Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring Practice Preview: Linebackers; Some Football and Baseball Notes


Les Miles held a press conference on Wednesday in preparation for spring practice, which starts Friday.  While I've been speculating in my spring practice previews, Miles shed some light on some position changes that will take place this spring. 

In a very interesting move, Miles indicated that senior Jai Eugene would be working out at safety.  First and foremost, this is a testament to what the staff thinks about Morris Claiborne at cornerback.  It will be interesting to see if Eugene is just doing some cross training, whether he's actually practicing at nickel back, or whether he will be at safety to stay. 

As expected, former defensive end Chase Clement, will be working at tight-end. 

Former safety Rocky Duplessis will be working as a linebacker. 

Defensive linemen Pep Levingston and Michael Brockers will be working at defensive tackle. 

Drayton Calhoun will be giving cornerback another try.  He practiced last spring at cornerback before working at running back last fall. 

I've also heard that tight-end Deangelo Peterson may be moving back to wide reciever, which would be a huge mistake in my opinion.   We'll see where he practices once spring gets going. 


LSU defeated McNeese State 2-1 on Wednesday afternoon.  Daniel Bradshaw started for LSU and pitched much better than he did over the weekend.  He only allowed two hits in three innings of work.  Lefty Chris Matulis then came in and pitched five scoreless innings before giving way to Matty Ott, who notched his second save of the year.  It's especially nice to see Matulis throwing well because I'm guessing the staff would love to use him to start mid-week games this year. 

Micah Gibbs broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning with a solo home-run, his second on the season. 

The addition of John Chavis to LSU's coaching staff did wonders for LSU's linebackers in 2009.  Players that underachieved in 2008 reached their full potential last year.  The player who improved the most was Kelvin Shephard, who returns as the leader of the group in 2010.  Chavis had the luxury of working with three seniors and one junior last year.  That luxury is gone this year.  Even though Sheppard returns, the rest of the linebacking crew is very inexperienced.  A look at the depth chart below shows a ton of youth. 

As mentioned, senior Kelvin Sheppard returns to lead the linebackers and to serve as a leader for the entire team.  Sheppard had one of the best seasons for a linebacker in the SEC last year, and he should land on several pre-season All-SEC teams heading into 2010.  A year ago, Sheppard led the team in tackles with 110 and also recorded 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception.  LSU absolutely needs him to be the rock in the middle of the defense again and to be honest, LSU will rely on Sheppard to make even more plays in 2010.  

Starting at one of the outside linebacker positions will likely be junior Ryan Baker, on the weak side replacing Perry Riley.  Baker has been a beast on special teams during his first two seasons on campus where he has also served as a reserve linebacker.  Baker's talent is evident.  He has great speed, and he hits with an attitude.  He's a bit on the small side at 6'0" and around 220 pounds.  I have little doubt that Baker will be able ot make some big plays behind the line of scrimmage.  But can he be consistent? 

John Chavis likes to have a very athletic linebacker playing on the strong side.  Last year, safety Harry Coleman moved into that role and had a fantastic season.  Another former safety, junior Stefoin Francois, seems to have the inside track on the strong side position at this point.  Francois has similar size as Coleman at 6'1" 210 pounds and similar skills.  I think he can really excel at this position, but the question is whether he's ready to be a full-time starter. 

While those three will likely enter spring as the starter, we will still see a whole lot of competition. 

Redshirt freshman Lamin Barrow reportedly turned quite a few heads during bowl practices.  He's developing nicely and will likely be Baker's back up on the weak side heading into spring. 

In the middle, look for redshirt freshman Kevin Minter to be the primary back up to Sheppard.  Minter has very good size at 6'1" 240 pounds.  He is a thumper and can mix it up with the big boys in the SEC.  Many have high hopes for Minter in the future, and it will be interesting to see how Minter plays this spring and in the fall in a back up role. 

Another redshirt freshman, Tahj Jones, will likely work at the strong side position behind Francois.  Jones came to LSU at only around 200 pounds but with lots of speed and athleticism.  I'm curious to see how he has filled out and whether he can compete physically as a linebacker in the SEC. 

Also competing at the strong side position will be a pair of converted safeties in redshirt freshmen Rocky Duplessis and Josh Johns.  Both guys have similar size and skills.  I've heard a little more noise about Johns looking good than Duplessis but I'm very anxious to see both this spring.  They are both very athletic and if they can fill out their frame, they could be play makers for the Tigers. 

Sophomore Kyle Prater will again try to make an impact this spring to earn playing time.  In his first two seasons on campus, Prater has yet to make any noise.  It will be interesting to see if he remains with the team next fall. 

In the fall, true freshmen Justin Maclin, Houston Bates, Luke Muncie, and D.J. Welter join the mix. 

Depth Chart:

Ryan Baker (Jr)
Lamin Barrow (Fr)
Kyle Prater (So)
Justin Maclin (Fr)
Luke Muncie (Fr)

Kelvin Sheppard (Sr)
Kevin Minter (Fr)
D.J. Welter (Fr)
Houston Bates (Fr)

Stefoin Francois (Jr)
Josh Johns (Fr)
Tahj Jones (Fr)
Rocky Duplessis (Fr)


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