Signing Day Preview: Linebackers

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

A look at what to expect on National Signing Day at linebacker

The state of Louisiana was loaded with top notch linebackers in the Class of 2012, and LSU loaded up by signing six. A number of these guys made impacts right away such as Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and Lamar Louis. That allowed LSU to be a bit more picky in choosing linebackers this year, and John Chavis is set to add three more quality players from in state on Signing Day.

Current Verbal Commits
Kendell Beckwith - Beckwith is a tremendous overall athlete who has played quarterback, defensive end and linebacker for his high school team. When you watch him play, he really stands out as the obvious best player on the field, regardless of where he's lined up. Many believe he'll ultimately end up at defensive end, but he is expected to start his career at outside linebacker. Beckwith has worked hard over the last year to improve on his coverage skills and to eliminate the only real area of concern surrounding him as a linebacker prospect. Beckwith had a great week of practice at the Under Armour All-American Game, frequently getting mentioned as one of the top performers at the event. At 6'3" 230, he looks like he could easily add some weight and drop down to the defensive line if it suits him better. On his film, he looks like an explosive pass rusher with very good strength. On the defensive line, all he lacks at this point is size. Beckwith committed to LSU over Alabama.

Rivals: #4 ATH, #92 overall 4 stars
247: #7 OLB, #68 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #4 ATH, #41 overall 4 stars
Scout: #15 DE, #138 overall 4 stars

Melvin Jones - Jones is a really interesting prospect. At 6'3" 250, he's already got the size to play middle linebacker in the SEC. He has already seen his weight balloon over that 250 mark, and it might just be a matter of time before it keeps going up. So seeing Jones switch to somewhere along the defensive line down the road is not out of the question. Like Beckwith, Jones played a lot of quarterback for his high school team and proved to be a more explosive player with the ball in his hands. You'll notice on his film that he's got really great speed, and he averaged a pretty ridiculous 12.5 yards per carry as a senior. He's a tremendous overall athlete that just needs to find his home on the field. Jones also had offers from Alabama, Texas A&M and many others.

Rivals: #29 MLB 3 stars
247: #4 MLB, #171 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #73 ATH 3 stars
Scout: #8 MLB, #176 overall 4 stars

Duke Riley - Riley was a late addition to LSU's signing class, receiving an offer just two weeks before Signing Day. With both Jones and Beckwith possibly switching to other positions, it made a lot of sense to add Riley to this class. Riley is much smaller than Bekwith or Jones and projects on the outside. At 6'2" 210 pounds, Riley brings lots of speed to the table. He runs the 40 in the 4.5 range, and his speed shows up on his highlights. Once he diagnoses a play, he really explodes to the ball carrier to make a play. He should really flourish under John Chavis. It will be tough for Riley to earn playing time at linebacker as a true freshman, but I can absolutely see him contributing on special teams in 2013. I suspect Riley will settle in at a playing weight around 220 to 225 pounds. He reminds me a bit of Ryan Baker coming out of high school.

Rivals: #45 OLB 3 stars
247: #47 OLB 3 stars
ESPN: #26 OLB 4 stars
Scout: #84 OLB 3 stars

What To Watch For On Signing Day
Fortunately, not much. All three commitments are very solid, and I don't expect any surprises from them. At the same time, LSU is not chasing any other linebackers. So things should be pretty straightforward on Signing Day as it relates to linebackers.

The Future
In the immediate future, John Chavis needs to find a replacement for Kevin Minter in the middle of LSU's defense. Senior Lamin Barrow could slide over to play the middle. But if not, then you could see Melvin Jones compete with guys like Ronnie Feist and D.J. Welter for the spot. On the outside, LSU returns a lot of talent with guys like Barrow, Tahj Jones, Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis and Lorenzo Phillips. So it will be tough for Duke Riley to break into the rotation as a true freshman.



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