LSU snagged a commitment from four-star linebacker Clifton Garrett, of Joliet, Ill., earlier today. The Tigers desperately need a player like him, but it's not necessarily because he has sublime ability.
The LSU linebackers were not good this year.
To be fair, the entire Tigers defense was substandard. The linebackers were certainly not aided by the defensive line or secondary. However, that does not excuse their poor play.
The Tigers' primary linebackers were Kwon Alexander, D.J. Welter and Lamin Barrow. Backups Lamar Louis, Tahj Jones and Deion Jones also played.
The results were mixed. The unit, like the rest of the defense, played exponentially better at home than on the road. But overall, the play was mostly uninspiring.
Welter was expected by many to struggle at middle linebacker. He lived up to those expectations, lacking the athleticism to make plays in space.
Barrow was expected to take his game to another level after having a phenomenal junior season alongside Kevin Minter. Barrow looked sluggish, but his play improved as the season went along.
Alexander is the most talented of the three but did not make the impact like he should have.
Barrow is a senior this season, which opens up snaps for the taking in 2014. This likely helped LSU lure in Garrett.
Garrett could not come at a better time for LSU. The Tigers need defensive playmakers badly. He should add the kind of explosiveness that defensive coordinator and linebacker coach John Chavis salivates over.
Garrett's high school reel shows his ability to diagnose runs quickly. He does not shy away from contact when attacking running plays downhill. He has rare sideline-to-sideline speed, something only Alexander and Jones truly have.
The most difficult adjustment linebackers have to make to the college game is defending the pass. The growth of 7-on-7 tournaments has helped, but spread offenses, in particular, take time for linebackers to defend effectively.
There is not much tape of Garrett defending the pass, so expect there to be a learning curve for him. Spread offenses are tough to grasp for young defenders. He also loves to attack plays aggressively downhill, which is a good thing. But that will change some when he plays dangerous zone read teams like Auburn.
It will take Garrett some time to adjust to the gap in speed of play as he transitions from high school to the SEC. He played his prep football in Illinois, which is not necessarily known as a talent-rich state. But he still should be able to compete for snaps once SEC play gets started.
Next season, Alexander will certainly play a high volume of snaps. But the rest will be up for grabs. Garrett has a chance to do something Alexander did as a freshman—earn a start.
Chavis landed a special prospect in Garrett. Not only does LSU have an elite athlete, his head coach spoke of him being a high-character guy in this interview with Sports Stars of Tomorrow. If that is true, that should certainly help his maturation process.
Will Clifton Garrett earn a start next season?
LSU fans need to remember National Signing Day is still far away. There is still plenty of time for a recruit to change his mind before putting pen to paper. Nevertheless, the Tigers are starting to make major strides in recruiting.
The media always throws the word "good get" or "huge get" when a recruit commits to any school. It gets thrown around too often. Not every prospect is of such significant magnitude. But LSU nabbing Garrett is monumental for a program that needs to replenish elite talent.
Garrett's commitment, LSU's most highly touted 2014 commitment thus far, is step one of a critical cycle. Les Miles desperately needs fresh, top-end talent in order to get back to the SEC Championship Game.
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