lsufootball.040319 HS 123.JPG

LSU outside linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. (45) in a drill during spring practice, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at LSU's outdoor practice facility in Baton Rouge, La.

Michael Divinity pleaded with his coaches to let him practice.

He was ready, the LSU linebacker told head coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, but like parents telling their son to finish his homework before he got to go outside, the coaches told Divinity he had to finish studying the playbook and film that went along with his new position before he'd be able to practice.

By the fourth week of spring football, Divinity, who started 11 games at outside linebacker in 2018, marched onto the practice field at his new position:

Inside linebacker.

The move was sudden, and it surprised some players like defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko, who normally warms up with Divinity and the rest of the pass rushers before practice.

"We're looking, and we think Mike didn't show up to practice," Fehoko said. "But he was over there with the (inside) linebackers."

And as team drills began, Fehoko heard Divinity's voice from a different part of the field, calling out plays and offensive formations and assignments.

"He communicates really well," Fehoko said. "And we don't have to worry about assignment busts."

Divinity's leadership is one of the major reasons he moved inside, although it's not certain whether the move will be permanent. Divinity mentioned there is still at least one package in which he plays outside, and Orgeron said last week that Divinity moved inside to help out with depth issues. Starting inside linebacker Jacob Phillips is being withheld from contact until the fall.

Aranda needs to replace All-American inside linebacker Devin White — and not just the freakish speed that helped White become the first LSU player to win last year's Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.

Aranda needed a new leader to quarterback his defense, to be the main communicator and motivator on and off the field.

So last week, Divinity said Aranda pulled him to the side.

"He asked me about playing inside linebacker because I'm that vocal leader, but I'm at outside linebacker," said Divinity, who tied for the team lead with five sacks last season. "At first, it was a big task, a hard decision, because you know, I'm going from my comfort zone to another position."

Divinity felt he was progressing as a pass rusher. Orgeron had spoken about his improvement several times throughout the spring. But Divinity knew his old position group would be just fine with the return of heralded pass rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, who missed all of last season after suffering an ACL tear in the season opener against Miami, and the development of outside linebackers Andre Anthony, Ray Thornton and Travez Moore.


Can't see video below? Click here.


Divinity told Aranda he'd be switching positions.

Divinity spent the next few practices studying the playbook and watching film, learning "the whole concept of how things ran."

His competitive nature took over during that time. He didn't like being away from the field.

"He wanted to be out there bad," said inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who recorded 40 tackles in 2018. "He was asking Aranda and Coach O to get out there right now, and they wouldn't let him until he learned it. Once he finally learned it, he came out to practice balling day one, full of energy."

Divinity wasn't completely unfamiliar with inside linebacker. He'd played the position at John Ehret High, where he was a high school All-American and helped lead the Patriots to the Class 5A state title game during his senior year in 2015.

At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Divinity also has the frame that inside linebacker demands. He said he's lost a lot of body fat, turned it into muscle, and by the season, he aims to weigh in at 240 pounds — White's listed weight in 2018.

But the transition from outside linebacker hasn't come without its challenges. The biggest, Divinity said, is adapting to the difference in timing.

On the edge, it's always full speed on the snap, focusing on beating the blocker in front of him on his way to the ball carrier.

Now, Divinity's got 5 yards between him and the line of scrimmage, and he has to "watch everything" — from pulling guards to wide receivers.

It demands more restraint and patience.

"I'm so used to being able to play it and go right to the ball," said Divinity, who said he has 90 percent of the playbook down and will have it fully learned by Saturday's spring game. "I have my days where in the beginning of practice, I'll mess something up once or twice, and I'll just get on a roll."

Divinity said he and White talk every day; but their conversations tend to focus more on leadership than on technique.

"I want to be able to just come out and be perfect every day, because I know guys that's younger than me look up to me," Divinity said. "I want to be that perfect leader."

Barely a week into Divinity's switch, Queen said he's already become their "vocal leader." 

"He's coming in, telling us to be in our playbook, and he's getting in his playbook as well," Queen said. "Just seeing that coming in from him motivates me even more to just be the best I can be for my teammates."

The role seems to suit Divinity.

When LSU players were asked at the start of spring practice who might replace White as the defense's leader, Divinity's name came up frequently.

Starting nickel safety Kary Vincent said he noticed Divinity's growth "as a human being," how "it's easy for him to take over as the defensive leader and take on that role."

Questions even came up about who would step up in the leadership roles held by former tight end Foster Moreau, who wore the honorary No. 18 jersey last season.

Perhaps Divinity will wear No. 18?

Divinity smiled humbly at the question. Perhaps hopefully.

"We shall wait to see," he said.