LSU has a strong recent history of successful linebackers, from Devin White to Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips. White rode an extremely successful two-year run as a starter with the program into being a Butkus Award winner and top-five pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Queen and Phillips took over during LSU's quest towards a national championship and turned themselves into first and third round selections in the 2020 draft. On Monday, senior transfer Jabril Cox and junior Damone Clark were recognized as having similar potential by being named to the 2020 Butkus Award watch list.
Cox was a two-time All American at North Dakota State and three-time champion for the Bison, amassing 258 career tackles, 32 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks before making the decision to transfer to LSU. Landing the veteran was one of the major pickups of the offseason for the Tigers as inside linebacker was viewed as a position of weakness from a depth perspective after losing Queen and Phillips to the draft.
The 6-foot-4, 231-pound tackling machine has fit in well since joining the program in April according to coach Ed Orgeron.
"Quiet, mature, very focused and reminds me a lot of Damone Clark," Orgeron said of Cox on Off the Bench. "He's very professional, goes about his business. He came here to be a great player and comes from a tremendous winning culture at North Dakota State so all of the early reports have been A+ on him."
“He’s a talented, high character kid,” defensive coordinator Bo Pelini said of Cox on Hangin' with Hanny and Hester. “He comes from a winning program and was a big part of that. He’s very focused and that’s why he came here. He’s a talented young man who I think can get better. He’s a good fit, and I really like our linebacking group.”
Cox was so successful in his time with North Dakota State that Orgeron said the Tigers were lucky to bring him aboard considering he was receiving heavy NFL Draft buzz.
"We’ve talked to some NFL people, they felt he was going to be a No. 1 draft choice if he went out," Orgeron said on WWL radio. "Obviously, we lost some linebackers, we got some good young linebackers coming back but this guy should be an immediate impact player for us.”
As for Clark, the junior is more of a well known player among the LSU fan base. While he wasn't a full time starter in 2019, he played enough to make an impact for the team as a rotational linebacker, recording 51 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks.
After learning behind White in 2018 and then Queen and Phillips in 2019, Clark is ready to assume the mantle as the other starting inside linebacker for LSU this season.
“He’s an elite athlete,” Orgeron said of Clark during camp. “He’s 6-3 and about 238 pounds. He can run. He’s always first in sprints. In the weight room he lifts everything in front of him. He just had to learn. He’s doing it now.”
The future at linebacker for the Tigers looks extremely bright as Cox and Clark can be those role models for younger players on the roster like Josh White and Antoine Sampah. For a position that was considered to be one of uncertainty after the 2019 season, Orgeron and the staff have done a phenomenal job of building it back up to one of strength.
For the full Butkus Award watch list, click here.