Position coach: John Chavis
Starters returning: 2
Lettermen returning: 5
22 Ryan Baker (6-0, 236, Sr.)
37 Karnell Hatcher (6-2, 223, Sr.)
46 Kevin Minter (6-2, 242, So.)
OFF THE BENCH
23 Stefoin Francois (6-1, 223, Sr.)
57 Lamin Barrow (6-2, 229, So.)
31 D.J. Welter (6-0, 226, RS Fr.)
52 Luke Muncie (6-3, 220, So.)
58 Tahj Jones (6-2, 205, So.)
Out of action: None
Veteran difference-maker: Ryan Baker
Rising star: Sophomore Lamin Barrow
Something to chew on: How tough will it be to replace Kelvin Sheppard? He was the first LSU linebacker to record back-to-back season with 100-plus tackles since Trev Faulk in 2000-01 and only the fourth to do so in the last 30 years.
Numbers of note: Despite the loss of Sheppard, Baker and Hatcher are back after ranking second and third on the team in tackles with 87 and 64, respectively.
This unit will shine if: Baker can match his leadership ability to his athletic skills, which are very solid. The Tigers are likely to play a ton of 4-2-5 this season, so whoever lines up next to the speedy Baker must be a sure one-on-one tackler to help shore up LSU’s run defense.
This unit will struggle if: The spot next to Baker turns into a revolving door. Hatcher and Minter both have the skills to be effective linebackers, but neither is proven at the SEC level. If those two can’t get the job done, look for Barrow to get the next shot.
Prediction: This area is the thinnest on the LSU defense in terms of numbers and proven talent, and as a result, the linebackers will struggle throughout the season – especially against opponents with effective power running games. The LBs need a strong crew of defensive ends and an uber-talented secondary to take away any pressure possible from the middle.
Quotable: “We’ve kind of got a chip on our shoulders because nobody expects us to be very good at linebacker.” – Ryan Baker