BATON ROUGE, La. — In practices, there might not be a deeper position at LSU than nose tackle. Ed Alexander, Greg Gilmore, Breiden Fehoko and Tyler Shelvin make the Tigers as stout as anyone in the country — in both girth and talent.
“Big Shelvin, he’s going to be a great player once he develops and gets in shape, loses a few pounds. He’s strong like a bull. He has a good technique for a freshman,” Gilmore said. “[Fehoko], he’s already good. He’s soaked in that Coach Pete [Jenkins] technique since Day 1. He could play right away.”
There’s just one tiny problem when it comes to this quartet of massive men. On game day, there might not be a position where the Tigers are thinner.
Fehoko can’t play until next year as he sits out the season after transferring from Texas Tech. It’s the same story with Shelvin, who has to sit out this season as a partial qualifier out of high school.
“We have the two best ineligible nose guards in the country,” LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda noted earlier this week.
That leaves the Tigers will two true nose tackles this season. Fortunately for LSU, Gilmore approached his offseason with this in mind. As a result, he’s in the best shape of his life.
“You’ve got to realize it’s a 60-70 play game and you’re playing half the snaps at least,” Gilmore said. “You have to be in shape, because you never know how long these snaps are going to be. A 10-play drive, that’s a pretty long drive for a nose tackle. Or any D-lineman.”
Driven by ‘Bama to push cars
Half of Gilmore’s offseason regimen focused on conditioning. That meant a whole lot more running than any 300-pound human should have any interest in.
Gilmore spent many a hot summer day circling 196-acre University Lake at the edge of the LSU campus. Well, half-circling.
“We didn’t go all the way around. Maybe halfway and we came back,” Gilmore said. “I’m too big to be running the lake.”
When it came to building strength and improving technique, Gilmore pushed his car around. Literally.
“I’ve got to work on my body lean. I’ve been too high,” Gilmore said. “You can’t push a car straight-up. You’ve got to lean into a car … It’s all about that lean, pushing and driving your feet.”
Gilmore said pushing cars was a method suggested by LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins, who has been coaching at the college level or higher since 1968.
“Coach Pete said he had guys do it back in the day to get that body lean,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore and teammates Christian LaCouture, Frank Herron and Rashard Lawrence had car-pushing down to a science. One teammate would sit behind the wheel and put the car in neutral while two others pushed it down the alleyway behind LSU’s indoor practice facility.
“That way I could make all kinds of crazy noises that I couldn’t make in the middle of the road,” Gilmore noted with a grin.
Gilmore’s primary motivation? Last year’s Alabama game, which was scoreless for three quarters before the Crimson Tide outlasted the Tigers for a 10-0 win.
“I can always look back to Alabama,” Gilmore said. “58 plays I played. I feel like I couldn’t give it my all at the end. I was just in there.”
Thin, but still talented
Nose tackle is arguably the most physically demanding position on the field in a sport built on physicality. It seems improbable that LSU would get through a full 12-game season with only two guys playing at that spot.
Nevertheless, Gilmore thinks the Tigers are still well-equipped. If something should happen to him or Alexander, he trusts that Aranda and Jenkins will find a solution.
“We got me and Rougarou [Alexander],” Gilmore said. “Rou’s a big wall. I’ve got the technique and playmaking ability. I feel at the end of the day we’ll be alright.
“Even if we’ve got to bring a [defensive] end to nose or something. If that’s the worst-case scenario, maybe Frank [Herron] can play some nose, I don’t know.”
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