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LSU or D-Line ‘Zou: Who, oh who, is the True D-Line U?

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LSU is old money. MU is new hotness. Which would you rather have?

Delaware State v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

LSU has made a big thing out of its ability to produce quarterback and running back swallowing, NFL-ready defensive linemen.

CBS Sports even came up with a formula to find that, over the past decade, LSU has been the second-best team in college football at churning out defensive line talent, second only to Georgia.

With Missouri’s recent success on the defensive line — and the non-Bayou Bengals’ first trip to Baton Rouge coming up -- it begs the question: does D-Line ‘Zou have a seat at the table?

Let’s look at this a couple ways.

First, defensive on-field production in terms of sacks and tackles for loss. True, not all tackles for loss or sacks come from defensive linemen, but I feel they’re the defensive stats most emblematic of a strong defensive front.

If the linemen aren’t making these plays, after all, they’re occupying blockers so that others can.

We looked at bulk, per-game average and rate stats such as passing plays (attempts plus sacks) per sack and plays per tackle for loss.

We matched up LSU and Missouri year-to-year from 2006 through 2016:

Overall, Missouri leads LSU in sacks per game over the past decade, 2.48-2.42, and tackles for loss per game, 7.06-6.20.

On a yearly basis, Missouri and LSU split the 10 seasons (with LSU leading so far this year) in sacks per game and in tackles for loss per game, Missouri had the better average in six seasons, LSU had it in two and the two tied in two.

But that’s not a complete picture. And this is why we included the rate stats: LSU faced 1050 fewer plays and 687 fewer pass attempts than Missouri over that span. Hence, fewer opportunities to log sacks or tackles for loss.

In the rate stats, LSU gets the better of Missouri in pass plays per sack, 13.9-15.6, and MU’s lead over LSU in plays per tackle for loss lessens to 10.3-10.6.

On a yearly basis, LSU has the better sack rate in seven years and splits the tackle for loss rate advantage (and holds a lead so far this season).

But there’s been a bit of a turn, recently.

From 2013-15, Missouri had the better tackles for loss average and rate, as well as the better sacks average and rate in two of the three years (2015 excepted).

Which indicates that, while LSU is the historically more prestigious school when it comes to defensive line talent, Missouri has been holding its own over the past three seasons.

Looking at individual players further enforces that sense:

Draft Picks

LSU (14)

(Avg. Round = 3; Avg. Pick = 96)

Tyson Jackson

2009, Round 1, Pick 3 (Kansas City)

College Stats: 121 tackles, 26.5 TFL, 17 sacks (53 games)

NFL Stats: 252 tackles, 9 sacks (109 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.7

Glenn Dorsey

2008, Round 1, Pick 5 (Kansas City)

College Stats: 154 tackles, 25 TFL, 13 sacks (40 games)

NFL Stats: 305 tackles, 7 sacks (94 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 6.0

Barkevious Mingo

2013, Round 1, Pick 6 (Cleveland)

College Stats: 119 tackles, 29 TFL, 15 sacks (40 games)

NFL Stats: 103 tackles, 7 sacks (49 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.9

Michael Brockers

2012, Round 1, Pick 14 (St. Louis)

College Stats: 79 tackles, 11 TFL, 2 sacks (27 games)

NFL Stats: 156 tackles, 14.5 sacks (64 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.8

Ego Ferguson

2014, Round 2, Pick 51 (Chicago)

College Stats: 85 tackles, 5 TFL, sack (38 games)

NFL Stats: 27 tackles, 2 sacks (20 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 6.0

Bennie Logan

2013, Round 3, Pick 67 (Philadelphia)

College Stats: 107 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 5 sacks (30 games)

NFL Stats: 146 tackles, 4 sacks (49 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.6

Drake Nevis

2011, Round 3, Pick 87 (Indianapolis)

College Stats: 139 tackles, 31.5 TFL, 10 sacks (44 games)

NFL Stats: 50 tackles, sack (26 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.9

Danielle Hunter

2015, Round 3, Pick 88 (Minnesota)

College Stats: 142 tackles, 21 TFL, 4.5 sacks (38 games)

NFL Stats: 41 tackles, 9 sacks (17 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.8

Sam Montgomery

2013, Round 3, Pick 95 (Houston)

College Stats: 104 tackles, 32.5 TFL, 19 sacks (32 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.9

Al Woods

2010, Round 4, Pick 123 (New Orleans)

College Stats: 73 tackles, 8 TFL, 3.5 sacks (41 games)

NFL Stats: 90 tackles, 3.5 sacks (72 games)

Rivals Rating: 5-star, 6.1

Lavar Edwards

2013, Round 5, Pick 142 (Tennessee)

College Stats: 96 tackles, 20 TFL, 10.5 sacks (52 games)

NFL Stats: 13 tackles, sack (14 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.5

Lazarius Levingston

2011, Round 7, Pick 205 (Seattle)

College Stats: 70 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 3 sacks (48 games)

NFL Stats: 3 tackles (7 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.7

Chase Pittman

2007, Round 7, Pick 213 (Cleveland)

College Stats: 56 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks (26 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 4-star

Ricky Jean-Francois

2009, Round 7, Pick 244 (San Francisco)

College Stats: 56 tackles, 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks (26 games)

NFL Stats: 139 tackles, 11 sacks (96 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 6.0

-----

Avg. College Stats: 100 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks (38 games)

Avg. NFL Stats: 95 tackles, 5 sacks (44 games)

Avg. Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.8


Missouri (9)

(Avg. Round = 3; Avg. Pick = 84)

Aldon Smith

2011, Round 1, Pick 7 (San Francisco)

College Stats: 112 tackles, 29 TFL, 16 sacks (23 games)

NFL Stats: 180 tackles, 47.5 sacks (59 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.7

Sheldon Richardson

2013, Round 1, Pick 13 (New York Jets)

College Stats: 112 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 6 sacks (24 games)

NFL Stats: 188 tackles, 17 sacks (45 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 6.0

Shane Ray

2015, Round 1, Pick 23 (Denver)

College Stats: 120 tackles, 34 TFL, 19 sacks (40 games)

NFL Stats: 29 tackles, 7 sacks (17 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.7

Ziggy Hood

2009, Round 1, Pick 32 (Pittsburgh)

College Stats: 155 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks (50 games)

NFL Stats: 173 tackles, 12.5 sacks (101 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.5

Markus Golden

2015, Round 2, Pick 58 (Arizona)

College Stats: 143 tackles, 32.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks (39 games)

NFL Stats: 40 tackles, 7 sacks (18 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.5

Kony Ealy

2014, Round 2, Pick 60 (Carolina)

College Stats: 96 tackles, 28 TFL, 13.5 sacks (39 games)

NFL Stats: 56 tackles, 9 sacks (34 games)

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 5.8

Brian Smith

2007, Round 4, Pick 113 (Jacksonville)

College Stats: 159 tackles, 42.5 TFL, 31.5 sacks (44 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 3-star

Stryker Sulak

2009, Round 6, Pick 199 (Oakland)

College Stats: 183 tackles, 35.5 TFL, 21.5 sacks (52 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 2-star, 5.2

Michael Sam

2014, Round 7, Pick 249 (St. Louis)

College Stats: 110 tackles, 31.5 TFL, 17 sacks (52 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 2-star, 5.4

-----

Avg. College Stats: 132 tackles, 30.5 TFL, 17 sacks (40 games)

Avg. NFL Stats: 74 tackles, 11 sacks (46 games)

Avg. Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.6


National Award Winners

LSU (1)

Glenn Dorsey (2007) -- Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott

Missouri (0)

Consensus All-Americans

Missouri (2)

Michael Sam (2013)

Shane Ray (2014)

LSU (1)

Glenn Dorsey (2007)


SEC Defensive Players of the Year

Missouri (2)

Michael Sam (2013)

Shane Ray (2014)

LSU (1)

Glenn Dorsey (2007)

All-Conference Selections

Missouri (18)

1st Team (8)

Lorenzo Williams (2007)

College Stats: 125 tackles, 29.5 TFL, 16 sacks (50 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 3-star

Ziggy Hood (2008)

Aldon Smith (2010)

Dominique Hamilton (2011)

College Stats: 139 tackles, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks (46 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.6

Sheldon Richardson (2012)

Kony Ealy (2013)

Michael Sam (2013)

Shane Ray (2014)

2nd Team (10)

Brian Smith (2006)

Stryker Sulak (2007)

Stryker Sulak (2008)

Jaron Baston (2009)

College Stats: 98 tackles, 14 TFL, 2.5 sacks (52 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.5

Aldon Smith (2009)

Brad Madison (2010)

College Stats: 76 tackles, 26.5 TFL, 16 sacks (49 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.5

Jacquies Smith (2010)

College Stats: 142 tackles, 21 TFL, 9.5 sacks (44 games)

NFL Stats: 39 tackles, 13.5 sacks (28 games)

Rivals Rating: 3-star, 5.5

Jacquies Smith (2011)

Markus Golden (2014)

Charles Harris (2015)

LSU (13)

1st Team (6)

Glenn Dorsey (2006)

Glenn Dorsey (2007)

Rahim Alem (2008)

College Stats: 72 tackles, 24.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks (43 games)

NFL Stats: NA

Rivals Rating: 4-star, 6.0

Drake Nevis (2010)

Sam Montgomery (2011)

Sam Montgomery (2012)

2nd Team (7)

Tyson Jackson (2006)

Tyson Jackson (2008)

Michael Brockers (2011)

Barkevious Mingo (2011)

Bennie Logan (2012)

Barkevious Mingo (2012)

Anthony Johnson (2013)

College Stats: 77 tackles, 22 TFL, 7 sacks (40 games)

NFL Stats: 6 tackles (9 games)

Rivals Rating: 5-star, 6.1


In the 10 drafts from 2007 through 2016, LSU had 14 defensive linemen selected to Missouri’s nine. But, if you look at the four years since Missouri joined the SEC, that gap narrows to LSU 6, Missouri 5.

And, in that decade span, Missouri has as many first-round picks off the defensive line as LSU: four.

LSU had a monster 2013 draft, with four defensive linemen going in five rounds, but Missouri also had four defensive linemen go in 2014-15: Shane Ray in the first round, Markus Golden and Kony Ealy in the second and Michael Sam in the seventh.

LSU’s draft picks have more experience than Missouri’s, with 12 of the 14 playing at least a game in the league as opposed to Missouri’s six of nine.

LSU’s got some pretty solid performers from the first round — Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Michael Brockers — on down — Bennie Logan, Danielle Hunter, Ricky Jean-Francois — while Missouri’s got a mix of established performers (Sheldon Richardson, Aldon Smith...despite the difficulties...), up-and-comers (Ealy, Golden and Ray) and an undrafted surprise (Jacquies Smith).

Again: new money catching up to the landed elite.

So LSU would seem to have an edge as far as ability to produce the most NFL talent. But what about accolades when these players are still in college?

Missouri holds a 2-1 edge in consensus All-Americans, Ray and Sam to Dorsey, but neither Sam nor Ray could match Dorsey’s monster 2007 season, which ended in four national awards.

Sam and Ray also give Missouri a 2-1 edge over LSU’s Dorsey in SEC Defensive Players of the Year.

Missouri also holds the edge in all-conference selections, 18-13, and first-team selections, 8-6. If a player made both the coaches’ and AP teams in a season, by the way, we just took the group that had him on the higher team.

But that comes with a bit of a caveat: Missouri had only four years trying to put its players on all-conference squads in the big, bad ESS-EEE-CEE. LSU had 10.

Some would argue it’d be harder to get defensive linemen on an All-SEC team than an All-Big 12 team in the past decade. I would probably argue that, actually.

So, if we’re just looking purely 2012-15 -- the years in which both teams were in the SEC — Missouri had four first-teamers and six overall. LSU had one first-teamer and four overall.

We’ve already talked about the past, both very recent and kind of recent. But what about the present and future?

You see Charles Harris on that list. He got off to a slow start this season before breaking out against Georgia, and now he’s on pace for nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss in a 12-game season...even though all of his tackles for loss and sacks have come in one game this season.

He’ll be a first-rounder. No doubt. And he came out of nowhere. You know his story already.

Who else? Terry Beckner is well on his way to being a draft pick, probably a high one. Josh Augusta’s got a really good chance. Other than that...the jury’s out.

LSU’s got a pretty surefire first-rounder on its roster right now. There’s end Arden Key, a 6-foot-6, 238-pound sophomore who had five sacks as a true freshman last year and already has 6.5 through four games this season. He’s a problem.

Other possibilities to go in the first three rounds or so? Tackle Davon Godchaux (though he’s run into a spot of trouble lately...) and end Lewis Neal.

Now that Jackie Shipp has taken over for Craig Kuligowski and, er, something involving Ed Oregeron and Pete Jenkins is happening at LSU, we’ll have to see how the two groups’ reputations develop over the next couple of years.

In 2010, this might not have been much of a debate. Nowadays, though, D-Line ‘Zou is making a case for itself against LSU.