This is a 12-part daily series counting down the days until LSU football begins spring practice on March 11.
Days until spring: 5
Scholarship inside linebacker in spring: 5
Last year at this time, the Tigers started spring practice with two total scholarship inside linebackers, and they finished it with one. Things are different this year.
LSU has five inside linebackers on scholarship entering spring drills, the most since defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has taken over the program. Coach Ed Orgeron and staff have restocked a thin spot that, last spring, included Devin White and Donnie Alexander as the only scholarship inside linebackers (Alexander did not complete spring because he underwent shoulder surgery).
White is joined this spring by Tyler Taylor, Jacob Phillips, Patrick Queen and Micah Baskerville, a mid-year enrollee.
Depth at a position, of course, creates competition, which coaches love. Aranda has got it for his empty starting spot alongside White, the Tigers' returning Rover inside linebacker coming off an All-American sophomore season. In an interview last month, Aranda said sophomores Taylor and Phillips are battling for that starting position.
Those two players saw significant playing time as rookies in 2017. Taylor was ahead of Phillips, drawing five starts in place of a suspended/injured Alexander. Phillips saw his playing time increase over the year, rotating in with Taylor in some late-season games.
LSU has spent the past two decades catching up to its Southeastern Conference brethren in a facilities arms race that has swept through colleg…
The mental side is what separated the two players, Aranda indicated. Taylor "was able to process all the stuff." Phillips is still learning. Aranda compared his hurdles - and those of linebackers in general - to that of the transition high school quarterbacks must make into a pro-style, college offense.
"There might be some similarities with recruiting high school quarterbacks that are kind of dual-threat quarterbacks to where their (high school) game is ‘if the throw is there, throw it; if it ain’t, run it,'" Aranda said. "You get them into a pro system and all the sudden, ‘No, don’t do that. Instead, do this.’
"It’s a whole ’nother world. Here’s someone who’s been playing a sport and they think they know and they come in and you’re introducing them to a whole new sport. It’s ‘What is this?’ I think there’s some truth to that, to linebackers. There’s a lot of ‘Ball go, you go. If the ball goes wide, run fast wide. If the ball goes away, run fast going away.’"
Notes on a golf scorecard while eagerly waiting for March to go mad …
Countdown to LSU spring practice
- 12: number of starters lost from 2017
- 11: number of LSU D-linemen in spring
- 10: combined number of college seasons for Ed Paris and John Battle
- 9: where Johnathan Giles' 2016 season ranked all-time at Texas Tech
- 8: combined regular season starts for returning O-tackles and centers
- 7: fully healthy mid-year enrollees expected to participate in spring
- 6: combined games played by QB Myles Brennan
- 5: scholarship inside linebackers in spring