LSU will return to the football field for spring practice on Sunday. In the meantime, SEC Country is preparing for those workouts by previewing each position group as it stands after National Signing Day. We continue with the inside linebackers.
LSU inside linebacker depth chart
- Junior Devin White
- Sophomore Patrick Queen
- Freshman Micah Baskerville
- Sophomore Tyler Taylor
- Sophomore Jacob Phillips
- Freshman Damone Clark
Departures and arrivals
Departures: Donnie Alexander, Jonathan Rucker, Devin Voorhies (graduation)
Arrivals: Baskerville (enrolled), Clark (summer)
A position of strength and comfort
Because of inexperience at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, LSU will face as many unknowns going into the 2018 season as it has in years.
Led by White, however, the middle of the defense won’t be one of those mysteries.
White was one of the most prolific tacklers in the country last season, finishing with 133 stops. In the SEC, only Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith had more. Smith had the benefit of three extra games — the SEC Championship Game and two College Football Playoff games — to surpass him.
That’s not to say White can’t get better this year. Only 37 of his tackles were solos (though that’s largely a byproduct of how he’s used in Dave Aranda’s defense). White should become an even more refined and dangerous player in 2018. Remember, this is just his third year focusing on linebacker after primarily playing running back in high school.
Who plays next to Devin White?
White is the surest thing on LSU’s entire roster. Less certain is who will be playing next to him, and that spot will make for perhaps the most underrated position battle of spring practice.
Taylor, one of a trio of solid sophomores, seems likely to get the first crack.
Taylor was the one who saw the most snaps as Alexander battled injuries last season, and showed flashes of promise. He had a monster game against Syracuse, finishing with 6 tackles and 2 sacks. Taylor never matched that production again, but played solidly against Ole Miss and Tennessee.
In the Citrus Bowl, fellow sophomore Phillips showed he is closing in fast on Taylor. Other than a 6-tackle game against Ole Miss, the former 5-star prospect’s freshman season felt underwhelming until LSU took on Notre Dame. Phillips had a pair of solo tackles and one of LSU’s best pass breakups of the season against the Fighting Irish. More importantly, he looked comfortable playing the position. An inside linebacker doesn’t have time for hesitation, and Phillips closed out the year looking like his confidence was back.
Queen, the other sophomore, is perhaps the most versatile linebacker of the three. Even if he doesn’t beat out Taylor and Phillips for the job, he’ll be a major factor on LSU’s special teams this season. And due to his versatility, Queen seems the most likely choice to back up White at the rover position.
Where will the freshmen fit in?
Baskerville was recruited under the premise that he will take over for White when the latter leaves for the NFL. Aranda is more a fan of how Baskerville sees the field than of his athleticism. Thus it stands to reason that Baskerville will spend most of spring practice as White’s understudy. If he does well enough, he could be in the mix to start next to White after the season kicks off.
Clark won’t enroll until summer, so he looks headed for either a redshirt or special teams duty.
For fans of defensive football — a description that should fit anyone who has stuck with LSU this long — the battle for the middle linebacker spot will be the most fun to watch this spring. It’s not as exciting as quarterback or running back, but it’s probably the most even.
It’s also the battle that figures to go deepest into the season. It would not be a surprise to see two or three different players start next to White over the course of the season, and not due to ineffectiveness.