Replacing talent with talent should not be a problem for Pelini and his staff a with stable full of potential sitting on the sideline, but game time experience will surely be a concern going into the season.
"We think we signed some really tremendous guys, and not just quality players but quality people," said Pelini. "There is going to be a lot of competition because a lot of these new guys now of days don't want sit and take a redshirt, they want to play. I say if they can help us win a national championship, let's go."
Sam linebacker Ali Highsmith is the lone returning starter in LSU's tenacious 4-3 defense. He is the most experienced linebacker on the squad, and the most decorated since being nominated to the 2006 preseason watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented annually to the top defensive player in college football.
As for the remaining two spots, Jason Spadoni and Luke Sanders represent a talented pair of athletes, however they lack game experience. Sanders is a mammoth of a defensive back at 6-4, 229 pounds and played in 11 of 12 games, but only managed seven tackles on the season.
Spadoni's experience is even more
of a factor. The former John Curtis standout spent three season's at LSU as an
offensive back until converting to linebacker before his junior season. He has
one start under his belt against
With so little experience at the linebacker position, Head Coach Les Miles knew he would need a new crop of talented linebackers to provide depth at the position. So he went recruiting.
The 2006 recruiting class was indeed a statement maker at the linebacker position. Miles and his staff landed four of the best linebackers in the nation on signing day, and did so with three out of state athletes.
"We took four linebackers for specific needs with Kelvin Sheppard, Perry Riley, Derrick Odom and Jacob Cutrera," Miles said. "Those linebackers will come in and have the opportunity to play and play very early."
Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard
were both home grown in the state of
Riley is a solid linebacker and was
rated in the top three at his position in
His teammate, Sheppard, was one of
the top linebackers in
"We need to grow fast," Miles said. "We need to stop the rush."
The third out of state linebacker
product comes from
Perhaps most impressive are his physical attributes. The Callaway High School graduate bench presses 330 pounds and squats 480 pounds, and is capable of sprinting a 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash.
As impressive as the three out of
state recruits look to be, none of the newcomers stand out as much as Acadiana
High School product Jacob Cutrera. The 6-4, 255 pounder from
Cutrera is considered the top
linebacker prospect in the state of
He finished his senior season with 98 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, and three sacks while earning the honor of Class 5A Defensive MVP.