Sep 18, 2012 10:47 PM by LSU Sports Information
BATON ROUGE - Despite losing six starters from last year's defense that ranked among the best in the nation, this year's group of Tiger defenders hasn't missed a beat through the first three weeks of the season as LSU again has one of the top units in college football.
Second-ranked LSU will face its stiffest test of the season on Saturday as the Tigers travel to face Auburn at 6 p.m. CT in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
LSU brings a 3-0 overall record into the Auburn game following last week's 63-14 victory over Idaho. All three of LSU's wins have come by double-figures. Auburn is 1-2 overall after they survived a 31-28 overtime scare from Louisiana-Monroe last week.
Against Auburn, LSU will bring into the game a defense that leads the SEC and ranks No. 4 in the nation in both total defense (205.0 yards per game) and rushing defense (47.0 yards per game). LSU is also third in the league and 11th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.3 points per game.
Now in its fourth season under defensive coordinator John Chavis, the Tiger defense has held 12 of their last 17 opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards, a stretch that dates back to the start of the 2011 season.
The Tigers have also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns this year, both coming last week in the win over Idaho. Safety Ronald Martin returned an interception 45 yards for a TD, while defensive end picked off a pass and returned it 23 yards for a score. LSU has now scored 11 defensive touchdowns under Chavis.
LSU's defensive success has come from a variety of players as the Tigers have 13 players who have recorded either a sack or a tackle for loss. Five Tigers have created at least one turnover with true freshman Jalen Mills and sophomore Ronald Martin leading the way with two apiece.
Second-year starter Kevin Minter leads the Tigers in tackles with 21 from his middle linebacker position, while outside linebacker Lamin Barrow is second with 18 stops and cornerback Mills third with 17 tackles.
The play of the LSU offense has complimented the defense as the Tigers are first in the league and ninth in the nation with 48.3 points per game. In three games, the Tigers are averaging 472.3 yards per game, which includes an SEC-best 269.3 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers, with first-year starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, are averaging 203.0 yards per game through the air.
Individually, running back Kenny Hilliard is tied for first nationally in rushing TDs with six and he's third in the SEC with 101.0 yards per game. Hilliard has rushed for 303 yards and six scores in LSU's first three games. Hilliard is the first LSU running back since Charles Alexander in 1978 to start a year with two rushing touchdowns in each of the first three games.
In special teams, sophomore punter Brad Wing is averaging 48.6 yards a punt as the Tigers are ranked fifth in the nation and second in the conference in net punting with a 43.3 average.