In a move a lot of people have talked about already, and even more people expected for months, LSU strong safety Harry Coleman has moved to linebacker. He was a full time starter at safety last year, but his play was somewhat disappointing. I think if you got him talking confidentially, he would probably agree with that.
Now, like has been discussed ad nauseum on this and other sites, there is an ongoing debate about whether the defensive problems were a result of insufficient talent, inferior coaching, or some combination of the two. And if it was a combination, how much was each factor to blame?
Harry Coleman did not play much except on special teams before the 2008 season, but he had a coming-out party of sorts in the 2007 BCSNCG when he replaced an injured Craig Steltz and played a heck of a game. He's got ability. What he does not seem to have is a natural position. He's a not quite quick enough to be a safety covering wide receivers and fast tight ends. He's not quite big enough to be a prototypical linebacker.
The result is, sadly, that he's going to have trouble beating out the players who are naturals for those positions. At safety, he has to contend with Chad Jones, Danny McCray, Karnell Hatcher, and now converted cornerback Ron Brooks, in an environment that is going to emphasize speed more than the previous coaching staff did. And when Fall comes, he will have Craig Loston to fend off as well. Despite his experience at the position, he was going to struggle to keep his spot away from the younger players.
At linebacker, his prospects get a little better, I believe. He will, however, still have to deal with experienced players. Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard are returning starters and Jacob Cutrera has been the first linebacker off the bench for a couple years now.
The good news is that the same problems Coleman had at safety are going to apply to the returning starters at linebacker. John Chavis is emphasizing speed and coverage ability in his linebackers, and whispers have it that the coaches are not pleased with what they're seeing out of at least one of the returning starters. Coleman may not be a good coverage safety, but he'd be an excellent coverage linebacker.
I don't know if Coleman is going to end up winning the starting job at linebacker, but I think his chances are pretty good. I've been very clear about my excitement to see Ryan Baker get on the field with the regular defense, but if he's not ready yet then I can easily see Coleman getting on the field. It would make our defense faster (though admittedly smaller and not as strong). It would also ramp up the hitting (though perhaps not the tackling).
This also is a clear signal that Ron Brooks has won the job as the starting safety alongside Chad Jones, though Karnell Hatcher may have a little something to say about that. Everything we're hearing about Brooks is that he's a playmaker. I also really liked what I saw from Hatcher last year. With Craig Loston arriving in the Summer or the Fall, LSU's safety depth looks outstanding for now.