Kendell Beckwith is only a freshman, still learning the ropes — but even the seasoned veterans are impressed with the young linebacker’s skills
Lamin Barrow took a look at freshman linebacker Kendell Beckwith and saw something familiar.
“The first thing that popped into my mind was ‘Freak,’ ” Barrow said. “We’ve got a freak already. He’s almost the second coming.”
“Freak,” of course, is the nickname given to Tigers junior defensive tackle Anthony Johnson because his speed and athletic skills are freakish for someone of his size (6-foot-3, 294 pounds).
Beckwith (6-3, 246) isn’t far behind.
“I’ve never see a guy that size that can move that well,” Barrow said of Beckwith. “He’s doing a great at linebacker right now. I think the future is very bright for him.”
Barrow, who’s the starting weakside linebacker, and other teammates wonder how many positions Beckwith could play.
“He’s fast,” running back Alfred Blue said. “When he ran his 40, I couldn’t believe how fast he was moving.”
Johnson said he hadn’t heard the freak comparison, but he, too, has noticed Beckwith.
“Kendell’s going to be a great linebacker,” Johnson said. “He’s a young guy still learning how to be aggressive at the next level, but he has the size and the want to. A lot of guys don’t have that coming in early.”
Right guard Trai Turner said Beckwith reminds him of “a defensive end type,” but he’s impressed with him at linebacker.
“He’s wearing the right number,” Turner said of the No. 52 Beckwith wears, the same number Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis wore.
“He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Turner said. “He’s got the heart and the tenacity, and he wants to be great.”
Beckwith is playing behind senior Tahj Jones and sophomore Kwon Alexander on the strongside, but like all the linebackers, he’s getting a taste of each spot.
“The way he runs — when he first got here on campus, I said, ‘This kid can’t be that big moving that well,’ ” Barrow said. “I thought they’d move him to defensive end or he might be big enough to play defensive tackle. He’s just got a motor and a way about him that puts him a step above a lot of incoming freshmen around the country.”
Beckwith, who was the top recruit in Louisiana last year, also played quarterback at East Feliciana High School.
“I played offense in high school because I wanted to do whatever I could to help my team,” Beckwith said. “But I’ve always wanted to play defense. That’s the position of choice for me.”
Beckwith said he speaks every other day with his cousin, Darry, who was a Tigers linebacker from 2005-08, and tries to match his competiveness. But he said the the mental aspect of preseason camp was most difficult.
“(The coaches) have been really tough on us, pushing us a lot to learn the plays,” Beckwith said. “We’re catching on, but it’s very challenging mentally. There’s a lot of stuff to learn. It’s like taking an extra class to learn the plays.
“In high school, you had to know the basic things for the game. But here, there are a lot of concepts you need to know in order to play.”
Beckwith said he hopes to be productive enough this season to be named freshman All-American, though he said he got a little carried away with his mother’s home cooking during the offseason, putting on 15 to 20 pounds to weigh 252 when he arrived at LSU.
“I was shocked at how heavy I was when I got on the scale,” he said. “I’ve lost (six pounds) since I’ve been here.”
Beckwith said he expects to be reach or approach his playing weight in the 230s in time for the season opener Aug. 31 against TCU in Arlington, Texas.
Still, Barrow said, Beckwith is making an impression — not only on defense, but on special teams.
“He’s a on a number of special teams,” Barrow said. “He’s going to be a standout on special teams. It will be real hard to keep him off the field.”
But amid all the praise for Beckwith, Turner (6-3, 316) kept it in perspective when asked about his confrontation with Beckwith in the “Big Cat” drill, in which two players battle mano a mano.
Turner smiled and said, “he’s a freshman.”