BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU football team might have been out of luck with its inside linebackers this spring had it not been for the intervention of Divinity.
With seniors Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith departing for the NFL and freshmen Jacob Phillips, Patrick Queen and Tyler Taylor yet to arrive on campus, the Tigers had a serious lack of depth at inside linebacker. LSU’s only scholarship options in practice were starters Donnie Alexander — who is limited by a shoulder injury — and Devin White.
That is, until outside linebacker Michael Divinity stepped in.
Divinity is endeavoring to learn inside linebacker after spending his freshman year playing on the outside. As a true freshman in 2016, Divinity appeared in 9 of LSU’s 12 games. He had 13 tackles, including 1 for loss.
As an inside linebacker, Divinity must become patient and less reactive. Progress is apparent, but not without bumps.
“I was just anxious,” Divinity said of the position change. “The first day of practice I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna mess up, this and that,’ but it comes with a change of positions. I mess up a lot. You learn from the mistakes when you’re on the field. With the help of [Devin] White and Donnie Alexander, and talking to Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley and them encouraging me to have more motivation. ”
Among current and former teammates encouraging Divinity, perhaps no one is more instrumental than White. Though White never played outside linebacker, he knows about changing positions. He moved to inside linebacker from running back.
In Divinity, White sees a player who is improving, especially in mental aspects.
“I think he’s progressing well,” White said. “For him to take the stuff for his team and come inside because we really don’t have much depth inside right now until the new enrollees get here, I think he’s been doing well.
“When you’re inside, you’re the quarterback of the defense. You’ve got to know everything. When you’re outside, you get the calls from the inside guy. You’re really not doing as much. Now he’s got to bring his game to a whole new level because he’s the quarterback.”
Hanging with the right crowd
As much as White and others helped, the man most instrumental in Divinity’s development is Dave Aranda. As LSU defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach, Aranda is the mastermind of the position. The group’s cerebral aspect comes from Aranda’s attention to detail.
To Divinity, the position switch process is easier because of Aranda.
“He explains everything,” Divinity said. “He helps me better understand everything. It makes me learn everything much faster. It really is [making things easier]. He breaks it down to where you understand. He finds ways for everyone to understand and that’s what makes him a great coach.”
Now equipped with understanding, Divinity gets more time on the field. He didn’t play much as an outside linebacker because his position was redundant in nickel sets used against teams with spread offenses. But inside linebackers never come off the field. They must provide pass coverage, rove against outside runs and stuff inside runs.
Divinity is all for having increased opportunities.
“It helps me have more playing time and having a better chance of making a lot of plays just to help the team,” Divinity said.