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LSU Spring Football 2018: Linebackers

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The site of the stiffest competition in LSU’s spring practice.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Notre Dame vs Louisiana State Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

In just two years, Dave Aranda, despite his lack of reputation as a recruiter, has completely reshaped the LSU depth chart at linebacker.

There is depth and competition at all four spots, with more on the way. LSU could very well have the luxury of redshirting two freshmen linebackers this year, something that would have been unheard of a year ago.

2018 LSU Spring Linebackers

Position Player Ht/Wt Tackles TFL Run Stuffs* Sacks PBU (Int) PBU FF Success Rate**
Position Player Ht/Wt Tackles TFL Run Stuffs* Sacks PBU (Int) PBU FF Success Rate**
OLB (Bench/Field) 46 Andre Anthony (So.) 6-5, 242 DNP -- Injured.
43 Ray Thornton (So.) 6-3, 228 10 1 4 0 1 0 0 25.00%
4 K'Lavon Chaisson (So.) 6-4, 240 27 2.5 5 2 0 (2) 0 14.80%
45 Michael Divinity (Jr.) 6-2, 239 15 1.5 4 1 0 0 0 20.00%
49 Travez Moore (Jr.) 6-4, 250 Four-star recruit.
ILB (Mack/Rover) 40 Devin White (So.) 6-1, 248 133 9.5 19 4.5 1 (3) 0 1 35.30%
8 Patrick Queen (So.) 6-1, 220 6 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
24 Tyler Taylor (So.) 6-2, 238 32 0 1 1.5 0 0 0 43.80%
6 Jacob Phillips (So.) 6-3, 237 18 0.5 2 0 0 0 0 16.70%
50 Layton Garnett (So.) 6-4, 247 Accumulated 2 tackles in 7 game appearances.
23 Micah Baskerville (Fr.) 6-2, 215 Four-star recruit.
Returning starters in bold. Stats via Football Study Hall.

True, just one starter is back, but Devin White may very well be the best inside linebacker in the country. And the competition to start next to him may be the fiercest one in spring drills, quarterback included.

What’s Old?

In his first year as a starter, and second playing the linebacker position full time, Devin White led the SEC in tackles per game. And as that sentence implied, there is definitive room for the 6-1, 240-pounder to improve. A 150-plus tackle season, which would challenge LSU single-season records, is not out of the question.

The other spot next to him is up for grabs between 2017 recruiting jewels Tyler Taylor and Jacob Phillips. Taylor picked things up faster last year and was even able to grab a few starts in place of Donnie Alexander. But Phillips, probably the better athlete of the two, came on down the stretch and closed out the season with a solid performance in the Capital One Bowl. Both players have ideal size and next-level athleticism. Grabbing the starting spot will likely come down to consistency.

Classmate Patrick Queen, a target of frequent praise from Aranda, will likely back up both spots. Although his biggest impact will likely be on special teams.

Both outside positions are open as well with Arden Key and Corey Thompson departing. Junior Michael Divinity is the most experienced option at Thompson’s “F” position — although Aranda and Orgeron have indicated that sophomores K’Lavon Chaisson and Ray Thornton may end up grabbing both outside positions. They had backed up Key at the “Bench” spot, primarily a hybrid defensive end/pass-rushing spot, but they could very well both prove too good to keep off the field.

And if Aranda’s recent interview with Ross Dellenger is to be believed, that shouldn’t be much of a problem in the “posse” nickel personnel grouping — two true defensive linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs. The two outside ‘backers basically stay on the line of scrimmage in end positions, so keeping two rush types like Chaisson and Thornton on the field shouldn’t be too hard. And if Aranda is comfortable with the players involved, LSU will likely stay in a nickel alignment on two-thirds to three-quarters of its defensive snaps.

The big question is, can Chaisson and Thornton turn that potential into pass-rush production?

What’s New?

There are two newcomers on hand — true freshman Micah Baskerville and junior college transfer Travez Moore. Both should provide solid depth, at minimum. Baskerville has a couple of bodies in front of him and should have plenty of time to learn and develop, something freshmen linebackers before him haven’t been able to do.

Moore is a wild card. There’s only a handful of players on this roster that look the part more than the 6-4, 250-pound Moore. But he’s incredibly raw, and will have a lot to learn. He was something of a “too good to pass up” flyer recruit in terms of his potential. We’ll see how quickly he adapts.

What’s the Story?

LSU may only have one starter back here, but it’s still set up to be a very athletic, dynamic group of linebackers.