While LSU’s secondary was the face of last year’s horrendous defense, the Tiger linebackers were probably the worst performing group.
A step back was to be expected once the 2019 season ended. Not only was LSU switching defenses but the coaching staff was replacing all four starters: K’Lavon Chaisson, Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips, and Michael Divinity.
Still, the linebacking unit fell and they fell hard. But that’s all (hopefully) in the past now, Bo Pelini is gone and in come defensive coordinator Daronte Jones and linebackers coach Blake Baker. The unit left us more questions than answers in 2020 and new faces like Bugg Strong look to be an immediate upgrade.
Strong got his start at the JUCO level, spending two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he was an absolute force. Strong had a, well...strong two years for MGCCC, picking up a total 163 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. Those numbers made him the top middle linebacker prospect at the JUCO level.
A Mississippi native, Strong was all set to play for the hometown Mississippi State Bulldogs upon graduating...that was until LSU came calling. LSU offered toward the end of November, Strong decommitted from Miss State on the eve of the Early Signing Period and signed with the Tigers the following day.
247 Composite Ranking: ***
247 Composite Rating: .8669
I can’t find a heck of a lot of highlights of Bugg Strong on the internet, nor does 247 offer a recruiting breakdown. But Strong has a reputation of a thumper, something that was sorely missed last season.
Like the wide receivers and safeties LSU’s linebacking unit is in a weird space. There’s a lot of guys to like in theory but you can find reasons to doubt all of them as well. For Strong it will be how he handles the jump from the JUCO level to the best conference in college football.
High End: Only plays one year at LSU because he was that good. Rotates in and out early on but locks down one of those starting linebacker jobs.
Low End: Plays but doesn’t really wow. Solid contributor in a reworked linebacker room
Realistic: Orgeron and the staff have some decisions to make when it comes to the LSU linebackers. The season opener is less than two weeks away and LSU will surely rotate four or five linebackers against the Bruins in Los Angeles and probably beyond week one. Strong, Damone Clark, Micah Baskerville, Mike Jones and even Jared Small will all play in some combination, it’s on them to decide who gets the lion’s share of snaps.
LSU has had some pretty big hits when they’ve dipped into the JUCO market. Damien Lewis was awesome at right guard and Ali Gaye has shown he can be one of the SEC’s best pass rushers. Finding guys like these is a testament to the coaching staff and Strong looks to be the next success story.