Leading up to kickoff on the Ponderosa, TSD is ranking the 10 best players currently on LSU’s roster. We’ll take a close look at each Tiger, breaking down his career to this point and projecting impact for the 2015 season.
We’ve already profiled:
No. 8 Jalen Mills
Today, at No. 7, we highlight the man that anchors the heart of LSU’s defense — Kendell Beckwith.
WHAT HE’S DONE SO FAR
Beckwith ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2013 class, with LSU winning a heated battle with Alabama to land his signature. He spent his first season in Baton Rouge with his hand in the dirt. He played sparingly at defensive end, appearing in 11 games with no starts. He finished the year with 11 tackles and a sack, mostly coming on the field in third-down situations. But throughout that season, most everyone knew his future was at linebacker, and not on the defensive line.
The coaches agreed and moved him to middle linebacker the following spring. He entered the 2014 season — much to the fans’ dismay – behind D.J. Welter on the depth chart at the MIKE spot. The LSU coaches consistently said they liked what Welter brought from a mental aspect, but the difference between those two from a physical standpoint was obvious.
It became clearer as the season went on, and Beckwith finally supplanted Welter in the starting lineup by the seventh game of the year. From there he went on a tear, totaling 51 tackles in the final seven games of the season. Planting Beckwith in the middle of that defense helped solidify the entire unit, taking it from one that was gashed by Auburn and Mississippi State, to one that finished No. 1 in the conference.
PROJECTING HIS IMPACT IN 2015
There’s now no question who leads LSU’s linebacker corps. Beckwith has spent the majority of a season in charge of that defense, but he will have to learn it all over again with Kevin Steele in charge. Whether LSU goes to a 3-4 scheme or sticks with the 4-3, Beckwith will play a crucial role from that MIKE spot.
He should rack up the tackles again in 2015. He finished second on the team last year, starting only half the games. So one would expect Beckwith to top that list next season, possibly even matching the production of Kevin Minter a couple years back.
If Beckwith takes another massive leap, as he did from 2013 to 2014, he may very well find his name on draft boards. He’ll be someone to watch closely as a possible early departure for the NFL, and he should be the solid force at the heart of LSU’s defense in 2015.