In a season where focus is dominated on the quarterback situation and the running game, LSU linebackers, sophomore Kendell Beckwith and junior Kwon Alexander, are making a quiet influence on the Tigers’ defense.
Alexander and Beckwith both have stepped into the limelight in defensive coordinator John Chavis’ system, accounting for big tackles, sacks and multiple turnovers at crucial times.
They’re the No. 1 and No. 3 tacklers on the team with 57 and 52 tackles, respectively. Along with the duo, senior D.J. Welter, junior Lamar Louis and the other linebackers have combined for 201 tackles on the season — about 30 percent of LSU’s total tackles.
The linebackers showed their skills by making big plays throughout the Tigers’ 10-7 upset win against No. 7 Ole Miss last Saturday.
“We knew we had to come out and play dominantly on the defense as a whole,” Beckwith said. “We took that responsibility, and I think we are playing pretty well.”
Beckwith, a native of Jackson, Louisiana, played in 12 games with no starts during his freshman season. He saw time at both linebacker and defensive end, accumulating 11 tackles and one sack. The sack on Florida junior quarterback Jeff Driskel caused a fumble and a turnover on downs, which helped seal LSU’s 17-6 victory against the Gators last season.
Along with being a four-star outside linebacker in high school, Beckwith played quarterback, which he said helps him read defenses and understand what opposing offenses are trying to accomplish.
“It helps me out mentally,” Beckwith said. “Just knowing what they’re doing and how they’re trying to scheme us up.”
Defense runs through Beckwith’s blood. His older brother, Wendell Beckwith, Jr., played defensive end for Tulane University. His cousin, Darry Beckwith, was a Tiger from 2005 to 2008 and a two-time second team All-SEC linebacker during his career in Baton Rouge.
Just like Beckwith, Alexander is a crucial player on the Tigers’ defense. Alexander has been characterized as a smart, physical defender who can play any linebacker position. Despite his versatility, Alexander prefers the “Will,” or weak side, linebacker position over any other.
“I feel good at the Will,” Alexander said. “I can move around a little more, make more plays, help the team out — whatever they need me to do. Wherever [Chavis] wants me to play, I’ll play.”
In his freshman and sophomore seasons combined, Alexander recorded 76 tackles. This year, Alexander is on pace to finish the season with about 86 tackles.
When the Tigers played Wisconsin to open the season, Alexander hurt his shoulder on the last play of the game. Because of this, coaches limited his participation against Sam Houston State the following week. Even with this setback, he leads the team in tackles and is tied with senior safety Ronald Martin with two forced fumbles.
Although Alexander and Beckwith have become the stars among the linebackers, Alexander said the other players at the position are just as talented.
“The level of talent is very deep, we’ve got a lot of athletic guys,” Alexander said. “Everybody is working, everybody is fast. The freshmen are fitting well, they’re learning the plays and competing for a starting spot. They’re pushing themselves.”