LSU's Michael Divinity will move from starting inside linebacker to outside linebacker, coach Ed Orgeron said Thursday evening, to aid a battered Tigers defense with its struggling pass rush.
Divinity will play in place of K'Lavon Chaisson when No. 4 LSU (3-0) plays at Vanderbilt (0-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday, since Chaisson most likely will miss his second straight game because of an injured ankle.
Orgeron said it could be a permanent move for Divinity, who started in 11 games at outside linebacker in 2018 before moving inside in the spring. Coaches will re-evaluate the decision in the coming weeks as players return from injury.
Orgeron said Wednesday night he doesn't expect defensive end Rashard Lawrence to return until after next week's open date nor Glen Logan until perhaps Oct. 12 against Florida.
"We'll see what happens," Orgeron said. "Obviously we're missing K'Lavon. He's hurt, so we need to get some rushers on the outside. So I think it could be a permanent deal, but we need to see."
Divinity only has played against Texas. He missed the other two games because of what Orgeron called a "coach's decision."
Orgeron said Divinity "was our best pass rusher" last year, when the 6-foot-2, 241-pound John Ehret graduate tied for the team lead with five sacks.
Divinity's presence on the outside is intended to boost an LSU pass rush that ranks 34th nationally with eight sacks. The Tigers recorded five sacks in a 45-38 win over then-No. 9 Texas but struggled to create pressure in their 65-14 win over Northwestern State last week.
"We feel with the loss of K'Lavon Chaisson at outside linebacker, we need some rush ability," Orgeron said. "And we've been playing without Michael at the outside linebacker position, and we haven't got any rush. Michael, last year, was our best rusher, so we're going to put him in position to rush this week."
LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda moved Divinity to inside linebacker during spring practice to replace the athleticism and leadership the defense lost when All-American linebacker Devin White left early for the NFL draft.
The move created a position battle for the remaining position between returning starting inside linebacker Jacob Phillips, White's backup, Patrick Queen, and sophomore Damone Clark.
Chaisson, Divinity, Phillips and Queen were all named to the Dick Butkus Award watchlist before the 2019 season. Orgeron said the depth at inside linebacker helped the coaching staff feel comfortable moving Divinity outside.
"We feel that Jacob is playing well, feel that Patrick Queen is playing really well," Orgeron said. "So we feel good about those guys playing in there. We feel like Damone Clark can go in and play. We have three linebackers that can go in there and play. "
As for Chaisson's recovery, Orgeron said the 6-foot-4, 250-pound pass rusher will travel to Nashville with the team, but Orgeron doesn't think he's ready to play.
Chaisson practiced Wednesday, but he was restricted.
"He could do individual (drills), he could do some cuts, but he couldn't do any hitting," Orgeron said. "He wasn't ready to make any contact, and I think he still favors that ankle a little bit."
True freshman safety Marcel Brooks will provide more depth on the outside, Orgeron said. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound former five-star recruit from Texas filled in for Chaisson during a series against Texas.
"He's gonna play in a rush situation — not all the time, but we have a certain package where we put in a lot of speed out there, and Marcel is gonna be that guy," Orgeron said. "So hopefully he can make a lot of plays."