Devin White spent much of the summer taking the underclassmen inside linebackers around him to school, whether that meant showing them drills that LSU would run once fall camp started or teaching them to watch film the way he does.
Now it seems that the star linebacker is add roster decisions to his already lengthy list of responsibilities. Having surveyed his position group through the first few days of fall camp, White declared that true freshmen Micah Baskerville and Damone Clark would contribute this season.
That’s sort of a bold statement when you consider that they’re behind White and three rising sophomores on the depth chart.
“Damone is catching up to the speed of the game right now, but Micah has been here for four months, so he’s like one of the vets already,” White said. “I think we’ll see both of those guys. I know they won’t redshirt for sure. You can put that down and tell anybody that. They won’t redshirt. They too good.”
White remembers a time two springs ago when LSU was sliding over outside linebackers and safeties just to give him an occasional breather in practice. They were all stopgaps until the cavalry arrived in the form of Jacob Phillips, Tyler Taylor and Patrick Queen that summer.
Consider this: White may never even have been moved to linebacker were it not for the dearth of talent signed at the position under former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. He changed positions because LSU had just three scholarship players at the position going into the 2016 season.
Credit Dave Aranda — and to a lesser extent, his predecessor, Kevin Steele — for breathing life back into LSU’s linebacker recruiting. Deion Jones, Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith became stalwarts. Aranda has since developed White into a potential All-American while signing talented players to surround and eventually replace him.
Taylor started five games as a true freshman, but Phillips came on strong down the stretch and the two are battling in camp to start alongside White. Taylor was slowed by illness earlier this year, White revealed, but he’s come back strong. Both are expected to play a lot this season.
“(The game has) slowed down, but that just comes from getting more familiar with the plays and the different schemes,” Phillips said.
Meanwhile Queen, who has bulked up to 230 pounds, is pushing White in practice. Coaches rave about his improvement dating back to the spring, and Queen thrived in the summer weight-lifting program orchestrated by assistant Vic Viloria, the former head strength coach at Florida State.
Viloria joined Tommy Moffitt’s strength-and-conditioning staff this offseason and worked individually with the linebackers this summer. Queen appears the most bulked up, but the entire group has felt the benefits of his personal attention.
“All those guys got stronger this summer cause we got Coach Viloria from Florida State,” White said. “He went from a head strength coach to our personal strength coach, so we’re getting better teaching than anybody. It’s like if Coach Moffitt worked us out every day.”
The freshmen are learning and developing behind them to fill in where needed. For this season, that will likely mean playing special teams and mop-up work in some of the more lopsided non-conference games, but their time will come when White and others eventually move on to the NFL.
Aranda and Co. have already honed in on attracting the wave of inside backers that’ll come after that.
LSU holds a pair of commitments from Donte Starks of John Ehret and Kendall McCallum out of Alabama, the Nos. 8 and 27 inside linebackers in the 2019 class, respectively, according to 247Sports. Somehow landing five-star Nakobe Dean would put the linebacker class over the top.
“We’re doing something right over here, so a lot of people are joining in,” White said. “We’ve still got a lot of new guys that want to join and a couple guys in those younger classes that haven’t come yet, but we’ve got people that want to be part of this brotherhood.”