When LSU linebacker Navonteque Strong arrived on campus, he was reserved. As a newly recruited veteran to the program out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, his first step was to prove he belonged.
But it hasn't taken long for the guy his teammates and coaches affectionately call "Bugg" to not only fit in but make a strong impression early this spring.
"When we put them pads on, if you want a thumper, Bugg is your guy," veteran linebacker Damone Clark said. "Seeing Bugg come in from JUCO and he didn't know anybody at first, so he was quiet. Now that he knows us and knows the team, he is more open. It's an open competition in the room each day.
"He doesn't talk much, he just does the things he says he is going to do. It shows who he is as a person and a player," defensive lineman Ali Gaye added. "He doesn't say much, but he let's his work do the talking. He is definitely someone coming in that is going to make an immediate impact."
As a late addition to the 2021 recruiting class, Strong comes in with plenty of expectations despite being a JUCO prospect. The program has had recent success by first bringing in Damien Lewis and then Ali Gaye last season out of the junior college ranks.
Bugg seems to be the next in line and has been great in the early practices of spring ball. Orgeron has been surprised at how hard of a hitter he's been and believes Strong could be a difference maker for this defense.
"You're looking at Bugg Strong. He was the best junior college linebacker in our opinion. He had some big hits, man," Orgeron said. "He had a tough hit. He's a hard-nosed football player."
In two seasons at MGCCC, Strong recorded 163 tackles including 29.5 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks. Strong figures to be in tight competition with not only Clark but sophomores Josh White and Antoine Sampah this spring.
Clemson graduate trasfer Mike Jones Jr. and freshman Greg Penn also arrive in the summer to provide further competition. It wouldn't be a bit surprising to see Strong and Clark, who have both impressed to this point, get a handle on the inside linebacker duties and make it difficult for someone to beat them out.
Another option will surely be rotations and it remains to be seen just how much the Tigers will be subbing these linebackers in and out due to differing defensive schemes. This is a position that looks a little deeper and will have more options than initially thought thanks to strong recruiting.