Ankle injury aside, LSU defensive tackle helping Tigers immensely
By Scott HOTARD
October 22, 2012
After spending his first three seasons at LSU as an oft-used backup, Josh Downs began his senior year as a starter alongside Bennie Logan on one of the nation’s deepest, most talented defensive lines.
An ankle injury early in the season cost Downs to miss three straight starts, but the former Bastrop High standout is back at full strength as sixth-ranked LSU prepares to face No. 20 Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field.
He had two tackles and a sack against South Carolina last week, his second full game returning to the lineup.
“I tried to come back, but not come back too fast where I would end up hurting myself more than what I was,” Downs said. “I didn’t want to be in a situation out there where I couldn’t help the guys beside me.”
Helping the players beside him — and behind him — is what Downs does best.
His stat line for 2012 includes only 10 tackles, but the 6-foot-1, 287-pounder routinely sets up teammates like Sam Montgomery, Kevin Minter and Barkevious Mingo by absorbing blockers at the line of scrimmage.
“He controls the inside guys — guards and centers — to where we can make a lot of moves and a lot of plays,” Montgomery said.
Much of the success Downs has in disrupting blocking schemes can be traced to the uncanny strength he possesses between his shoulders.
With a chest seemingly borrowed from a comic-book hero, Downs has earned the nickname “Chester” among teammates. He bench-pressed 475 pounds this summer.
But sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said there is something else about his teammate that makes him hard to deal with.
“He always comes off the ball and strikes fear into offensive lines because they don’t know what he’s going to do, if he’s going to get the throat or punch you in the neck,” Johnson said. “He’s an extremely physical player. He plays with great tenacity.”
Downs has been at it for a long time, no matter he’d started only one game prior to this season.
He jumped right into the rotation at defensive tackle his first year on campus, playing in 10 games in 2009 and then seeing action in 24 more over the next two years.
He said he probably got just as many snaps in the past as he has this season in the starting role.
“I know on every down I’m going to give my whole 100 percent,” Downs said. “I know deep down inside that everybody else behind me is going to do the same.”
Downs had one of the better games of his career last week, helping lead a defense that limited Marcus Lattimore and the South Carolina running game to 34 yards.
Now he hopes to help the Tigers score their second straight win over a ranked opponent.
“It’s all about being your best for the guys beside you,” Downs said.