The night before LSU's game against Arkansas on Nov. 13, LSU linebacker Micah Baskerville turned to Damone Clark and said, “’Mone, I feel it.”
“What you talking about?” Clark said.
“Bro, I'm gonna make some big plays tomorrow night.” Baskerville said.
“I said, ‘All right,’ and we went out there and I'm one of the first ones celebrating with him, because I know how hard Micah works,” Clark said the following Tuesday, after Baskerville had a team-high 12 tackles and two sacks against the Razorbacks.
Baskerville had a clear path to Arkansas's K.J. Jefferson on his first sack of the season. Blockers focused on the inside, not seeing Baskerville come off the edge to hook Jefferson at the waist and bring him down. It was the highlight of a memorable night.
Clark and Baskerville go back to opposing sides of the football field in high school. Clark, along with current teammates offensive lineman Kardell Thomas and running back Ty Davis-Price, played for Southern Lab, while Baskerville played for Evangel Christian with Ar'Darius Washington, a safety who later flipped his commitment from LSU to TCU.
"We both knew that we (were) coming here and he was the same class as me," Clark said. "Back in the freshman year, we (were) always like: ‘Man, you know, our time will come where we're on the field shining with each other.’ Now's that time."
Baskerville came early, though. He had work to do, like gaining weight and turning his fat into muscle. Though he was ultimately a four-star prospect, coach Ed Orgeron called his speed "deceptive," and Baskerville wasn't a highly rated recruit until his senior year.
"I think Micah came back to have a great year for the team and also to be an NFL football player," Orgeron said. "I do believe he's gonna fit in with some of the linebackers that we had who played late, like Duke Riley. Those guys we know that are in the NFL and play for a long time."
Part of that is because Baskerville doesn't participate much in the social media "hype culture," said Byron Dawson, his coach at Evangel and now an assistant at Tulane. Baskerville is a team-first player, quiet in his demeanor.
"He was a late bloomer, too," Dawson said. "He ended up being a four-star player."
When Clark joined Baskerville at LSU in the fall of 2018, Baskerville had added six pounds of muscle, up to 220 pounds. The two linebackers were competitive roommates, playing each other in video games and wrestling, dreaming about the days they would be the stars of the LSU defense. Baskerville claims he won most of the wrestling matches, but Clark said the scale has tipped in his favor since he's now at 240.
But here's something people may not know about Baskerville: Clark says his roommate has a natural ability to see plays unfold before they happen. It comes naturally, whereas Clark has to do more studying. He's learned a lot from Baskerville, and it helps them communicate quickly on the field.
Sophomore linebacker Mike Jones said he finds Baskerville's savvy instincts mind-boggling.
"He's either the luckiest football player or the smartest one I've ever met," Jones Jr. said. "It's like sometimes, like, he will literally go completely where he's supposed to go and the ball will go right there. I'll be like, 'Man, how did you know it's gonna come right there?' And he'll be like, 'I could tell where the dude was looking.' And I'll be like, ‘Why are you looking at his eyes?’ ”
Alongside Clark, a Butkus Award finalist, Baskerville is not leading the stat charts. But he knows when his moment comes, just as he knows what zone to take on a counter play.
That's how he knew what he saw on that first sack in the Arkansas game. Baskerville said he had seen the play in the film room and thought about it at practice all week. It was only a matter of time he'd get his moment.
"Some guys have a knack for the ball, and he falls into that category," Dawson said.