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LSU Spring Practice Primer: Linebackers and Secondary

With Spring practice only days away, today’s Spring primer will focus on the LSU linebackers and secondary. Incoming defensive coordinator Blake Baker will have a significant amount of experience on both units. The developmental abilities of the new coaches combined with an influx of player talent will establish the ceiling of these groups.

Returning Linebackers

The potential of the LSU linebackers this spring all starts with the role of returning All-American, Harold Perkins. Brian Kelly recently confirmed with The Advocate that Perkins will remain at inside linebacker for the 2024 season.

“He needs to be the [weakside] linebacker. He needs to be in the box. He needs to be active in there. That’s where he’s going to start, and we’ve got to get him ready at that position,” Kelly stated.

Baker’s history of developing linebackers like former LSU star and current Dallas Cowboy Damone Clark is encouraging, but much of Perkins’ success will hinge on the production of the defensive line.

Greg Penn will return for his senior season after finishing second on the team in tackles in 2023. The 235-pound thumper has flashed at times, but the defense needs more consistency from Penn to reach its potential. The unit also returns rising sophomore Whit Weeks. Although an injury slowed Weeks in 2023, he displayed impressive athleticism at the position.

Weeks’ older brother, West Weeks, provided depth and special teams value last season. It’s a critical season for players like the older Weeks and redshirt freshman Christian Brathwaite to make their marks, as LSU hauled in a potentially strong class at the position.

Early Enrollee Linebackers

The LSU linebacker unit will receive immediate help from the latest recruiting class this spring. Many’s Tylen Singleton was ranked in the top ten in the country as a linebacker prospect. He’s fast enough to play safety at a high level, but his frame led to his projection as a linebacker. The 6’2” linebacker ran a 22.63 in the 200M as a sophomore in high school.

Kolaj Cobbins of Destrehan brings the speed to rush the passer but could eventually be asked to play inside. Either way, he’ll need to add weight. Dahvon Keys of Aledo, TX also enrolled early. The Texas 5A D-1 Defensive MVP was obviously productive at linebacker but also contributed at running back in his previous seasons at Aledo High School.

Cornerbacks

The LSU corners will be under the microscope more than ever for spring practice. Former Southeastern transfer Zy Alexander’s impressive play was lost in the embarrassing abyss of LSU’s lifeless pass defense last year. Alexander returns and is likely to claim a starting spot at one corner. Ashton Stamps will also be back for his sophomore campaign. Stamps was attacked at times in 2023. He also played hurt and was often in position to make a play when allowed to play press coverage. Stamps would benefit from more time in the weight room and fewer 15-yard cushions. The young defender has tools but needs confidence.

Sage Ryan brings the intrigue of the unknown, as most don’t know how the new staff will utilize him. Ryan played cornerback out of necessity last season after playing as a nickel his first two years. He’s not a true cornerback, but the fact that the staff considered him to be one of the two best options last year is a testament to his athleticism. Former Ohio State cornerbacks JK Johnson and Jyaire Brown will also figure into the rotation. Johnson suffered a season-ending injury before playing a snap as a Tiger in 2023. Brown just joined the program after playing two years for the Buckeyes.

Jeremiah Hughes will return for his second season after redshirting last year. He’ll get even more competition this spring with the arrival of Mississippi’s 2023 Player of the Year, PJ Woodland. Woodland played on both sides of the ball for Oak Grove High School and also played basketball as an underclassman.

Safeties

Just as he led the team in tackles in 2023, Major Burns will lead the LSU safety group this spring. Burns is the unquestioned heart of the defense, but his open-field tackling was lacking a year ago. Javien Toviano, like Ryan, also played cornerback last season due to a lack of options. Expect Toviano to move back to safety and compete for a starting job this spring.

Starting jobs won’t come easy with the arrivals of Texas A&M’s Jardin Gilbert and Auburn’s Austin Ausberry. Gilbert was productive for two years as an Aggie before a shoulder injury derailed his junior season. Ausberry, the son of LSU Executive Deputy AD Verge Ausberry, played in four games for Auburn as a reserve in 2023.

Lafayette native Jordan Allen returns as a redshirt sophomore after seeing his playing time increase as the 2023 season progressed. Ryan Yaites is looking to build off last year in which he saw significant action as a true freshman. Kylin Jackson was highly touted out of Zachary, LA, but an injury prevented him from contributing as a true freshman. Matthew Langlois has had multiple injuries throughout his career, but it’s now or never when it comes to meaningful playing time for the speedy returning junior.

The Tigers didn’t have to go far to recruit Dashawn McBryde of Denham Springs, one of the top safeties of the 2024 class. McBryde has speed, hard-hitting ability, and natural ball skills as evidenced by his production as a receiver. LSU will also welcome St. Francisville’s Joel Rogers. The rangy former four-star prospect played multiple positions at West Feliciana High and has the versatility to also play the nickel position.

Photo Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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