LSU linebackers could play bigger role under Kevin Steele

BATON ROUGE, La. -- For a player like Lamar Louis, LSU's defensive coordinator change might be helpful on multiple levels.

For starters, Louis should have the opportunity to play more on scrimmage downs -- potentially displaying new skills that might help the 5-foot-11 senior linebacker impress pro scouts enough to become an NFL draft pick. Louis also believes that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's new defensive looks will help the Tigers become tougher to scheme against.

"If we can get [the new defensive scheme] down pat and be the multiple defense that we want, I think that it switches things up for other teams," Louis said. "It's not coming into Tiger Stadium going, ‘OK, they're going to be the same old 4-3 team, so this is how we're going to come at it.' They're actually going to have to think now.

"We can … when we play Auburn, play something different. When we play Arkansas, play something different. So we're going to not be as predictable as in the past if we can get everything down pat and be multiple like we would like."

Under Steele's predecessor John Chavis, LSU frequently lined up in defensive back-heavy packages like the nickel and Chavis' dime package, known as the "Mustang," which uses six defensive backs. As the starting strongside linebacker, Louis was often the odd man out when the Tigers brought extra defensive backs onto the field.

But if all goes according to play, the linebackers might play a bigger role under Steele even when the Tigers shift to a nickel defense.

"Being able to play in a 3-4 and a 4-3 and being able to have an opportunity to stay in in a nickel package, and just looking at different schemes, it's definitely going to help me at the next level," Louis said. "And I think it's going to help our team tremendously."

LSU's coaches have greater concerns at the moment than nailing down a defensive scheme or roles for specific players. First, they need to nail down the final spots in their recruiting class, with national signing day just two weeks away.

At last week's introductory news conference, new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers will still be a 4-3 defensive club -- deploying four defensive linemen and three linebackers as its traditional defensive front -- but they will also add elements of the 3-4 that Steele coached with Nick Saban at Alabama.

"We're going to base out of a 4-3, but there's some times where you're going to get in a 3-4 front," Orgeron predicted. "But we have 4-3 personnel here and I believe that's what we're going to start off with."

Steele agreed with that premise, pointing out that having four linebackers on the field with 3-4 looks will make it easier to defend the spread offensive schemes in place at nearly every other SEC West school.

"You're going to have to use it all in this league," Steele said. "You're going to have to have some odd-front stuff, particularly against the spread offense that much of the West is running. And so to get those two edge guys [outside linebackers] out there. But there also is a place for the other, so we'll have to mix that in there."

Between signing day and spring practice, the Tigers' coaching staff will likely sit down and begin nailing down a scheme that best suits the available personnel. Steele said he has no intention of simply "taking a playbook out and dusting it off and throwing it on and saying, 'OK, this is what we're doing.' We have to adapt things to the talent on the field, because I'll promise you this, I cannot tackle."

That approach suits Tigers head coach Les Miles just fine. Miles clearly likes the idea of throwing multiple looks at opposing offenses, and it appears that the Tigers will do so under the new defensive regime.

"I want to do both. I want to make sure we have elements of the 4-3 package ingrained and I'd like the opportunity to be open in certain situations," Miles said. "So that being said, I just want to make sure that it goes that way. As Steele said, we'll sit down and talk techniques and all that stuff and then we'll be on the right page."