fantastic. The first play of the game, he had a cutoff block and made a tremendous tackle,” Orgeron said. “Glen Logan did not miss one rep in camp and I can’t say that for any other defensive lineman and, I don’t think, any other offensive lineman that I know of. Glen was very, very sturdy in camp. He’s come a long way. He’s an excellent lineman right now, he’s one of our best linemen.”
According to his LSU profile, Logan has shed 30 pounds since stepping foot on campus as a four-star, top-160 national prospect in 2016, yet his 6’4 frame still carries 308 pounds on the edge. And his backup, junior Neil Farrell Jr., features plenty of size as well at 6’4, 298 pounds, which he utilized to total eight tackles against Georgia Southern.
Opposite of Logan as the top talent in LSU’s three-man front is senior Rashard Lawrence.
Yet another 300-pounder — 308, to be exact — the one-time five-star prospect has lived up to that billing as a three-year starter for the Tigers, and after amassing 54 stops, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2018, Lawrence entered his final season in the Bayou as a Preseason All-SEC first-team selection.
The good news as far as Texas is concerned, is that though Lawrence is nothing short of a handful to handful up front, he’ll be tasked with attempting to impose his will against the left side of the Longhorns offensive line, which is its strength and features a grad transfer and two-time All-ACC selection at right guard in Parker Braun and a former freshman All-American and budding star at right tackle in Samuel Cosmi.
The latter, after allowing zero quarterback pressures in 47 pass-blocking snaps last week against Louisiana Tech, earned recognition with a 91.3 grade from Pro Football Focus, but nevertheless, LSU senior linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. envisions the Tigers enjoying a “#SackFeast” on Saturday.
If LSU does, indeed, enjoy a sack feast on Sam Ehlinger, who was sacked just once against Louisiana Tech, it will likely be due, in large part, to the presence of sophomore K’Lavon Chaisson.
An outside linebacker who essentially serves as a hybrid edge rusher, Chaisson is a talent Texas fans are already quite familiar with, as he was once a priority prospect for the Horns before ultimately taking his talents to The Boot. Now that he’s there, after an injury sidelined him for virtually the entire 2018 season, a breakout campaign is expected from the Houston native, whom Herman described as “elite.”
Though he does move around a bit, Chaisson will often align alongside Lawrence, which will make for arguably the top tandem the right side of the Texas offensive line will see this season.
That may be among the reasons Chaisson thinks Texas doesn’t have a chance on Saturday.