LSU linebackers Duke Riley, Deion Jones, Donnie Alexander take the special teams route to big roles _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU sophomore linebacker Duke Riley fields questions from the media during LSU Football's annual media day at the LSU's Anderson-Feazel Indoor Field, Sunday, August 10, 2014.

Linebacker Duke Riley enjoys his new position on LSU’s defense.

After all, who wouldn’t like to be called “Money.”

“I like the name to be honest with you,” Riley said Thursday with a smile.

The “Money” position is one example of the changes defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is implementing. They’re becoming more clear two-thirds of the way through LSU’s spring practice.

So what’s different?

LSU is not running the six-defensive back “Mustang” package it did under former coordinator John Chavis, and the Tigers are sometimes running a four-linebacker set called “Hippo,” players say.

And the “Money” position? He’s the outside linebacker in the five-DB nickel package. Riley, Donnie Alexander and Deion Jones are playing the position. The position can be played by a strong or weak-side linebacker – a striking change to the nickel package under Chavis.

Strong side linebackers – like Riley – were not a part of the nickel package under Chavis.

“You do a little blitzing, do a little coverage,” Riley said of “Money.” “You can be inside the box making plays. You’re in the mix more.”

The “Mustang” is out. The Tigers now refer to a six-DB set as its normal name, “Dime,” and it includes just one linebacker as opposed to two, said middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith after LSU’s ninth of 15 spring practices Thursday.

Beckwith’s position in the nickel and dime packages is now referred to as “Mack,” and he’s the only linebacker, he said, in the dime. He’s one of four linebackers in the “Hippo,” a set that Steele has begun to install.

“Money,” “Mack,” “Hippo” – they’ve all forced players to spend hours on their iPads this spring. LSU’s defense is, indeed, changing.

“It has all of the packages and coverages and things we’re going to do,” Riley said, holding an iPad. “It’s on the player - you’ve got to go in and study it.”

Year 2 at fullback

A year ago, John David Moore had just begun the transition from tight end to fullback.

Now, he’s all fullback.

LSU coaches switched Moore to fullback in the middle of spring practice last season because of a lack of depth at the position. He’s been playing the position – he had never played it before that – for a full year now.

“Just more confident and that enables you to play better,” he said of the year of experience. “It’s coming full circle.”

Moore, freshman David Ducre and receiver-turned-fullback Tony Upchurch are all working at the position. Ducre, the top-rated fullback in the nation this year, is an early enrollee who signed with the school in the fall.

The hype is real, Moore said.

“He’s a physically endowed kid. He’s got a great build, and he’s got al of the potential to come in and be a great player,” he said.


Rising sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris said he had five or six touchdowns in the Tigers’ first scrimmage of the spring. At least one or two was on the ground. … DE Tashawn Bower remained in a walking boot for the second straight practice on Thursday. His injury is unknown. … Cornerback Dwayne Thomas (knee surgery) participated in practice but wore a green non-contact jersey as he continues recovery from knee surgery. … Safety Corey Thompson was not practicing. He has not practiced this spring and has not been made available for interviews. … OL K.J. Malone practiced but wore a green non-contact jersey.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.