Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country
LSU linebacker Donnie Alexander

LSU football: On Duke, Debo and the linebackers trying to fill that role

Nick Suss

Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today we talk briefly about NFLSU and the Tigers’ linebacker tradition, plus breakout players, some basketball and one really good tweet. Enjoy!

Falcons take flight

Former LSU football players and Atlanta Falcons teammates Duke Riley and Deion Jones are looking to “get turnt” in Atlanta.

It should come as no surprise that Riley, LSU’s leading tackler in 2016, called Jones, Atlanta’s standout rookie in 2016, immediately after the Falcons drafted him. Jones talked about the exchange the current and former teammates had in an interview Tuesday.

Leaving the implications of two hometown boys playing together for the New Orleans Saints’ arch rivals aside, Riley and Jones represent an interesting quirk of the LSU football team’s recent successes. Both Jones and Riley were one-year starters in Baton Rouge, Jones having to wait his turn behind Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Kwon Alexander, and Riley waiting behind Jones.

Thanks to the youth on LSU’s defense, particularly at inside linebacker, this phenomenon shouldn’t continue past 2017. But it could continue into 2017.

Plenty has been made about the emergence of sophomore linebacker Devin White and his ascent in replacing Kendell Beckwith. And the chief focus of the 2017 recruiting cycle was LSU’s courtship of inside linebackers Jacob Phillips, Patrick Queen and Tyler Taylor, replenishing the Tigers’ depth.

But the story that’s been mostly swept under the rug is the tale of Donnie Alexander, the player most like Riley and Jones. Alexander was Riley’s backup last season, eventually moving into Beckwith’s position when the senior tore his ACL versus Florida toward the end of the season. Like Jones and Riley before him, Alexander heads into his senior season with limited starting experience. But unlike Jones, Riley, Beckwith or Kwon, Donnie Alexander is the lone veteran in the unit.

This fact hasn’t been lost on Alexander, nor has it been lost on LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

“I should mention Donnie Alexander,” Aranda said unprompted at the Tiger Tour Monday night. “Donnie has really upped his profile as a leader and a communicator. Guys are following him. He’s working hard in the weight room. There’s a lot of positive things coming from the inside linebacker group.”

Can Alexander emulate the one-year wonders who came before him? Well, he probably isn’t the same level of athlete as either of his predecessors. After all, Jones ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and Riley one-upped him with a 4.58.

But what Alexander lacks in top-flight athleticism, he makes up for in the same trait that led Jones and Riley to thrive: patience. Alexander has spent the last three years waiting his turn. Now it is his turn.

Does this mean he’ll end up on the Atlanta Falcons in 11 months? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But let’s also not begin salivating about the Phillips/Queen/Taylor era yet either. Let’s give Donnie a chance to become the next Duke or Debo.

Elsewhere on SEC Country

SEC Country’s senior football analyst Oliver Connolly released his picks for the SEC’s top breakout player candidates yesterday, and an LSU football player topped the list.

Hardcore LSU football fans won’t be surprised to see the name Rashard Lawrence on the countdown. Lawrence was Coach O’s darling in spring, with Orgeron even saying that Lawrence has shored up a starting spot this far in advance of the season.

Connolly raved about Lawrence’s “effortless” technique, describing him as a future first-round pick. That’s high praise for a guy who accounted for six tackles and one sack as a freshman. But like Davon Godchaux before him, Lawrence isn’t the type of player who needs to make every stop. He’s best trait is eating up blocks so the men behind and around him can make the stops.

If Lawrence can continue to develop, especially as a pass rusher, he should be able to validate Connolly’s assertion. If not, Lawrence should still be a key contributor to LSU in 2017, especially when he’s lined up on the same side as Arden Key.

If Lawrence is getting double-teamed, it probably means Key isn’t. And that’s what you want if you’re an LSU fan.

Tweet of the Year Candidate

Most tweets are bad.

I’m a bit of a Twitter addict, and I spend about an hour a day, five days a week “preparing for this column” by reading every single tweet every LSU football player, coach and significant alum puts out. 99 percent of those tweets are pretty bad, because 99 percent of all tweets are pretty bad.

Then you see a good one. Like one that Derrius Guice put out last night.

This tweet has so many layers. It preys on our natural proclivity toward skimming large numbers. It shames people for giving in to their human nature. Then, right as the shame starts peaking, he plays with your trust again. Right as you thought you were being lectured on your inattentiveness, boom. You get cyber-punk’d. The whole ruse was a prank wrapped inside a sociological experiment.

Well done, Derrius. You’re a darn good running back and you did a good tweet. And, honestly, I’m kind of more impressed by the tweet than the jukes and broken tackles. Mad props.

In LSU baseball news

The LSU baseball team defeated Northwestern State Tuesday night to finish out its 2017 midweek slate, but more importantly, it survived a sizable scare.

LSU slugger Greg Deichmann went down with a knee injury in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s win, marking the ninth inning as only the second time all year that a man other than Deichmann has patrolled right field for the Tigers. Deichmann walked off the field on his own power and said after the game that he feels fine, which I don’t need to sell too hard to explain why it’s important.

But, just for the sake of fun, here are all the stats Deichmann leads LSU in:

  • Home runs
  • RBI
  • Total bases
  • Slugging percentage
  • Walks
  • Outfield assists
  • Outfield putouts

In hooping-ball news

Basketball is out of season, so we haven’t devoted much time to it in the Briefing in recent weeks. But there is one basketball story worth monitoring through the offseason, and that’s the recruitment of 5-star guard Javonte Smart.

Smart isn’t just a consensus 5-star and one of the nation’s top point guards in the 2018 class. He’s also a Baton Rouge native, making the impetus for LSU to keep him home even larger. And, in good news for LSU fans, Smart is considering it.

Yep. LSU is in Smart’s final six, along with perennial powers Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA, plus Florida State and Oklahoma State. And, at this point, that’s all LSU can ask for. All Will Wade and his staff need to do is stay in contention.

If they do, maybe the Tigers can bring in a top-flight talent in 2018 to pair with the rest of the playmakers Wade is trying to bring in. This is definitely a saga that could help define the early years of Wade’s tenure at LSU, positively or negatively.

Transfer-palooza

If it feels like the LSU football team has brought in a lot of transfers this offseason, it’s because it has. Three, to be exact. There’s tight end Thaddeus Moss, defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko and wide receiver Jonathan Giles. None of them can play in 2017, but they all figure to compete for precious playing time in 2018.

So, in case you need a refresher on who these guys are and where they fit into LSU’s plans for 2018, check out this recap from 247Sports’ Shea Dixon. He’s got you covered on their outlooks, from guaranteed starters to rocky roads ahead.

Today in made-up holidays

According to the folks at NationalDayCalendar.com, today is “National Pack Rat Day.” As someone currently staring at a sticky note that I scribbled on the first day I moved to Baton Rouge, a stack of three complimentary notebooks I stashed as a college junior and a month’s-old Raising Cane’s takeout cup, I can sympathize with the holiday.

Though, I’m kind of unclear if I’m supposed to be confronting my pack-rat tendencies or celebrating them. Being cluttered is one of the few traits that is simultaneously celebrated and mocked. There’s a long series of quotes about how clutter is a sign of genius, but there’s also a whole TV show devoted to the complications resulting from being cluttered.

I really don’t know what my take on the situation is. I’ve always been a pack rat kind of guy. True story: I won my middle school’s speech contest in the seventh grade by telling four minutes of self-deprecatory jokes about how messy my locker was. I guess I pull it off OK, but I also know there are other people who can’t.

Point is, if you don’t know your thoughts on your personal organization habits, use today to reflect on them. Because if there’s one thing I want you to be, it’s organized. Well, that and a regular reader of the Bayou Bengal Briefing.

Miss a previous edition of the Bayou Bengal Briefing? Find every one of SEC Country’s daily LSU football columns right here.

Official Partners