Big part of LSU’s promising defensive line hinges on leadership from sixth-year defensive end Andre Anthony

LSU defensive end Andre Anthony is coming off his best season that included a team-high 5.5 quarterback sacks. He's part of a veteran presence the Tigers will enjoy on the defensive line in 2021. Photo courtesy: LSU athletics.

After hearing the question during Saturday’s Zoom media session, LSU defensive end Andre Anthony lit up at the prospect of his statute within the program.

Anthony, who became a full-time starter and enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2020, finds himself at the head of the class in terms of experience. The New Orleans native is the team’s most tenured player (entering his sixth season) and one of two graduate students (the other being offensive tackle Austin Deculus) on this year’s roster.

“Sometimes you sit back and take a deep breath, we’ve been here for a minute,” said Anthony, who turns 25 in November. “We take it all in. We’ve experienced a lot. We try and give those young guys some of the experience we have, what we’ve seen. The way to do stuff around here. We’ve grown into that leadership role. We know how things are supposed to go.”

Anthony’s journey began when he was recruited and signed out of Karr High School. Former LSU head coach Les Miles who was fired four games into the 2016 season , Anthony’s freshman redshirt season

Anthony missed the entire 2017 season with an injury, Then, under then-defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, he started in five of 24 games at outside linebacker over his next two seasons, registering 14 tackles and a half sack during the Tigers’ run to an undefeated record and national championship in 2019.

Anthony said he patiently bided his time, playing and learning behind eventual NFL draft picks Arden Key in 2018 (Las Vegas Raiders) and K’Lavon Chaisson in 2019 (Jacksonville Jaguars), finally getting his first true opportunity to start in 2020.

“I learned from those guys,” Anthony said. “As time went on, it was just taking what they did and added it to my game. Just talking to those guys and asking what they did to help their game. I put all of that together and did what I did last year. Now I want to elevate off last year, come harder and do what I need to do to be a better team.”

There weren’t many highlights for LSU’s defense in a COVID-shortened season that ended with a 5-5 record. Statistically speaking, the Tigers fielded the school’s worst defense under coordinator Bo Pelini.

Submerged beneath the eye-popping totals in points and yards allowed was Anthony. He moved to his preferred position at defensive end and compiled 24 tackles (third best on the defensive line) with a team-high 5½ quarterback sacks and four quarterback hurries in 10 games. He had a career-high six stops in a 41-7 win at Vanderbilt, added four tackles and two sacks in a 27-24 road triumph over Arkansas and had four tackles and a sack in a 53-48 home win over Ole Miss to close out the season.

The biggest victories came later, though, when Anthony followed a growing trend among some of the team’s draft-eligible juniors and returned to LSU, taking advantage of the NCAA extending an additional year of eligibility because of COVID.

Not only did Anthony provide a sense of stability for this year’s team with his return, but so did fellow fifth-year senior defensive linemen Glen Logan and Neil Farrell Jr. along with senior defensive end Ali Gaye.

Instead of first year defensive coordinator Daronte Jones and first-year defensive line coach Andre Carter inheriting a line having to rely on sophomores Jaquelin Roy, Joseph Evans and B.J. Ojulari and freshmen Jacobian Guillory and Maason Smith, they’ll get to call defenses led by an interior front led by Anthony, Farrell and Logan who have combined to play in 117 games with 47 starts.

“It’s a good group,” Anthony said. “We know how the game goes. That’s a good thing about having experience is you know what to expect. You know how the game goes. You know how the SEC is on game day. It’s building off that, bonding and feeding off each other.”

While this will be LSU’s most experienced defensive front, the unit has the potential to be the best under head coach Ed Orgeron. Depth has been stockpiled through recruiting, highlighted by the arrival in-state sensation Smith who was regarded as the nation’s top-rated defensive tackle.

Orgeron has also touted freshman defensive lineman Bryce Langston to go along with first-year players in Saivion Jones and Landon Jackson.

“We always preach that whoever’s in you don’t do nothing to slack off whether you’re a starter or not a starter,” Anthony said. “It’s still the same. Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready. You never know when your name’s going to be called. You just have to be ready.

“We definitely have a lot of promise. We’ve grown as a group. To know each other, to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. How to build those weaknesses up and we can work on those strengths. We know each other like the backs of our hands. We’re playing for each other. The bond is definitely strong in that (meeting) room, and I love it.”

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