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Five Things, LSU Spring Football: Linebackers

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

57 Lamin Barrow (Sr.)

6-2, 232

104 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 5 passes break-ups and 2 fumble recoveries.

31 D.J. Welter (Sr.)

6-0, 226

2 tackles in 1 game appearance.

58 Tahj Jones (Sr.)

6-2, 205

Missed 2012 regular season on suspension. Started and made 4 tackles in Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

25 Kwon Alexander (So.)

6-2, 215

12 tackles, 1 TFL and 2 fumble recoveries in seven games.

45 Deion Jones (So.)

6-2, 202

23 tackles, 3 TFLs.

23 Lamar Louis (So.)

6-0, 220

13 tackles.

22 Ronnie Feist (So.)

6-2, 230

3 tackles in 5 games.

35 Lorenzo Phillips (RS-Fr.)

6-2, 215


51 Trey Granier (RS-Fr.)

6-1, 227


*Returnees with starting experience in italics.

1. Man, does John Chavis have to be having some fun this spring. He's never returned a group this deep, including six guys that saw at least some playing time last season, three of which are just second-year guys. There's also the matter of the three seniors, two of which have quite a bit of starting experience. And what's more, this group is going to add three more bodies this summer, including a big-time talent when Kendall Beckwith hits campus.

2. A week in, the most notable news to come from a depth-chart perspective has been senior D.J. Welter running with the first team at the "Mike" spot. Many expected Lamin Barrow to slide over to the middle position after a quietly impressive 100-tackle season at the "Will" spot last year, but right now the top trip appears to be the three seniors (along with Tahj Jones). I'll admit, I'm a little skeptical as to whether that starting trio will remain. Welter looked like a classic Mike in high school, a real thumper in the middle, but he's a little outclassed, athletically, by guys like Kwon Alexander and Deion "Debo" Jones. If I could venture a guess, Chavis is likely trying to get Welter some extra work this spring, because it only makes sense to have a senior ready to step in as one of your better backups. Spring practice is the time for these types of moves.

3. I'll also admit to having been very skeptical, and pleasantly surprised, by Barrow's play in 2012. He'd always looked the part. Big, vast and very aggressive on the field, but he never seemed to put it together. That changed last year. The question is whether or not that switch is permanently flipped. In 2010, we watched Ryan Baker put up a very strong season playing next to a great Mike ‘backer like Kelvin Sheppard. A guy that helped keeps the rest of the defense in line, and could raise his play to cover for their deficiencies. Sound familiar? Did Kevin Minter help cover for Barrow last year, and help keep him in the right places at the right time? That's something that remains to be seen. But as previously noted, Barrow has all the tools to come through with another big season.

4. Alexander and Debo are the wild-cards here. They flashed explosive playmaking ability last season, with the speed to play either of the outside positions. Real sideline-to-sideline, pursuit types. Chavis is going to have at least four and possibly five potential starting-caliber linebackers (again, not counting Beckwith and the other freshmen still on their way) on this defense, a luxury he really hasn't had since his first season in Baton Rouge, when the top four ‘backers, Sheppard, Perry Riley, Harry Coleman and Jacob Cutrera combined for 370 tackles. There's been some talk of the defense perhaps even shifting towards more of a 3-4 front. My best guess is no, due to a lack of the typical weakside end/linebacker hybrid pass-rusher, along with the requisite big nose tackle. But Chavis has never been afraid to adjust his schemes to fit personnel -- for example, the way he implemented Tyrann Mathieu's unique talents. Still, I doubt the Chief ever gets too far from his 4-3 roots.

5. Depth will come from Lamar Louis, who saw limited special teams and defensive time last season, and redshirt freshmen Ronnie Feist, Lorenzo Phillips and Trey Granier. If I'm guessing on an eventual starting lineup, it likely starts with Barrow, Alexander and Tahj Jones in some combination, with Debo, Welter and Louis as the top backups. One thing Chavis has also made very clear, is that this spring his primary focus will be on finding the who first, and then settling the what. Find your best three linebackers, and then figure out the Sam/Mike/Will positions later.