LSU football report card: Midseason grades

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Oct 17, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers defensive end Lewis Neal (92) pressures Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris (3) during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line: A-

When the LSU football team hired Ed Orgeron to take over Brick Haley’s job as defensive line coach, few doubted that the recruiting mastermind would provide a boost for the Tigers up front.

But with two new faces on the defensive side of the ball in Orgeron and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, some growing pains were to expected. That simply has not occurred.

During the final years of the John Chavis regime, the LSU defense took a step back in the trenches. The Tigers still boasted a feared defense, but a dominant secondary carried the bulk of the load.

Under Orgeron and Steele’s leadership, the script has been flipped.

The secondary is still among the best in the conference, but the front seven has become LSU’s biggest weapon on the defensive side of the ball. Most notably, the defensive line. The Tigers have the ninth-best run defense in the country, and have experienced little trouble getting to the quarterback all season long.

The biggest star has been junior defensive end Lewis Neal. Despite having zero career starts coming into the season, Neal has emerged as a dark horse SEC Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2015.

He currently ranks second in the conference and eighth in the nation with seven sacks. Neal also has Oliver Lawrence’s 1989 single-season school record of 12 sacks in his sights.

Next: Linebackers