Who’ll start in place of LSU linebacker Deion Jones against Syracuse?
Does it even matter?
“Not at all,” said starter Kendell Beckwith. “All those guys are athletes. They all play extremely well and fast. I don’t have a problem with any of them starting.”
LSU will be without Jones, its leading tackler, for the first half after he was ejected late against Auburn for targeting. Duke Riley is the top contender to take his place in the starting lineup, while Lamar Louis and Donnie Alexander could also see a boost in playing time during Jones’ absence.
RELATED STORY: LB Deion Jones ejected for targeting
That position group is LSU’s thinnest, but they haven’t relied much on the reserves. Jones and Beckwith have played the vast majority of snaps this season with LSU spending most of its time in a nickel package with two linebackers.
This should be the opportunity for those backups to prove themselves in game action.
“We want to get to a point where it’s even across the board,” Louis said. “All of our linebackers can start. We trust everybody.”
Riley, a junior, is Jones’ direct backup on the depth chart. He’s played in every game of his LSU career but only has one career start. He’s played a much bigger role this year though, getting more time on defense and racking up 8 tackles in the process.
He’s also probably LSU’s most versatile linebacker, working at all three positions throughout the preseason.
“I was moving around a lot,” Riley said. “I can’t even tell you where I got the most reps. I play all of them.”
Louis is LSU’s most experienced backup with 15 career starts. He hasn’t played much on defense this season though. There’s no SAM (Louis’ position) in nickel packages, only the MACK and MONEY.
Jones plays MONEY, and Louis is technically Beckwith’s backup at MACK.
“I might start learning a bit more MONEY because we have [Jones] out for the first half,” Louis said. “You never know what’s going to happen, and we don’t have the most depth.”
LSU’s gotten through two SEC games despite that lack of depth. It’ll be tested more moving forward though, starting this week without Jones for a half. But with a stretch coming of three non-conference games and two against SEC bottom feeders, this is the time to develop those backups.
And because they have several that can play multiple positions, LSU’s linebackers are confident they won’t miss a beat without Jones.
“That’s why we do cross-train,” Beckwith said. “You don’t have to have an issue when somebody goes down. We do it so much, it doesn’t matter.”