2020 LSU Football Position Breakdown Part 7: Linebackers
The 2020 season promises to see a plethora of fresh faces in purple and gold but perhaps none more than at the linebacker position.
With the loss of K'Lavon Chaisson and Michael Divinity at outside linebacker and Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen at inside linebacker, LSU finds itself in a position where it needs to replace its entire 2019 starting linebacker corps.
Just think about it, that’s 281 tackles, 37 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and three forced fumbles that now must be replaced by returning players with not much experience and freshmen with no experience.
The battles will be fierce and likely carry into the fall.
Just like with the defensive line breakdown on Tuesday, a 4-3 base defense is the route we're taking when predicting what the starters and depth will look like at outside and inside linebacker.
Projected Starters: Andre Anthony (senior outside linebacker), Damone Clark (junior inside linebacker), Micah Baskerville (junior inside linebacker)
The outside linebacker spot is just simply impossible to predict at this moment. For now Anthony gets the nod because of experience but it could wind up being a number of incoming players including freshman four-star Phillip Webb.
Anthony has recorded 23 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks in two seasons with the Tigers. The fact of the matter is a switch to a 4-3 base defense could be perfect timing for Ed Orgeron and company because of the depth on the defensive line and the complete unknown at linebacker.
Sophomore Marcel Brooks took reps at outside linebacker in 2019 but he told the Athletic after the season that he expects to move back to safety for the 2020 season and play close to the line of scrimmage, much like JaCoby Stevens did this year for the Tigers.
The inside linebacker spots are a little easier to project as both Clark and Baskerville had some big games for the Tigers in 2019, particularly in the early part of the season. Clark had 50 tackles, four tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks while Baskerville tacked on 15 tackles and a sack.
Clark fits the mold of being the next great linebacker, following in the footsteps of guys like Devin White as well as Phillips and Queen from the championship season. His burst and speed from sideline to sideline sets him up to be the leading tackler on the team next season and it will be interesting to see how creative Pelini can get with him.
Baskerville is the real question mark as experience is really the only leg up he has on most of the incoming freshmen from the 2020 class. That will create a fun battle over the months leading into the fall to see if he can separate himself from the youngsters.
A look at the depth chart: Ray Thornton (senior outside linebacker), Phillip Webb (freshman outside linebacker), Antoine Sampah (freshman inside linebacker), Donte Starks (redshirt freshman inside linebacker), Josh White (freshman inside linebacker)
While the experience is lacking for the linebacker corps this season that doesn't mean this team is void of young talent. Four-star 2020 freshmen Webb, Sampah and White could challenge for snaps right off the bat.
Webb in particularly has a chance to separate himself at outside linebacker with Anthony and Thornton as the only real threats for the starting job. Ranked as the No. 56 prospect in the 2020 class, Webb has the tools to really push for the job come September.
Sampah and Starks are two guys that will likely be competing with Baskerville for the second inside linebacker position. Starks appeared in only three games as a freshman but has a year with the team under his belt, learning the college game.
With two of three linebacker spots open for the taking and an influx of young talent coming in, spring ball will be important for nearly every player at outside and inside linebacker.