Even before Aranda graced Baton Rouge with his magical defensive presence, LSU had been known for thumpers at middle linebacker. Guys that were easily able to rack up double-digit tackles and make ball carriers wish it was a run to the outside. The arrival of Arranda with his 3-4 defense made zero changes to that style, and he now has another in the wings to bring the lumber to the field.
Ed Orgeron and the staff made changes to their approach to recruiting in the offseason, putting more of an emphasis on securing everything in the current class and focusing on the upcoming class. The new Early Signing Period helped in creating this new game plan, and Kendall McCallum benefited from it, earning an offer a day before the 2018 National Signing Day in February. It was only a couple months later when Kendall McCallum committed to LSU at one of the summer camps in June. His recruitment ground to a halt following his announcement, taking his official visit to Baton Rouge a week before putting pen to the paper during the Early Signing Period.
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 Rating: ***
247 Composite Ranking: .8784
Surprisingly, McCallum was rated at one point in the 800s in his senior year, but a strong campaign in which he even missed four games due to what was believed to be a heart issue (it wound up being asthma) had him shoot up nearly 250 spots to earn his spot at 569, a criminally low spot for him.
Like I used earlier, McCallum is the definition of a thumper. It can not be fun to play against him. If he gets his hands on you, there’s only two ways it ends: you’re going backwards or straight down. One thing that I love about him is he knows he hits hard and lets them know it. I have always been a huge proponent of swagger, and he puts it on display numerous times. While McCallum may not possess the top-end speed we’re accustomed to seeing in the SEC, he plays smart football with his routes to the ball carrier and uses his play recognition to put himself in the right spot to compensate for that lack of speed.
He has toned down his frame since arriving at LSU to his current 227 pounds, something that may help with that agility and add some speed.
With the departure of Devin White, the two starting inside linebackers will come from the trio of Michael Divinity, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen. Divinity and Queen can also play on the outside opposite K’Lavon Chaisson, which will be dependent on the upcoming summer practices. After those three, there is not a lot of experience from the backups, meaning there is playing time available at the position.
High End: Becomes one of the primary backups this year. Divinity graduates, Queen or Phillips leaves early due to their stellar performance, and McCallum settles in as the main patrol of the middle of the field.
Low End: His speed is too much of a detriment to overcome and McCallum finds himself falling down the depth chart.
Realistic: There is a reason Aranda was so high on McCallum to offer an out-of-state, three-star linebacker before the 2018 class was even finalized. He also stuck by McCallum even as local four-star Christian Harris received a lot more publicity. Kelvin Sheppard and Kendell Beckwith weren’t the fastest guys out there, but they were always in the right place, something that McCallum appears to excel in. I can see him as a bonafide starter in Aranda’s 3-4 defense where he doesn’t have to be a sideline-to-sideline guy and be a consistent tackler up the middle.