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The Leadership Core Steps Up

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There’s one voice that matters most, and that belongs to Devin White

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi
The season goes as he goes
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be honest, it’s never good news when the team calls a players only meeting.

No one calls a players only meeting after the big win over Rival State U. It’s not something you do when times are going good. The mere fact the team felt the need to get together in private to speak hard truths to one another assumes that there are hard truths to tell.

Week two of fall practice didn’t go much better than week one, as the team lost even more players from the program due to suspension or transfer. And while I understand the desire to transfer and that a player needs to take care of his own career first and foremost… if you ain’t one hundred percent on this train before it leaves the station, the time to get off is right now.

We still love you, Justin McMillan. You were a great Tiger and you did everything this team and this staff asked of you. I bear you absolutely no ill will and wish you nothing but the best on your future endeavors. I hope you throw for a gazillion yards wherever you end up. But right now, you’re Tiger Bait.

And this is a risky move. You can’t dip into this well too often. If things get rocky in the first month of the season, it’s hard to call another players only meeting and say this is the one that counts. It’s buy-in time right now. The bullet is fired from the gun.

We won’t ever know what was said in there, but it did identify this team’s leadership core, and showed they are taking an active role in this season. They aren’t just holding themselves personally accountable, they are holding the whole team to a higher standard.

But what we can tell from this meeting is who makes up that leadership core. Football teams are not a democracy, they are a meritocracy. The guys who get the loudest voices are the ones who produce the most on the field. Leadership is a byproduct of talent. And some guys will shy away from leadership roles even if they have the production to back up their words, but no one can stand up in a meeting and tell the team what’s what without having some deeds to back up those words.

So let’s see who stood up in that meeting according to John Battle: Foster Moreau, Rashard Lawrence, Breidon Fehoko, Blake Ferguson, Nick Brossette, Garrett Brumfield and Stephen Sullivan.

Just about every position group had someone take the lead. Foster Moreau, as the newly minted #18, was of course morally required to say something or he wouldn’t have the #18 jersey. But it does not escape notice that the #7 jersey is not among those listed.

Now, Jonathan Giles might have stood up and said his piece. He might also be uncomfortable being the sort of guy to get after the team given that he’s still yet to catch a ball as a Tiger. But it is odd that the wide receiver to get mentioned as a vocal leader was Stephen Sullivan, which tells me he might not be as a buried on the depth chart as some may believe.

It does make sense that the running back to get mentioned is Nick Brossette. He’s a senior and the team’s leading returning rusher (with all of 96 yards last year). It’s still likely going to be backfield by committee, but Brossette is the group leader, befitting a veteran.

Same with the offensive line, where the only senior starter, Garrett Brumfield, is the unit’s leadership representative. It’s also why John Battle speaks for the secondary. Greedy Williams might be the star, but Battle’s the senior, as someone has to be the Brandon Taylor to his Honey Badger.

Blake Ferguson likely speaks for the special teams because let’s face it, no one wants to hear from a kicker. Especially on a team that went 16 of 27 on field goals last year.

There’s no senior starter on the defensive line, but it’s telling that unit got two voices. This is the rock upon which this team is built, and we will only go as far as the defensive line takes us. Rashard Lawrence has more experience in the program, but it speaks volumes that Breidon Fehoko gets an equal voice. Talent will out, and Fehoko is the star even without taking a snap.

But the name that stood out as the most vocal person in the meeting is Devin White. The defensive line might be the strongest position group, but there is no doubt who is the star player on this team: it is the all-world linebacker.

Some players seem to crave the spotlight. Derrius Guice, for example, was born to be a star. The spotlight, on the other hand, has found Devin White. But he’s still a small town kid who is such a throwback that he rides his horse to relax for godsakes. The man is straight out of central casting. He was thrust into a spotlight at an early age, and he’s never backed down, doing whatever is needed, showing maturity beyond his years.

No one really knows how the team is going to do this year, but if this team is going to outperform the experts’ predictions, it is going to be Devin White who lifts this team. White is a player who has never made excuses and lets his playing do most of his talking. He shifted from running back to linebacker because that’s what the team needed and also, well, he was ridiculously awesome at playing linebacker.

He’s an extremely talented player who is also a team-first guy. He’s got swagger to spare on the field, but he showed up to SEC media days complimenting the media on their hard work on their predictions, even as those predictions cut against LSU. He doesn’t need to talk, he’s just going to point at the scoreboard.

Of course Devin White did most of his talking behind closed doors. Then again, he didn’t have to say a word, his body of work should already speak for itself. This is Devin White’s team, and I don’t know a single thing that could make me more confident about this season than that fact.