Ryan Baker – OLB
It goes without saying that Kelvin Sheppard is the highlight name at linebacker. He led the team in tackles en route to becoming a household name – and then decided to return for his senior season. He represented the team at Media Days, and he also ran most of the voluntary workouts with the side this summer.
LSU fans know exactly what to expect from Sheppard. But at SEC Media Days, Sheppard turned the focus to one of his younger teammates: Ryan Baker.
Most fans probably wouldn’t be able to pick Baker out of a group, but it’s likely that No. 22 caught your attention on special teams at some point over the past two seasons. The backup linebacker also made a brief appearance during the Mississippi State game last season, where he came up with the fourth-down, goal line stop that gave the Tigers the ball game.
With Perry Riley gone from the weakside, Baker used a strong spring to lock up the vacant spot. A faster-than-most linebacker that can move well in every direction, Chavis is likely licking his chops to let the hard-hitting Baker loose in 2010.
Patrick Peterson – CB
There aren’t many cornerbacks in college football better than Peterson, a 6-foot-1, 211-pounder who heads into camp with his name on a number of pre-season All-America teams.
So what’s in store for Peterson – possibly in his final year with the program - this time around? Likely much of the same, and the only people complaining are SEC quarterbacks and wide receivers.
From where I see it, the Pompano Beach, Fla. native’s offseason workouts numbers sum him up best: 4.37 40-yard dash, 11’1” broad jump and a 39-inch vertical. He also squatted 535 pounds and benched 335.
Les Miles has already penciled Peterson in as the return man on special teams, so buckle up.
Morris Claiborne – CB
There’s no doubt that Patrick Peterson is the marquee cornerback name, but don’t sleep on Shreveport’s Morris Claiborne, who found playing time among veteran defensive backs last season as a true freshman.
Claiborne will get the start at left corner during his second season, a move that gives LSU one of the top pairs around – at least according to those that know them best.
“In my opinion, it will be the finest corner tandem in the conference,” said Miles at SEC Media Days last month.
Patrick Peterson, who addressed the media shortly after his headman, showered his younger teammate with praise that has Tiger fans ready to see more.
“Mo reminds me of myself,” Peterson said. “He has the ability to be one of the best corners in the entire country. I feel like he’s coming along and progressing better than I was last year at this time. He really is that good.”
Brandon Taylor – S
Brandon Taylor, recruited to LSU out of Franklinton, La. as a cornerback, will find a home at strong safety for the second straight season.
One of only four starters back on the defensive side, coordinator John Chavis will rely on the experienced Taylor – who has appeared in 26 games with 10 starts over his two seasons in Baton Rouge.
Taylor has bulked up his 6’0” frame, and his quick speed keeps him among the side’s top cover defensive backs. With Chavis now in his second year, expect the Tigers – especially names like Taylor – to show quickly that they have a better grasp on the defensive scheme.
Drake Nevis – DT
With all the talk of how the defensive end position would shake down, focus is lost from the group’s most valuable name: senior tackle Drake Nevis.
Coming off his best season in purple and gold (50 tackles, 11 for losses, 4 sacks), Nevis has all the cards in place for his most dynamic season yet. With 32 career appearances, the 6-foot-1, 292-pounder will join Pep Levingston to build an experienced interior to a line that could see young names jump forward on the outsides.
As for his summer numbers, Nevis upped his bench total to 475-pounds and his squat total to 535-pounds – pushing him far ahead of the pack as one of the team’s strongest names in the weight room.