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August 26, 2010

What about LSU's Linebackers?

The other night during the first Les Miles radio talk show of the season a regular audience member, who calls himself "Evil Twin," asked an excellent question.  Evil Twin asked Miles what the plan is for linebackers now that starting Will linebacker, Ryan Baker, is injured.

Miles answer confirmed that Baker had broken his jaw in four places during practice and would miss the North Carolina game. Miles also mentioned that Kelvin Sheppard had experience playing all three linebacker positions last year and may do so again this year.  And finally Miles named Luke Muncie and D.J. Welter as linebackers that might see playing time in Baker's absence.  That was a little surprising because when Miles announced Baker's injury, less than a week earlier, he had mentioned Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow as likely replacements that would see more playing time in Baker's absence.

The Evil Twin question and the four different linebackers named as probable replacements demands some focus on LSU's linebacker situation.

LSU has 14 players listed as linebackers on their roster.  Of the 14 listed the three probable starters are Sporting News All-America Kelvin Sheppard primarily at Middle or "Mike" linebacker, Stefoin Francois at Strong side or "Sam" linebacker, and Ryan Baker (when healthy) at Weak side or "Will" linebacker.  

Last year, Sheppard led the team and was 4th in the SEC with 110 total tackles.  He has been described more than once this year as a coach on the field and is listed on a number of individual award watch lists.  Sheppard will be on the field helping position players and direct the defense each and every time LSU's defense takes the field.

Stefoin Francois is a hard hitting converted safety who will be on the field almost every play as LSU's Sam linebacker.  Defensive Coordinator, John Chavis successfully used converted safety Harry Coleman last year in the same way that Francois will be used this year.  The idea is that with a larger converted safety playing this linebacker position your defense gets both great run support and just as importantly an excellent pass coverage linebacker. Having this larger safety/linebacker playing Sam linebacker cuts down on mistakes from having to substitute players in for a passing situation.  But with Ryan Baker, the other outside linebacker, out for the first game more player substitutions are likely.

Kevin Minter, Lamin Barrow, Luke Muncie, and D.J. Welter have been mentioned as likely linebacker candidates to be in the mix for the Kickoff Classic.

Minter is Kelvin Sheppard's backup at Mike Linebacker.  Minter earned that backup status in the spring by making play-after-play.  Minter is a hard hitter who squats 545lbs.  Minter is a redshirt freshman from LSU's highly acclaimed 2009 recruiting class.  If Minter is in the game, Sheppard is likely to run the show from the Will spot.  

Lamin Barrow who is also a redshirt freshman has earned a role as the main backup to Francois at Sam linebacker.

The fact that Minter and Barrow are the main backups at Mike and Sam positions may be the reason that Miles' seemed to shift to Muncie and Welter.  

Muncie and Welter were a bit of a surprise because both are true freshmen.  These guys must really be making an impression in the short time that they have been at LSU.  I do not suspect that Muncie or Welter have cemented a starting role for the North Carolina and I would not be surprised to find out that Tahj Boyd, Justin Maclin, or even Josh Johns earn early playing time.

One of John Chavis' first recruiting actions when he first arrived at LSU last year was to visit with and help secure Boyd's commitment to the Tigers.

One thing that you can take to the bank concerning LSU's linebackers is that they will be well coached. John Chavis is the position coach for the linebackers.  Chavis strongly and loudly insists on near perfection from his linebackers.  The linebacker corps is considered a big question mark for the Tigers this season but rest assured that whoever LSU fields at the position will be well coached.  Most of the linebackers may lack experience but don't expect them to be out of position very often.      


Anonymous said...

Now I understand why we are worried this year. It is not a good sign that most of our LBs are freshmen.

Bob Wynn said...

Thanks to the reader that caught an error in my original article. I removed the comment after I corrected my error.

Anonymous said...

This does not give me confidence. Miles is unsure which fresh/rs fresh will be starting next weekend?!

Anonymous said...

At-lack of confidence- read the article again and this time try reading all the way to the end. The Chief of the D is John Chavis. Chavis knows who is starting. He probably just told Miles after Miles guessed at the wrong one. Chavis should be the HC.

Anonymous said...

Bob, thanks for keeping the focus on our team. Just saw an ESPN article that said LSU better not get distracted by this UNC stuff that is all over the internet.

Anonymous said...

Les Miles is a lucky football coach...Now, Butch Davis is having trouble with his football players cheating, in class..NC will not be able to play their better football players..LSU wins...Miles might win 9 or 10 games now,this year...Les Miles just might coach LSU forever!!

Anonymous said...

Isn't there some sort of NCAA investigation going on at West Virginia?

Anonymous said...

Something evil is living around the LSU football program...Butch Davis hand picked the NC football players to play LSU a football game with, in the Georgia Dome.ESPN has the TV trucks, and cameras, ready to show America how Butch Davis is rising back to the top of college football.
Les Miles is easy pickings,a fast talking river boat two bit gambler.Not a match for a real college football coach.
So what happens,the NCAA takes all the good NC football players off the field, before the game starts.Les Miles wins.
Something evil is going on!!

Anonymous said...

You are right about something evil but it is not around LSU. Butch Davis was the coach of Miami when it was a troubled/evil program. Oh and that so called two bit gambler has a 77% win record and a national championship trophy. So maybe you are confused about more than one thing.

Anonymous said...

Wondered why UNC all of a sudden had so many NFL quality players. Yep, Davis is doing something.

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