LSU-Alabama: K'Lavon Chaisson

LSU cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. (5) and LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (18) celebrate a big stop in the first half against Alabama, Saturday, November 9, 2019, at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

K'Lavon Chaisson has declared early for the NFL draft, closing out a career at LSU where the outside linebacker battled through injury and helped the Tigers win their fourth national championship in school history.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Chaisson is projected by some as a possible first-round pick. Underclassmen must declare their intentions by Friday, and they'll have through Monday to decide whether they want to change their minds.

Chaisson is the eighth LSU underclassman to declare early for the NFL draft, and his decision comes a day after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was officially announced as Baylor's next head coach.

Four starters from LSU's 2019 defense have now left campus, including starting linebackers Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips. Paired with the graduation of senior outside linebacker Michael Divinity, the Tigers will be replacing its standard starting linebacker rotation.

Chaisson arrived at LSU as one of the top prospects in Texas, a pass rusher from North Shore High in Houston whom LSU coach Ed Orgeron once followed to the airport while Chaisson was trying to go on a recruiting trip to Florida.

Chaisson made the trip. But he chose LSU.

Orgeron anticipated the outside linebacker would supplant former star Arden Key in the record books, repeatedly saying he expected Chaisson would set the school's single-season sack record.

But Chaisson was lost for the season in 2018, when he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the opener against Miami.

He had a slow start in his much-anticipated return in 2019, worsened by an ankle injury that kept him out of the Northwestern State and Vanderbilt games.

Orgeron said one of Chaisson's best games came in LSU's historic 46-41 victory at Alabama, when the linebacker recorded career highs in both tackles (10) and tackles for loss (3½).

Chaisson recorded three tackles for loss and three sacks in the postseason, playing some of his most effective football in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, the Peach Bowl semifinal against Oklahoma, and the College Football Championship Game against Clemson.

Chaisson never did break Key's record. But he wore LSU's No. 18 Jersey and was named a permanent team captain in 2019. With his loss, it is most likely that junior outside linebackers Andre Anthony and Ray Thornton will fill in.

True freshman Marcel Brooks also filled in for Chaisson at times during the season, and sophomore inside linebacker Damone Clark was often used within defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's blitz packages.

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Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.