BATON ROUGE, La. — Rashard Lawrence has started only two games in his LSU career. Yet with each passing week, the evidence mounts that there is no more valuable piece on the Tigers defense than the sophomore defensive end.
It’s a small sample size against vastly different offenses, but the difference in LSU’s run defense when Lawrence is on the field has been striking. In the two FBS games he’s played in, LSU is allowing an average of 35.5 rushing yards per game and 1.7 yards per carry. In the two he has missed, LSU is allowing an average of 245.5 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Lawrence is back in the starting lineup for the game at Florida on Saturday.
“When Rashard is in there, you get a whole different aspect of playmaking ability,” said sophomore linebacker Devin White. “He’s one of a kind.”
But playmaking is not the most important aspect Lawrence brings to the defense.
“One guy that’s clearly a team leader is Rashard Lawrence. Clearly,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “I mean, the two games we lost, he’s not in there. And he makes a difference, not only his playmaking ability but the way he leads, his heart, his want to do good for Louisiana.
“He’s a 4.0 grade-point average student. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better kid. He does everything right and he plays.”
White gave a concrete example of how Lawrence can even make him a better player at linebacker.
“Rashard is a smart football player. He helps me a lot,” White said. “He gives me a signal — which I will not indicate that to you — that lets me know when it’s pass. That’s something he’s able to do before the play because he watches so much film.”
Lawrence also can discern where the ball is going when it’s a run play, which he also relays to White.
“Most of the time when he gets in his stance, he can tell what the running back’s path is from how the offensive lineman is,” White said.
That invaluable intelligence can make all the difference in beating blockers and ball carriers to the point of attack.
The question is how a sophomore ended up being the guy who fell into this role. Lawrence said he realized he would have to go the extra yard this season when Davon Godchaux declared for the NFL draft after last season. The way he chose to do so was in the film room.
“How I practice and study film is different,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t know Godchaux was coming out, so I didn’t take things as seriously as I did [after I knew] I had a chance to be a starter.”
Having put it upon himself to fill a leadership role, Lawrence understandably has been frustrated by being on the sidelines for LSU’s losses to Mississippi State and Troy.
“As a leader, not being out there is tough,” he said. “I’ve told guys, ‘I’m not out there with y’all, so I can’t say some of the things I want to say. But as a leader, I feel like I’ll show you in practice and on Saturday.’
“I’m not going to be hooting and hollering, but I’ll show you with my play on the field.”
Against the Gators, the LSU defense will be overjoyed to have Lawrence lead.
The post Rashard Lawrence is already LSU’s most valuable defensive piece appeared first on SEC Country.
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