BR.lsuauburnmain.102719 HS 3778.JPG

LSU linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. (45) celebrates with LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (8) and LSU safety Marcel Brooks (9) after sacking Auburn quarterback Bo Nix in the second half of LSU's 23-20 victory over Auburn, Saturday, October 26, 2019, at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

It was a standard, normal Monday practice in LSU's indoor football facility, save for the sight of the familiar linebacker who was attacking a tackling dummy on the far side of the field.

Michael Divinity had returned.

Two weeks after announcing he was leaving the team "to focus on a personal matter," the senior outside linebacker was back.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron hollered some directions at Divinity during a drill.

Outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson shoved him playfully.

Defensive end Breiden Fehoko said without Divinity, Chaisson was "really the only guy" in the outside linebacker room who could be a commanding voice for the young talent at that position.


Can't see video below? Click here.


That's a role Divinity can fill even if he doesn't play again for the Tigers.

Whether or not LSU's sack leader will return fully to the playing field this season remains uncertain.

When Divinity first announced he was leaving, Orgeron said he wasn't "going to close the door" on the possibility Divinity could return.

It's clear now that door remained open.

"We love Michael being back on the team," Orgeron said Tuesday morning during an interview on 104.5 ESPN's "Off the Bench."

"Michael's a great member of our football team that brings a lot of energy, brings a lot of things to our practice. He's still unable to play, but he's able to practice with the football team as of now."

The full details surrounding Divinity's circumstance remain unsaid.

Divinity missed two of LSU's first three games this season because of what Orgeron called "coach's decisions" — an intentionally vague phrase that Orgeron uses to keep the particulars of such dealings in-house. 

Divinity announced he was leaving the team on Nov. 4, five days before LSU's No. 2-vs.-No. 3 showdown against Alabama.

LSU used just one outside linebacker, Chaisson, in its first defensive drive against the Crimson Tide, using a defensive back-heavy package with nickel safety Kary Vincent. But Ray Thornton subbed in soon after in Divinity's stead, and recovered a crucial fumble near the LSU goal line that produced the Tigers' first touchdown in a 46-41 win that vaulted the program to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Divinity was watching.

When tight end Thaddeus Moss made a toe-tapping catch near the Alabama end zone — a pivotal play that produced a touchdown a few plays later — Divinity tweeted "You got Mossed," a reference to the highlight segment the tight end's famous father, Randy, hosts on ESPN.

Once LSU had beaten Alabama for the first time since 2011 Divinity tweeted, "I'm So Proud Of My Brothers & Coaching Staff."

"He was proud of us," safety JaCoby Stevens said. "I can feel it through the tweets. He was proud of us beating Alabama. When he came back, you could just see how happy he was to be back, and it's good to see when someone's happy when they're back with their family."

Divinity had tipped off to the public that he'd returned, posting several videos and photographs Monday from campus on his Instagram page.

He posted a video of an LSU trainer stretching out his left ankle, a picture of him sacking Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. Outside linebacker Soni Fonua posted a video of him saying "Mike, what up man!" inside the football facility.

Fonua, a junior college transfer who played for the first time against Ole Miss, is the sort of player Divinity is expected to mentor. Thornton and junior Andre Anthony have plenty of game experience, but there's still true freshmen like Desmond Little and Ray Parker.

Divinity was also one of the select players in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's pass rush packages — a unit that has also used sophomore Damone Clark, who is seeing significant playing time for the first time this season.

"Mike's a smart football player," Fehoko said. "He knows different things out there. He's able to call out plays. ... He's really like another coach out there for the outside linebackers."

LSU (10-0, 6-0) can clinch its first Western Division title since 2011 with a win against Arkansas (2-8, 0-6) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium. Divinity's potential return would be a defensive boost in an SEC title match with Georgia and any playoff push that could follow.

But underneath the athletic implications, does it seem like the "personal matter" has been resolved?

"I think Mike's in a better place," Stevens said. "I think the suspension for Michael was a wake-up call, and just like family, man, when I was a kid, when I stepped out of line, my parents had to do things and take certain actions when I stepped out of line."

Stevens said it wasn't until further down in life that he called his parents and told them, "Thank you for the things you've done for me."

"I think it’s the same thing for Mike," Stevens said. "In the moment, Mike was probably upset certain things kind of happened, and now he kind of went back to Coach O and was like, ‘I get it,’ and Coach O’s giving him another chance, and like I said, he looked so happy today on the field today."

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.