IN SPOTLIGHT: LSU loaded at linebacker

Note: This is another installment of our ongoing series where we take a look at each position as the LSU Tigers prepare for spring practice which kicks off on Monday, Feb. 26.

Linebacker is a very unique position – one that is evolving with the game of college football.


In the old days of football, linebackers were big, tough guys whose job was to sniff out the run, gob stoppers in the middle. They wore numbers like 55 and 58 and were named Butkus.


How times they are a changin'.


In this day and age, the big brawny linebackers of the past are just that – a thing of the past. Present day linebackers are basically bulked up defensive backs, players that can run sideline to sideline, can cover the pass, but at the same time are big and strong enough to tackle 230-pound running backs.


While LSU struggled with depth at the position last season, the Tigers have three of the best starting linebackers in all of college football. A group of youngsters arrived on campus last year and will join this talented trio to be one of the most complete set of backers in the nation.



A look back


Two of the biggest areas of concern heading into the 2006 season was the offensive line and linebacker. While the offensive did take its lumps last season, the linebackers excelled despite limited numbers.


You'd have been hard pressed to find a better of linebackers anywhere in the SEC than LSU's three starters – Ali Highsmith, Luke Sanders and Darry Beckwith. Highsmith came into the season touted as a preseason all-SEC candidate, but it was the hard-hitting Beckwith who rose to the top as his punishing licks made for a pretty impressive highlight reel.


Sanders fit the bill of the model middle linebacker. However, the West Monroe native possesses terrific speed and is one of the strongest players on the team.


The Tigers lose just one player from the linebacking corps, that being former running back turned linebacker Jason Spadoni. Spadoni, who spent two years as a linebacker, completed his eligibility in 2006 and proves to be the only departing player.



What to look for this spring


While everyone knows who the starters will be come August (barring extenuating circumstances), the focus will be on who will be the backups.


Les Miles did an outstanding job in recruiting a talented bunch of linebackers in his 2006 class of signees. Georgia standouts Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard, Mississippi native Derrick Odom and Lafayette product Jacob Cutrera comprised on of the most talented incoming linebacking classes in the nation in 2006.


While the talented quartet spent most of 2006 getting their ears wet, they will be all systems go come this fall. This spring should be the perfect proving ground to display just how far each player has come in a years time.



Help is on the way


Miles and his staff did not sign a single linebacker in the 2007 class of recruits.


Both Sanders and Highsmith are seniors and will complete their eligibility with the 2007 season. But Beckwith, who will be only a junior, will be back as will the talented four youngsters.


But there are some prospects on the horizon in the class of 2008 including Baton Rouge-Redemptorist outside linebacker Bradly Roussel (5-11, 215), Brentwood, Tenn. middle linebacker Chris Jordan (6-3, 210) and New Orleans-Higgins linebacker Avery Crooks (6-2, 220).






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