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Where Does LSU Go at Linebacker?

Taking a look forward at a position of need for the Tigers.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Florida at LSU Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In light of yesterday’s news of Monty Rice’s decommitment, it seemed like a good idea to take stock of probably the largest position of need on LSU’s defense moving forward.

The Tigers are going to lose a pair of studs in the middle of Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense in senior inside linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, both of whom were bedrock players for the 2016 defense. They’ll also lose Tashawn Bower at Field-side outside linebacker, fresh off his best two games of the season, including a three-sack performance in the Citrus Bowl.

Overall, LSU will sit with 11 total linebackers on the 2017 roster, as of today.

LSU’s Current Linebackers

Player Position Ht. Wt. Misc.
Player Position Ht. Wt. Misc.
Donnie Alexander (Sr.) ILB 6-1 212 9 tackles in final 2 games
Devin Voorhies (Sr.) ILB 6-2 223 6 tackles in 4 games
Devin White (So.) ILB 6-1 255 Freshman All-SEC
M.J. Patterson (Sr.) ILB 6-4 225 Did not play in 2016.
Arden Key (Jr.) OLB 6-6 238 Pretty good, IMO.
Corey Thompson (Sr.) OLB 6-2 222 Missed 2016 with injury.
Isaiah Washington (Jr.) OLB 6-4 236 Missed 2016 with injury.
Michael Divinity (So.) OLB 6-2 234 Limited special teams snaps.
Rahsaan Thornton (Fr.) OLB 6-3 222 Redshirted
Sci Martin (So.) OLB 6-4 240 Limited snaps in 5 games.
Andre Anthony (Fr.) OLB 6-5 219 Academic redshirt.

Now, this is counting end/linebacker “edge” tweeners, such as superstar sack artist Arden Key and reserves Sci Martin and Isaiah Washington, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery last year.

It also includes veterans like Corey Thompson, who is appears set to receive a sixth year of eligibility due to frequent injuries (Thompson broke his leg last year in August), and freshman Andre Anthony, who had to take a forced academic redshirt due to questions about his high school transcript.

Between Thompson, sophomore Michael Divinity and 2016 redshirt frosh Rahsaan “Ray” Thornton, there should be some pretty strong competition for Bower’s spot opposite of Key. Inside, Donnie Alexander and Devin White seem like locks to step in. The former closed out the year with two very solid outings versus Texas A&M and Louisville in place of the injured Beckwith. With a very similar profile to Riley prior to his senior season (undersized but speedy, respected leader and special teams contributor), it’s not hard to see Alexander making a splash in his final year. White, meanwhile, flashed superstar potential at times in 2016.

But after the two of them, that’s where the rub comes in. Devin Voorhies and M.J. Patterson have done very little over their careers as backups, even on special teams, plus Alexander and Voorhies are both entering their final years of eligibility.

The Tigers signed just four true linebackers in each of the last two signing classes, making it a priority for 2017 — and so far that’s only yielded one commitment in Patrick Queen.

So where’s that point them? Four-star prospects Willie Gay and Jacob Phillips have been interested in the Tigers, as we mentioned yesterday. And of course, there’s local prospect Chris Allen, who is currently committed to Alabama — and was quoted saying he’d rather develop as a backup there versus the opportunity for earlier playing time at LSU.

Other potential prospects include four-star stud K’Lavon Chaisson, Tennessee commit Will Ignont and NC State commit Nick Smith. Four-star edge prospect Markaviest Bryant is also slated to visit the Tigers officially on January 13, but most believe he is a heavy lean to Georgia. Gay has a visit scheduled as well. Phillips, however, has used his five official visits, so whether LSU can convince him and his family to visit on their own will be telling in that race. (Ed. Note: LSU also offered uncommitted four-star Ellis Brooks today.)

Per reports, Aranda has been uninterested in Texas prospect Levi Jones, and LSU also passed on offering Josh Clarke of Riverdale. At a minimum, LSU needs to add three linebackers in this class that, preferably, can play inside. Queen fits that mold, ditto Ignont and Phillips. Gay and Chaisson profile more as outside guys, but are both athletic enough to move — and look for Aranda to experiment with a few guys at different spots this spring as well.

With new offensive coordinator Matt Canada locking up LSU’s two quarterback commitments, linebacker (along with top defensive tackle Marvin Wilson) will be THE big storyline in recruiting over this final push to National Signing Day on Wednesday, February. 1.