If we’re looking at the LSU defense like Olympic medals then the defensive line is clearly the gold medal unit, the secondary (which we’ll touch on later) is the bronze and that would make the linebackers the silver medal.
The 2022 LSU linebacker unit is certainly an interesting group heading into fall camp. It’s got some guys who have played on the biggest of stages, some transfers who have played in the Power 5, and a pair of highly touted recruits including a Hurricane Katrina transplant that’s finally coming back home who just happens to be a top-10 player in the entire recruiting cycle.
2022 LSU Linebackers
|6 Mike Jones Jr. (Jr.)||6'1"/230||34||2.5||1||1 PBU|
|10 Harold Perkins (Fresh.)||6'2"/220||Five-star freshman|
|23 Micah Baskerville (5th-Year Sr.)||6'1"/228||83||9||2||4 PBUs/1 INT|
|25 Kolbe Fields (Rs. Fresh)*||6'0/218||1||0||0||4 Games Played|
|30 Gregg Penn III (Soph.)||6'2"/238||11||0||0|
|32 DeMario Tolan (Fresh.)||6'2"/222||Four-star freshman|
|33 West Weeks (Soph)**||6'3"/238||31||N/A||1||5 PBUs/1 FR|
|58 Jared Small (5th Year Sr.)||5'10"/215||Missed all of 2021|
*At South Carolina
I’m not really sure what to make of this group. For as many certainties I have just as many questions about the LSU linebackers.
Micah Baskerville is back for a fifth season. He is going to be crucial in reshaping the LSU program internally and is also on the Butkus Award watchlist. He also had the best season by far of his LSU career with 83 tackles.
But for as long as Baskerville has been a Tiger he’s either played behind or next to future pros: Patrick Queen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Damone Clark, Devin White, Jacob Phillips, and Jabril Cox just to name a few. And while he had 83 tackles in 2022, he was playing next to Damone Clark who was having a Butkus Award-caliber season. Can Baskerville replicate that type of production without someone else having an incredible season? Can he have one himself and thus open the door for his teammates?
Mike Jones (WHO???) Jr. should be in line to start opposite Baskerville in 2022. Jones came to LSU as a draft-eligible sophomore wanting to show he could be a middle linebacker at the SEC level...and didn’t really get a chance to do so. Jones played in all 13 games but didn’t start the first eight. Jones was wildly misused early on in the season—remember the UCLA tight end running buckwild in the opener? Probably shoulda had renowned coverage linebacker Mike Jones on him!—but once he saw the field more often, the skeleton crew LSU defense actually wasn’t half bad. Jones is another leader for the program, he represented LSU at SEC Media Days and should be the one making all the calls in the new-look Matt House defense. He also might (?) be your No. 18 in 2022, as he is not wearing 19 like last season. He’s currently listed on LSU’s roster wearing No. 6 but that’s also the same number he wore at Clemson so maybe that’s all there is to that story.
LSU has a trio of second-year players with a variety of experience: Greg Penn III played in 10 games and really made the most of his starting opportunity against Kansas State with a season-high seven tackles; West Weeks played in 12 games for Virginia but broke his leg in the regular season finale against Virginia Tech; Kolbe Fields is transferring in after redshirting at South Carolina. While I’m not sure what type of defense Matt House will use or how many linebackers will be on the field, you can bet that the combination of Baskerville/Jones/Penn will get the most run for LSU, especially early on.
...that is of course unless five-star super recruit Harold Perkins has anything to say about that. Perkins, a New Orleans native that relocated to the Houston area, seemed to be a Texas A&M commit for the longest time but either the Aggies maxed out their credit card, or the allure of coming back to Louisiana (and yeah surely some kind of NIL money) saw LSU snag its highest-rated commit in the 2022 cycle. Perkins was a consensus top-10 player in the 2022 class and either the best or second best linebacker depending on what recruiting site you subscribe to. Linebackers are hard to project going from high school to college though, for example I’m still devastated my Clifton Garrett stock tanked the way it did, but it sure seems like Perkins is the real deal.
But while Perkins is the all-everything hotshot recruit, it’s fellow incoming freshman DeMario Tolan who has been on campus since January as an early enrollee. Maybe the extra six months getting acclimated to college life opens the door for him, not Perkins, to see the field first.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t shoutout fifth-year senior Jared Small who is hopefully completely healthy after tearing his ACL the week of the UCLA game. Small’s what makes college football great in this new NIL world we’re living in. Small came to LSU as a walk-on, got a national championship ring in 2019, got put on scholarship in 2020, and was in line to be a starter in 2021 had it not been for his injury. Hopefully Small will get to end his LSU career on the right note.