LSU’s Muncie comfortable in starting role
After contributing on special teams his first two seasons, LSU junior Luke Muncie entered his third fall camp in a three-man race, along with Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones, for two starting spots at outside linebacker.
Muncie seemed to be the odd man out until the Monday before the season opener, when coach Les Miles announced Jones would be ineligible while appealing an academic issue.
The issue with Jones has yet to be resolved, leaving Muncie an expanded role on one of the nation’s most talented defenses.
“I feel like people are overlooking me because of the situation that happened with Tahj,” Muncie said. “But I also feel like I have something to prove. This is LSU. When one person falls out, the next person in line is going to step up and take control.”
Muncie arrived on campus in 2010 as an undersized linebacker prospect who had played mostly defensive back at Klein Oak High in Spring, Texas. Displaying the close-cropped haircut he had worn most of his life, the newcomer made an impression on his teammates with the hits he delivered during his first fall camp.
“First time I got hit by him, I can remember going, ‘Man, that guy can bring the wood. He knows how to hit,’” offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk said.
These days, Muncie sports long, blond locks that reach the edge of his broad shoulders, racing out the rear of his LSU helmet and toward the number 52 on his back.
The new hairstyle may be the most obvious change in him over the years, but Dworaczyk, who hosted Muncie on his LSU recruiting trip, said the linebacker’s comfort level has grown just as much.
“He’s slowly progressed into what he is now,” Dworaczyk said. “I think he’s gotten more mature about the way he handles himself on and off the field.”
Good thing for LSU, which has only freshmen listed on the depth chart behind its three starting linebackers.
Miles said Monday he wasn’t sure how long it would take for Jones’ appeal to be completed. But he complimented Muncie, who has six tackles through two games.
“I think Muncie’s doing really well,” Miles said. “I think he continues to improve, and that’s what he has to do.”
The most memorable play Muncie has made in his short time as a starter came after Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a first-quarter pass in the left flat Saturday and looked to turn upfield.
Muncie, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, delivered a welcome-to-Death Valley smack that resulted in a 2-yard loss.
“Luke gets that reputation out there as a guy you don’t want to take softly,” Dworaczyk said. “You better be ready to take it on and better be ready to take a hit. I’ve been playing offensive line for a long time, and I’m telling you, Luke Muncie hits like an SEC linebacker. Like some of the best.”
Muncie said there’s a thank you in those big hits.
He recalled sharing the news with his parents, John and Kelly, that he would
get the starting nod in LSU’s season opener. It made
him feel good to make them proud.
“They drove me around to every practice since I was in third grade playing football,” he said. “My dad was my coach. All the stuff they’ve done for me, it took a lot of sacrifices, and I feel like I owe them something. How I play shows them how much I care. I’m trying hard. I want to make the Muncie name look good.”
Muncie didn’t say how his parents felt about the hair
he hasn’t had cut since midway through his freshman season.
“I’m in college right now,” he said. “When college is over, that’s the time to clean shave and wear short hair. I’ve always had a buzzed head my whole life until college. This is a time in my life I can really do something like this.”
Muncie said the long ’do can be a hassle.
“I contemplate cutting it every day,” he said. “Something tells me not to.”
The hair makes him stand out as he chases ball carriers in Tiger Stadium. But Muncie will need to stand out in other ways to maintain his starting job.
Even if Jones stays sidelined, plenty of competition remains.
Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones lead a list of six freshman linebackers who signed with the Tigers in February and received rave reviews from LSU’s coaches during fall camp.
Muncie said rather than looking at the influx of young talent as a threat, he accepted it as a chance to take on more of a leadership role.
“I saw it as a sign to step up, not only on the field but off the field as well,” he said. “I’m being more talkative on the field with play calls. I’m being more of a leader in the film room.”
In becoming more involved, Muncie seems to have become more comfortable.
Just in the nick of time, it turns out.