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Training Camp Heat Check: Linebacker

Taking stock of the new faces competing for playing time at this position.

Jacksonville State v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Tigers, technically, return just one starter from the 2016 team at linebacker, with three positions that could be considered open. Which is fine, given that a stellar recruiting class has this group with as much depth and talent as the Tigers have had at linebacker in some time.

LSU Linebackers

Position Player Ht/Wt Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF
Position Player Ht/Wt Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF
OLB (Buck) 49 Arden Key (Jr.) 6-6, 265 40 6.30% 14.5 12 0 3 3
87 Sci Martin (So.) 6-4, 256 2 tackles in 5 game appearances.
46 Andre Anthony (Fr.-RS) 6-5, 242 Redshirted.
43 Ray Thornton (Fr.-RS) 6-3, 228 Redshirted.
4 K'Lavon Chaisson (Fr.) 6-4, 240 Four-star recruit.
OLB (F) 23 Corey Thompson (Sr.) 6-2, 228 Injured.
45 Michael Divinity (So.) 6-2, 239 10 1.60% 1 0 0 0 0
35 Devin Voorhies (Sr.) 6-2, 233 4 0.60% 0 0 0 0 0
ILB (Mack or Rover) 48 Donnie Alexander (Sr.) 6-1, 230 29.5 4.60% 0.5 0 1 1 0
56 M.J. Patterson (Sr.) 6-4, 236 No game appeareances in 2016.
40 Devin White (So.) 6-1, 248 22.5 3.50% 3 1 0 0 1
50 Layton Garnett (Fr.-RS) 6-4, 247 Redshirted.
51 Jonathan Rucker (Sr.) 6-1, 240 7 tackles in 6 game appearances.
8 Patrick Queen (Fr.) 6-1, 220 Four-star recruit.
24 Tyler Taylor (Fr.) 6-2, 238 Four-star recruit.
6 Jacob Phillips (Fr.) 6-3, 237 Four-star recruit.
Returning starters in bold.

Incumbent: Arden Key

As returning starters go, nobody’s going to do better than LSU’s returning “Buck” outside linebacker/pass-rusher. Key set the LSU single-season sack record last season in just 10 games. If he plays all 12 this year, the sky is the limit. Especially if the offense can help the defense with more leads.

While Donnie Alexander and Devin White are not technically returning starters (although Alexander did start two games after Kendell Beckwith’s injury), they did see extensive time as reserves last season. So the speed of the game should not catch them by surprise.

Focus: Finding a New ‘F’ Linebacker

The outside position to the field, or wide, side of the defense — hence “F” — opposite of Key remains an open position. Senior Corey Thompson, a former safety that has struggled with injuries over his five seasons, worked with the first team in the spring. His injury history makes having another option necessary on its own, but on top of that is the unknown of Thompson himself making the position change. Thompson has the speed and athletic ability to be an asset in coverage on tight ends, and maybe even slot receivers, which could be a real asset and allow Aranda to use base defense more often against spread formations. However, you have to wonder if he could hold up against the run and help to set the edge, which is very important on the field side, where offenses tend to align the offensive strength.

The main competition will likely be sophomore Michael Divinity, who has worked at both the F outside and two inside positions. He has more bulk to anchor versus the run, but we have yet to see him do much in game situations.

The other wild cards could be players like Andre Anthony, Ray Thornton and K’Lavon Chaisson. While they all were pass-rush types as prospects and are likely to back Key up at the Buck position, Aranda may opt to get pass-rush from both sides of the formation at times. Especially if one of them shows the added versatility to drop into coverage.

A lot of attention will be paid to stud freshmen Tyler Taylor and Jacob Phillips, but for now, they’re more likely to back up White and Alexander inside. Although, again, talent may make it hard not to find a role for them outside.

X-Factor: Andre Anthony

It’s easy to forget that Anthony was one of the first pass-rush prospects Ed Orgeron pursued for this defense. An academic issue forced him to redshirt in 2016, but there was a lot of quiet confidence in Anthony in the spring. Chaisson is the new, shiny toy pass-rusher out of the most recent recruiting cycle, but don’t be surprised if Anthony beats him onto the field, and maybe makes a move from one outside linebacker position to the other a necessity.