After a heartbreaking loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the following string of NFL declarations by numerous players on both sides of the ball, it is natural for there to be a mild sense of pessimism surrounding LSU’s 2013 season.
Barkevious Mingo, Kevin Minter and Sam Montgomery were only a few of LSU’s defensive stars who chose to forgo their senior seasons and head to the NFL in 2013.
The truth, however, is that LSU fans have plenty to be excited about. The Tigers are currently building up a deep group of young linebackers that could prove to be one of the best in the country over the next two or three seasons.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has made a habit of seeking out lean, fast players. One needs to look no further than Mingo, a defensive end who weighs only 240 pounds and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, to understand this tendency.
“It seems to me luck follows speed,” said Chavis according to Jim Kleinpeter of The Times Picayune.
Chavis has proven that his defensive model works, as LSU has finished each of the last three seasons among the national leaders in total defense.
It appears as though the Tigers have recruited the right players to continue this defensive success. LSU’s 2012 freshman class contained six talented linebackers including Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones, Ronnie Feist and Lamar Louis.
Not one of those six linebackers weighs more than 230 pounds, and four of them run the 40-yard dash in under 4.6 seconds, fitting the bill for Chavis’ lean, fast ideal.
Speed as a unit also requires depth. No matter how fast these young linebackers are, they most likely cannot sustain that speed for an entire game.
That is where the depth comes into play. Chavis runs a base 4-3 defense, meaning that there are normally only going to be three linebackers on the field at one time. With these six young, athletic linebackers—not to mention veterans Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones—LSU should be able to have fresh legs on the field at all times to maintain that elite speed.
Louis and Jones already saw significant playing time in 2012, as did Alexander, before he broke his ankle against Florida. With increased experience and another offseason, LSU’s young corps of linebackers should develop into one of the nation’s best, easing the pain of the significant defensive losses from 2012.