LSU’s Frank Herron looking to be disruptive force

The video shows a 240-pound teenager hustling down the basketball court, leaping into the air and dunking the ball with two hands — backward.

Another clip shows the same kid, Frank Herron, on a football field.

He bursts off the line of scrimmage, wheels around the offensive line and knocks the ball free as the quarterback is making his exchange with the running back. Herron scoops up the ball and runs for a touchdown.

“I remember looking when it happened, him barreling down the field,” said Lynord Crutchfield, Herron’s high school coach at Memphis Central. “I thought, ‘Man, That’s a big kid running.’ ”

Herron’s reputation as a big, speedy defensive terror began years ago. He’s now 40 pounds heavier and is a projected starter at defensive tackle for LSU.

Nothing’s changed.

“I see him disrupting things all of the time,” tight end Logan Stokes said.

Halfway through LSU’s preseason practice, Herron is being glorified as a sack-crazed, speed-driven hulk of a defensive tackle. Many talk of his “motor” and compare him to former LSU defensive linemen Sam Montgomery and Claude Wroten.

LSU coach Les Miles has used the word “beast” to describe Herron. Center Elliott Porter recently called Herron “a man” before quickly correcting himself: “The man,” Porter said.

The public, and reporters, have seen little of Herron in action. The media’s small viewing window during the first week of fall camp has been completely closed. Spring practice only included small observation times, and Herron didn’t play last season, redshirting as a true freshman.

Most, though, are making it pretty clear: Herron will play a lot this season.

He appears to be the guy LSU expects to slide into the starting rotation alongside Christian LaCouture. Junior Quentin Thomas began the preseason as the starter in that spot, but he tore his biceps on the third practice of fall camp. He plans to play this season with the injury.

Miles quickly named Herron as the starter in place of Thomas. Redshirt freshmen Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore are expected to be part of the rotation at tackle.

“Every guy has their strengths and weaknesses,” defensive line coach Brick Haley said. “We want to play to Frank’s strengths. We want to give him the opportunity to be that guy, the next man up.”

Herron is your typical inner city Memphis kid, Crutchfield said.

He’s the middle of three children. His mother, Wanlisha Hawkins, raised the kids with help from Herron’s grandmother.

Bryan Williams, Memphis Central’s defensive coordinator, calls Hawkins an “amazing” person.

“She struggled. She still is struggling,” Williams said. “He doesn’t come from much.”

Herron’s father died when he was young. He was involved in a car accident and bled to death.

Despite his home life, Herron was the man in high school, a guy everyone loved. He was the star player on the football field and the sweetheart in the classroom.

He played defensive end and defensive tackle at Memphis Central.

He had offers from a host of smaller schools before he surged into the spotlight at camps before his senior year. He moved up the rankings, finishing as a top 10 defensive tackle in the 2013 class.

There were doubters, and there still are.

“You got to look at the makeup of Memphis. A lot of people in Memphis act like they want good for a person, but they really don’t,” Williams said. “I think he had a point to prove.”

LSU was always Herron’s school of choice, Williams said — even before the Tigers showed any interest in him. Williams contacted the LSU coaching staff to make them aware of Herron.

“They offered him,” Williams said, “and it was a no-brainer (decision).”

The weeks leading up to signing day were “hectic,” Williams said. Herron had an itch to visit a few other schools — namely Texas.

“It all came down to a kid that committed so early that when he wanted to see other places, everybody made it hectic for him and it kind of spiraled out of control,” Williams said.

In the end, everything’s worked out.

Herron leads a young group of defensive tackles into the season. Just one guy, LaCouture, has played significant downs. Gilmore, Bain and Herron make up a trio of highly rated signees, yes, but one that has zero game experience.

“Everyone’s doubting us saying we’re a young inside,” Herron said. “We got to put our foot in the ground. Let them know we’re here, that you just can’t run up here, that we’re going to stop you.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU football, follow our Tiger Tracks blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/tigertracks/.