Spring Football Position Breakdown – Linebackers

Welcome back to our 10-part series previewing the 2014 LSU Tigers football team. We’ll give previews of every position all throughout spring practice up until the spring game on April 5th. This is part three. 

LSU enters the 2014 season with only a couple of questions to answer in the second level of a defense that hopes to return to it’s normally stout stature. After an inconsisent season from this unit, LSU football is hoping for a solid spring from these guys to deteremine whether or not this return to dominance is likely.
Replacing a tackling machine in Lamin Barrow will be the first challenge, and finding the right fit in the middle as the quarterback of the defense will probably be the biggest. Follow past the jump for an in-depth outlook of the linebackers for LSU.
Scholarship Roster
Name YR Notes
D.J. Welter Sr. 80 Tackles, 4 TFL, 2 Sacks
Kwon Alexander Jr. 65 Tackles, 6.5 TFL
Lamar Louis Jr. 25 Tackles, 1 FR
Deion Jones Jr. 16 Tackles, 1 TFL
Kendell Beckwith So. 11 Tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Sack
Duke Riley So. 7 Tackles, .5 TFL
Ronnie Feist Jr. No Stats Accumulated in 2013
Myles O’Brien Sr. No Stats Accumulated in 2013
Grant Leger Jr. No Stats Accumulated in 2013
Michael Petty Jr. No Stats Accumulated in 2013
Christian Pittman Jr. No Stats Accumulated in 2013
Jonathan Rucker RS Fr.
Clifton Garrett Fr. Incoming 5 Star Recruit
Donnie Alexander Fr. Incoming 3 Star Recruit

The stats show what appears to be a green group, but they what they lack on the scoresheet, they make for in experience. This group is highlighted by a stellar 2012 linebacker recruiting class, most of whom have seen the field and are chomping at the bit for extended playing time.

How they fared last season…
As expected, Lamin Barrow led the group, and the team, in tackles with 91 combined stops. While he was the not the quarterback of the defense, he was the leader of this group as one of only three upperclassmen that saw time with the linebackers. D.J. Welter started all 13 games at MLB, and while he did have 80 total tackles which was good enough for second on the team, the results were a mixed bag to say the least. With Kwon Alexander flanking the strong-side, the group was slighty above-average on its’ best days, and pretty average on most others.
Lamin Barrow was the only player in the linebacking corps to see most of the action the season provided. D.J. Welter was spelled by Lamar Louis on just about every third series, and Kwon was only on the field when the Tigers were in their base D, which wasn’t that often with the newly acquired spread offense that SEC teams have begun to roll out.
As a unit, the linebackers were rather unimpressive for most of the season. Barrow was a liability in coverage, and Welter was often unable to plug gaps, crash holes, or shed blocks. Lamar Louis provided a little more athleticism at MLB, but often found himself out of position and lacked the leadership spark needed to play there. One bright spot, however, was the play of Kwon Alexander. He flashed his innate ability to go sideline to sideline, while proving to be an excellent tacker. One can only wonder why he didn’t see the field for the majority of the snaps last season.
Deion Jones had some snaps late in the season, Duke Riley was relegated to mostly special teams work, and Ronnie Fiest failed to see the field at all after bouncing from LB to DE to LB last season.
What’s New?
LSU will return two of their starting linebackers; however, I only expect one to see the field often, and that should excite fans tremendously. Kwon has shifted to the weak-side to fill the void that Barrow has left, meaning he will play about 95% of the snaps (finally), and D.J. appears to have plenty of competition if the indications coming from early in spring camp are anything concrete. Furthermore, Lamar Louis has moved the strong-side to take over for Kwon, a move I really like and think he will excel at.
While I feel like Alexander will lock onto that starting WILL spot and not relinquish it, the other two spots are totally up for grabs. First, D.J. Welter is not the answer at MLB and this year he will see more of the bench than the field. Kendall Beckwith has already begun practicing there, a move many Tiger faithful had yurned for all of 2013. With a year of experience under his belt, and a full spring of reps at MLB, I tentatively expect Beckwith to be the starting MLB against Wisconsin in Houston.
As for the SAM spot, I think that at this moment it is Lamar Louis’s to lose, but my gut will not let me forget Deion Jones, a talented athlete that covers space extremely well and will challenge for time at all three spots this season.
So, I would not be surprised to see Kwon/Beckwith/Louis as your starting linebackers in the Fall of 2014; however, I think that Deion, Ronnie Feist, and the newcomer Clifton Garrett will get PLENTY of reps. Duke Riley will continue to excel on special teams, and we’d be extremely happy if he became the leader of that unit.
Speaking of Garrett, what will his role be?
Clifton Garrett comes to LSU as a top 5 linebacker recruit in the country. He does all of the things you’d expect of an inside linebacker, while having the skills to play the outside as well. Because of his work ethic and leadership qualities, I fully expect him to be your starting MLB one day. However, I think that his late arrival will put him too far behind Beckwith for that title this season. Could he challenge for an outside spot? Absolutely. Ultimately, he will be very tough to keep off the field, and I think we’ll hear his name a lot once fall rolls around.
Another freshman, Donnie Alexander, comes in as underrated prospect who fits the mold of a John Chavis outside linebacker to the “T”. Fast, athletic, and a sure tackler, Donnie is probably destined for a role on special teams this season, but he wil eventually make his way to becoming a big part of the LSU defense.
What can we expect from this unit?
IMPROVEMENT! For me, it’s as simple as putting the players you’ve already had into their natural environments. Kwon is an excellent player that will past tests from the offense time and time again while Beckwith is a big, rangy body that will shed tackles and make plays all over the field. Lamar and Deion are smaller, but just as fast and athletic, which will bode well for covering linebackers and running backs coming out of the backfield. Garrett, Feist, and Riley are all bonuses that will make up a key unit for the Tigers 2014 defense.


About Michael Sison

I've bled Purple and Gold since I was a Tiger Cub. I may not always agree with our coaches, and that's something you'll find very entertaining. Negatiger? No way, more like Realitiger...