Time for Beckwith?

Half a season has come and gone, and freshman Kendell Beckwith's role is still unknown on the 2013 LSU defense. After a string of recent comments from Les Miles and continued questions at middle linebacker, is this the week John Chavis turns Beckwith loose?

It's not often a true freshman with eight tackles through six games is viewed as "the answer" for a struggling defense.

But that's exactly how LSU head coach Les Miles referred to Kendell Beckwith late Saturday night inside the depths of Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville when asked after the team's 59-26 win over Mississippi State how the Tigers will right the ship in the front seven, particularly against the run.

Beckwith, a tank of a first-year player at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, has primarily played on special teams during the first half of his debut season in TigerTown. When the East Feliciana High School product has taken the field defensively, he's lined up in a number of different roles – rush end, outside linebacker and, most recently, middle linebacker.

It comes as no surprise that defensive coordinator John Chavis would want to try out his newest weapon in as many spots as possible to best identify where Beckwith, who always projected as a tweener (end/outside linebacker), can cause the most damage.

Chief even hinted he'd do as much during an interview session at LSU Media Day, held after the first week of Fall Camp practice in August.

"He's getting good reps right now, and we're expecting to get him ready to play at outside linebacker," said Chavis. "We'll see what we do, there may be some opportunity for him in our rush package, where he'll do some rush stuff for us quite a bit. But we're expecting and preparing for him to play at outside linebacker."

The first glimpse of Beckwith in the TCU opener, aside from special teams detail, came at that rush end position in a special third-down package. He featured for about eight plays that night in Arlington. In the time since, Beckwith has mostly come in as a reserve linebacker. Most interestingly, in the Kent State game, he began auditioning at Mike linebacker as early as the second quarter and continued to play there extensively in the second half.

In LSU's last contest against Mississippi State, a game in which the Tigers allowed 216 yards rushing, Beckwith didn't see the field on defense while the ballgame was still competitive.

Perhaps it was that fact – or the fact that the LSU rush defense ranks 65th in the country (conceding 159.5 yards per game on the ground) – that led Miles on Wednesday to reiterate his desire to get No. 52 on the field.

"We're getting Kendell Beckwith ready to play in this game," Miles explained. "You can look forward to seeing him in this game."

Miles didn't say where, but the smart money, especially against a team like Florida that doesn't mind turning to the power run game, is at middle linebacker.

The Tigers' struggles getting consistent play at that position have been well documented this fall. Junior D.J. Welter, who has started all six games, has logged just 31 tackles and, at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds, is a bit light for some of the bulkier, run-oriented offenses on LSU's schedule. Chavis has also turned to sophomore Lamar Louis on occasion, but the Breaux Bridge native has managed just 12 tackles through six games, providing no significant upgrade from Welter.

All of this points toward Beckwith playing a bigger role when the physical Gators come to town Saturday.

His head coach is on record as endorsing the idea, but ultimately the final say will belong to Chavis, the only one whose opinion matters when it comes to how ready Beckwith is.

One thing's for certain: The same LSU defense that recently infused some youth into the secondary appears plenty ready for one more fresh face in the linebacking corps.

Do you expect to see more of Beckwith versus Florida?


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