There was a time in the not too distant past when LSU fans longed for the days of great LB play. Seemingly the moment Bradie James stepped off campus, LSU fielded a near decade of meh-worthy linebackers. Not that they were bad players, but just that they rarely inspired the type of confidence that LSU could typically get from their defensive line and defensive backs.
You may think LSU doesn’t have a rich tradition at LB, but you’d be sorely wrong. Mike Anderson, Warren Capone, Michael Brooks, Rydell Melancon, Al Richardson and... Bradie James. Common theme here? Everyone one of these players but James predates 1990. That’s a large gap between great linebackers that was further extending with the gap post James.
When Miles hired John Chavis, the allure of great LB play sat on the horizon. Chief has coached some of the greatest LBs in college football history, though he never quite delivered in Baton Rouge. Kevin Minter and Kwon Alexander had single dominant seasons, and guys like Debo Jones, Kendell Beckwith, and Duke Riley finished their careers strong, though Beckwith & Riley’s breakouts can be partially credited to Dave Aranda.
It is Aranda who is restoring LSU to the great LB tradition of the 70s and 80s. First Beckwith. Then Duke Riley. Devin White is the first player that will experience multiple years of Aranda’s grooming AND significant playing time. Around him is a crop of talent we haven’t seen at the LB position in Baton Rouge in ages.
Micah Baskerville could be the next man in the lineage.
Yesterday I covered Davin Cotton, a member of the Evangel trio who all pledged to LSU on the same day after Boys from the Boot in 2017. While Ardarius Washington found his way into TCU’s class, Cotton’s teammate Micah Baskerville stayed committed to the Tigers. Much like Cotton, Baskerville stayed out of the spotlight, kept his head down, didn’t bother with camps or any other recruiting visits, took his official visit to LSU in December after his senior season, and quietly signed with LSU during the early signing period.
Unlike Cotton, Baskerville was able to play his senior season. He impressed evaluators with a strong showing at the Opening New Orleans, earning him an invite to the Opening Finals. Barton Simmons rated him the top defensive player in attendance:
A recent LSU commit, Baskerville showed off a complete skillset at linebacker with the ability to make plays in space, get in throwing lanes and tackle running backs in cat and mouse drills. That’s all good to see considering his best trait is his ability to strike in pads.
While in Eugene at the Opening Finals, Baskerville reeled in an INT during the 7 on 7 competition. Months later, he accepted an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Baskerville is quite possibly the quietest All-American recruit in LSU history.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
247 Composite Ranking: ****
247 Composite Rating: .9044
If I can track the circumstances that may have lead to Cotton never ascending in the rankings, I am baffled as to why Baskerville did not. He received rave reviews from 247’s Director of Scouting, he made the Opening Finals, and he was selected to the Army All-American game. He was also 1st team All-State in Louisiana, Class 5A Defensive MVP AND his team advanced to the Semi-Finals of the State playoffs.
Name a measure of success and Baskerville found it. He had exposure through national camps, he played for a big school, he played well and yet, he spent the bulk of his Senior year ranked in the 300s, only to be bumped to the mid 200s after impressing, yet again, at Army All-American bowl. Only then to be moved down 9 spots (insignificant but humorous) when 247 released their final rankings.
I’ve seen size critiques, but there are similar sized players in the top 100. I can’t find the official opening testing numbers, but multiple evaluators tab him as an “athletic linebacker.” So, what gives? I dunno.
Ok, before I hit play, when I read “6’2” and 215 pounds” “athletic” and “make plays in space” I envision seeing a guy who arm tackles, relies on speed and generally avoids physicality. Then you turn on the tape and, yeah, uh, that’s not Micah Baskerville.
Baskerville does pop physically, but he’s not one to avoid contact. He’s physical and attacking in all the ways you love to see your LBs play. He can really bring a pop behind his hits. He’s also a guy that can get sideline-to-sideline. He’s also quick to diagnose plays and pounce on the action. You rarely see him waste steps or misread.
Like most HS LBs, you don’t see how he will handle dealing with blockers. He’s athletic enough to get around some, but those margins thin as you advance up levels. He’ll have to learn how to play with his hands, sort through trash and still locate ball carriers. There’s one example of it on tape, but not something we see consistently. He looks a lot like your prototypical quality young LB.
Baskerville is already on campus, which will hopefully expedite his learning of the defense and his position. Aranda praised his instincts and intelligence, but also mentioned he needs to be more vocal, which might be a way of hinting at a RS. There’s not an absolute need for him to play with a pretty strong 2-deep already in place. There’s room to groom here and that’s a very good thing.
I think his physical/mental combo make him a unique candidate to play anything but Buck LB in Aranda’s scheme. He could even slot there, but not on an every down basis. That type of versatility is a major value add, as it doesn’t pigeon hole LSU to certain LB spots for the next couple of signing classes. He’s already cross training at Rover and Mack, so perhaps they envision him as an inside guy making the calls, but I think he could definitely be a field LB, if need arose.
Aranda says he’s serious, and the theme seems to be his focus. If he’s to be a captain, he’ll need to grow in vocal confidence. I like the odds of Baskerville being a success.
High End: All-Conference
Low End: Special Teamer
Realistic: Starter as a Junior/Senior. Quality player, but never a star.