With an offense in flux after losing the majority of its skill position players, the LSU linebacker corps returns two starters along with five players who received significant playing time last season.
The linebackers will look to return LSU to an elite level after an uncharacteristic season in 2013 when it surrendered 26 or more points in six contests.
Junior Kwon Alexander and senior D.J. Welter anchor an experienced group,as both started every game last season.
As a freshman in 2012, Alexander had 11 tackles, a tackle for loss and two fumbles recoveries in seven games. He exploded with 65 tackles—including a career high 14 tackles against Furman— six and a half tackles for loss and four pass breakups in his sophomore season.
Alexander can play all three linebacker positions. Due to his versatility, speed and sideline-to-sideline playmaking, the 6-foot-2, 227-pounder is considered a top returner.
“I plan to bring in speed, knowledge, anything that can help the team I’m here trying to bring it in,” Alexander said. It’ll be fine wherever I play at.”
Welter has become a team leader after redshirting his freshman season in 2010. As a starter last season, Welter recorded 80 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, three quarterback hurries and a pass breakup. He also turned in a standout performance in the Outback Bowl against Iowa with six tackles and a sack.
Welter plans on using missed playing time as motivation going foward to close out his career.
“I’ve been in a national championship, we’ve won an SEC championship and I want to win it this year,” Welter said. “We’re definitely taking the steps for that. First we got to get better every day in fall camp and just keep working hard.”
Another key player is Lamar Louis, who will be replacing departed linebacker Lamin Barrow this season. Recognized for hard work and dedication throughout his career, he received the Veterans Most Improved Award in 2013.
“When you get that award, it means something,” Louis said. “Coaches are looking at you and what are you doing, but at the end of the day we’re already working hard. We’re all just trying to get better.”
Defensive coordinator John Chavis praised his linebackers and set a goal for the unit this season.
“We’re looking to increase the number of big plays,” Chavis said. “Some of those things come from instincts. Some come from the amount of repetitions when things start looking natural to them. We’ve got the athletic ability to be an outstanding group. This can be one of the better groups that I’ve been around.”
Providing depth for the Tigers is a litany of highly-recruited linebackers including returners and freshmen. Kendell Beckwith comes into his sophomore campaign with 11 tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
LSU coach Les Miles mentioned that Beckwith is an explosive athlete and will compete against Welter for the middle linebacker job throughout the season.
Junior Deion Jones is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and has made his mark on special teams early in his career. In his first two seasons, he played in 26 games with no starts and tallied 38 tackles, four tackles for a loss, four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
Toward the bottom of the depth chart, LSU features freshmen Clifton Garrett and Donnie Alexander, a five-star prospect and four-star prospect, respectively.