Pep up for new challenge in 2010
Senior DL makes permanent move inside
Going into the 2010 season, rising senior Lazarius “Pep” Levingston (6-4, 269) is finally the graybeard on LSU’s defensive line.
Levingston - along with Drake Nevis, the unit’s only other returning senior - has seen the revolving door shuffle in and out a slew of talented D-linemen during his stay in Baton Rouge. Now, the Ruston product knows it’s his time to play leader and role model.
“It’s different because coming here we were always looking (up) to Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Chase Pittman,” Levingston said. “But now we’re the older guys and they’re looking at us the same way.”
After the aforementioned Jackson was selected third overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by LSU Midwest (the Kansas City Chiefs), Levingston took over as a starter at defensive end for the Tigers.
His inaugural season as a first teamer produced good, but not great, numbers as part of a defensive line which had trouble getting into the opposition’s backfield. Levingston was, however, one of the few bright spots in that department.
Seeing action in 11 games (he missed Vanderbilt and UL-Lafayette due to a knee injury), Levingston registered five solo tackles for loss while assisting on six more stops behind the line. On the whole, he was part of 28 tackles during an ‘09 campaign which also saw the defensive end accumulate four passes defended and two quarterback hurries.
It’s an altogether different challenge on Levingston’s plate for ‘10. He’s now making the permanent move inside to defensive tackle. In a recent interview, the player assured his new position isn’t completely unfamiliar territory.
“I’ve played it my whole career here. I played end mainly, but I always rotated in playing three-technique at nose so it’s pretty natural to me,” continued Levingston. “But now trying to play it full-time, it’s exciting. I actually like it a lot.”
One of the biggest differences, Levingston feels, is something which may actually slip by the average fan.
He explained: “It’s a different feeling because you’ve got to anticipate the double more inside. You’ve got bigger guys inside and you’ve got to anticipate the double.
“It actually happens a lot faster. A lot of people think ‘Okay, you’ve got your ends, the speed guys who’ve gotta be able to rush.’ But, inside guys, you’ve gotta be quicker rather than having speed because it happens so much faster inside. So you concentrate more on being quick inside than you do speed.”
It’s an adjustment Levingston indicated he’s happy to make. It also opens up room for more speed-oriented players like Lavar Edwards, Ken Adams and Sam Montgomery to put a hand on the ground at defensive end.
On the inside, Levingston will provide a senior partnership with Nevis as the two spearhead a group chock-full of underclassmen.
“It’s me and Drake right now (as the starters), but those younger guys are coming along and they’re going to have to play,” Levingston said. “You’ve gotta have five to six D-tackles playing every game because injuries happen a lot inside. You need multiple guys to be able to play inside, and we need those guys to come along so we can have a successful season.”
The “younger guys” contending for playing time inside are sophomore Josh Downs and a pair of freshmen, Michael Brockers and Chris Davenport, who, like Levingston, are also making the D-line move this season from end to tackle.
Should they need any advice, they’ll never have to look further than ol’ man Pep (the aging graybeard turns 23 during the week of next season’s Ole Miss game).
Ben Love is Tiger Rag’s lead reporter for spring football and is older than the man he just facetiously referred to as ol’ man Pep. Reach him at email@example.com.