Sophomore linebacker Marcel Brooks entered the NCAA player transfer portal Friday, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Advocate, potentially removing one of LSU’s most athletic players from the team.
LSU expected Brooks, who showed flashes of potential last season, to contribute as a linebacker and help lead its pass rush. Brooks' decision was first reported by 247Sports. Reasons for the move are not yet known.
Brooks had emerged as one of the most promising young players on LSU's defense, which switched to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. Last season, Brooks recorded eight tackles, 1½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks.
All four of LSU’s regular starting linebackers last year — K'Lavon Chaisson, Michael Divinity, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen — left for the NFL, making Brooks a possible successor after he moved to linebacker before spring practice.
"As we all know, he's very fast," coach Ed Orgeron said in March, "and once he catches onto the scheme, I think he's going to be an excellent linebacker."
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Brooks, who’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, arrived at LSU last year as a five-star recruit out of Marcus High in Flower Mound, Texas, where he played outside linebacker, safety and wide receiver.
LSU initially envisioned Brooks at safety, but he reached the field more often in 2019 as a pass rusher in blitz packages, particularly on third down. His elite speed and athleticism made up for being undersized.
LSU converted Brooks to linebacker this spring, a move Orgeron considered inevitable with depth lacking at the position. Wide receiver Devonta Lee also moved to linebacker. LSU wanted Brooks to reach 215 pounds.
In LSU’s new defensive scheme, Brooks might have played more of a traditional inside linebacker position instead of rushing off the edge as an outside linebacker. Orgeron listed him with the middle linebackers earlier this month during an appearance on 104.5 ESPN's Off the Bench.
“Marcel Brooks is one of the best athletes on our football team,” Orgeron said. “I expect him to have a great year.”
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By entering the NCAA transfer portal, other college coaches can now contact Brooks about changing schools. He can later remove his name from the database and return to LSU.
After Brooks’ decision, LSU will look to a deep but inexperienced group of linebackers. Junior Damone Clark and sophomore Micah Baskerville returned as the only inside linebackers on scholarship. LSU signed four linebackers in the last recruiting class.
Though the position lacks established players, Orgeron has raved about the group at times, particularly graduate transfer Jabril Cox and freshman Josh White. LSU must find its starters during fall practice.
“This is going to be a position that’s wide open,” Orgeron said earlier this month. “Let’s see who wins.”
Brooks contributed most as a pass rusher last season, and LSU already needed to find a replacement for Chaisson, who led the team with 6 ½ sacks and 13 ½ tackles for loss.
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Without Brooks to help generate its pass rush, LSU will rely on freshmen and inexperienced veterans. Orgeron said earlier this week on “Off the Bench” he believes in freshmen Phillip Webb and BJ Ojulari, two former four-star recruits.
Ojulari joined the team during spring practice, and Orgeron has praised him as a future All-American capable of one day getting picked early in the NFL draft. Webb arrived this summer. Orgeron said Webb has impressed strength and conditioning coaches during workouts the last three weeks.
"We think those guys on the right side can rush the passer for us," Orgeron said.
By moving into a 4-3 scheme, LSU will rely more on its defensive linemen to pressure quarterbacks. Instead of using someone like Chaisson, an outside linebacker who played along the line of scrimmage and sometimes dropped into coverage, the scheme traditionally requires true defensive ends.
LSU wants its defensive ends to be nimble and quick. Orgeron mentioned junior Justin Thomas, senior Andre Anthony and junior TK McLendon as possible pass rushers from the left side.
"We've got a lot of guys," Orgeron said, chuckling. "I'm looking at the defensive line. It looks like we've got 25. We better find four of them."