One of the most exciting players to play LSU defensive line in the past few years has been Keke Mingo. Mingo, the track-running gazelle of a defensive end (famous for this run down of a rather quick Oregon running back), went in the first round of the NFL draft just a couple short years ago.
Since then, LSU’s looked for the next extra-terrestrial freak athlete to man the outside of the line. Last year, the Tigers might’ve found their man in Danielle Hunter. After a 2013 which saw him slowly grow into better player, we’re tabbing him as our 2014 breakout player along the defensive line.
By the third week of the season, Hunter had cemented a starting job, amassing 57 total tackles & 3 sacks over the course of the season. The biggest surprise was Hunter’s ability to hold his own as a run defender, despite his makeup as a pass defense specialist.
This year, look for Hunter to anchor a defensive line that will be breaking in new regulars along the interior. Just three sacks last year might not pop off the page, but the aforementioned Mingo only had 2.5 in his first year with regular duty.
With a secondary that has the potential to be one of the better units under Chavis, that could spell big numbers for Hunter. If the secondary can tie up pass catchers for an extended period, offensive tackles won’t be able to hold the speedy Hunter back for long. With Tre White & Rashard Robinson tying up receivers, Hunter has a chance to rival the best sack numbers we’ve seen in the past few years.
The pressure will be on, though, since Hunter looks to be the only proven talent along the defensive line in 2014. While the rest of the line will look to find a regular rotation for the first few games, Hunter will be relied upon to provide consistent pressure so the others can gain playing time & find their spot.
The reason to believe in Hunter came in the spring game, in which he amassed four sacks (just two, statistically) and hurried the quarterbacks twice. Miles has praised his speed & quickness off the line. His omnipresence in every play shows his ability to be LSU’s next great defensive lineman.
Hunter hasn’t yet had his breakout moment in a game, such as Mingo’s moment against Oregon or Jadaveon Clowney’s hit on the hapless Michigan runner in the Outback Bowl. There’s reason to believe, though, that 2014 will contain that moment for him. With this most likely being Hunter’s final season at LSU, defensive coordinator John Chavis can only expect that moment to come soon.