Skip to main content

A Look at LSU Football's 2021 Offseason Depth Chart: Linebackers

Linebacker position wide open with new talent and a new coach to evaluate the talent

If there's one position group that is completely up for grabs on the defensive side of the bal it's the linebacker spots. The purple and gold have many options, both young and experienced, but there is a level of uncertainty with this group as well. 

While the 2020 season was hard on most of the defense, it was particularly challenging for the linebackers not named Jabril Cox. Often times miscommunication with the secondary and simply not being in the right place presented problems for this group week in and week out.

It's one of the reasons Ed Orgeron brought in Blake Baker as the linebackers coach, a position that had been vacant with Bo Pelini as the defensive coordinator. 

"Without trust, there is no relationship. A coach told me a long time ago that a kid doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care," Baker said. "And I’ve really followed that philosophy my entire coaching career. I’ve already called and had conversations with all the linebackers and let them know I’m going to make them a better player, but I’m also going to make them a better person."

Projected Starters: Damone Clark, Mike Jones Jr., Josh White

As is the case with last offseason, LSU welcomes a potential difference maker to the linebacker core in Jones. The Clemson transfer became the 24th addition to the 2021 class and figures to immediately come in and compete for one of the inside linebacker spots. 

After spending most of his time as a nickel linebacker with Clemson, Jones wanted to transfer to a program that would allow him to play inside and be an every snap kind of player. Jabril Cox thrived as a one year transfer, playing practically every snap of the 2021 season, a role and opportunity that Jones is hoping to replicate after spending three years in the College Football Playoff at Clemson.

“We are going to give him a chance to compete to start. He was playing mostly nickel linebacker. He wanted to come to the SEC and play inside," Orgeron said recently on Off the Bench. "He is going to play one of the inside linebackers for us, given a shot to play. He is a great player, adds a lot of depth to our room.”

As for Clark, inconsistency really hit hard for him early in the season which eventually led to him being benched in favor of Micah Baskerville. Establishing himself as one of the veteran leaders on the team, Clark earned the No. 18 jersey and eventually found his way back into the rotation. 

Read More

His final three game stretch against Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss was his most productive, totaling 26 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. A traditional offseason of development and the addition of Baker should hopefully make for an improved season in 2021 for one of LSU's most physically gifted players. 

As for White, the true freshman saw his snaps increase as the season went on as well. He impressed the coaching staff early on and when the linebacker unit struggled at times, it opened a door for him to play early. 

There's still plenty to work on for the now rising sophomore and while he only recorded six total tackles on the season, his potential is sky high. 

Depth Chart: Navonteque Strong, Micah Baskerville, Antoine Sampah, Greg Penn, Zavier Carter

This is a position group that will likely take all offseason to take shape considering the inconsistencies suffered throughout 2020. That combined with a fresh pair of eyes in Baker will make it so that most if not all of the players will get an opportunity to compete for extensive playing time. 

Strong comes to Baton Rouge as one of the top linebackers out of the JUCO ranks and has a powerful frame, good lateral quickness, sudden and is quite instinctive. Baskerville returns as a veteran who's been in the program for a few years now and earned starting time last season as well. 

The young group of Sampah, Penn and Carter offer a variety of skill sets. Last year can be described as a redshirt year for the freshman Sampah while Penn will be on campus this summer. Carter figures to translate to more of an outside linebacker/pass rusher but could also be asked to drop in coverage from time because of his athletic frame. 

With more veterans at the top of the depth chart, it's hard to envision freshmen like Penn and Carter pushing for immediate playing time with the first team. Sampah could find his way to increased snaps if he makes the kind of jump that made him such a highly touted prospect out of high school. 

All in all, these are starting positions that will not be etched in stone this spring. It'll be one of the more interesting battles to follow all camp as great improvement will be needed for LSU's defense to get back on track.