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LSU's Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron helping to expand D-line rotation

Frank Herron's sack and fumble recovery against Auburn showed what he's capable of and why LSU is trusting him to play more. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

BATON ROUGE, La. – Les Miles insisted all along that LSU’s defensive tackles weren’t much of a concern at all.

The Tigers have more at the position than Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux, Miles said repeatedly. Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron are more than capable of getting the job done.

It’s starting to look like Miles was correct. Both redshirt sophomores are starting to take on participating roles, taking some of the immense workload off the starters’ shoulders.

“Those guys can’t go in and play 70 snaps a game,” Herron said. “Your body’s going to wear down, so we need guys that can come in and [there be] no drop-off. That’s what me and Greg are trying to do.”

That goal remains a work in progress, but Gilmore and Herron are already much further along than they were at the end of last season. They had produced next to nothing since arriving on campus as ESPN 300 signees in 2013, redshirting in their first season and then combining for all of seven tackles as little-used reserves last fall.

Both players are starting to see the field more often under new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and both of them have repaid Orgeron for the opportunity with big plays in recent weeks.

Herron exploded off the line to sack Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson, pry the ball from his hands and recover the fumble at Auburn’s 5-yard line. LSU scored two plays later to go up 38-7.

“Frank’s get-off, I’ve never seen anything quicker than that,” LaCouture said of the play. “It was almost like he was offsides, but the ref didn’t call it and I’ll take it all day long.”

Added Herron, “It was the best play of my LSU career so far. Hope for many more to come.”

The following Saturday, the 313-pound Gilmore broke out a nimble spin move on a Syracuse offensive lineman, racing into the backfield to record a third-down sack and halt an early drive.

“The thing about it is we work the ice pick [spin move] every single day,” Gilmore said. “It’s just teachings from Coach O. You don’t understand the amount of things that we see, we do individually, that we see transfer to the field. This is one of those things.”

It was confirmation that their offseason work is producing positive results. The 2014 season was frustrating for both players, with Gilmore playing in just six games after signing with LSU in 2013 as a top-100 recruit and the top prospect in North Carolina. Herron generated preseason buzz last year but disappeared once the season started, appearing in just four games.

“At the end of the season, that’s when the progress started off for me and Greg,” Herron said. “We made a commitment to each other that we’re going to keep going and we came in in the spring and summer and pushed, worked our butts off, and it’s paying off.”

Perhaps they aren’t playing at the same level as LaCouture and Godchaux, but Gilmore and Herron are just starting to get their feet wet. They both have three tackles and a sack to their credit and believe their contributions to the line will only continue to grow.

“I tell myself that I’ve got to envision myself making plays,” Gilmore said. “I’ve got to. This is my junior season and I want to contribute to the team greatly, and I think that’s how people in my position make it big. Contribute to the team and have good technique and make a big play.”