LSU’s Kendell Beckwith relishes his new role

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith jogs to the next drill during spring football practice Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith jogs to the next drill during spring football practice Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

Kendell Beckwith is a man in a mood.

A very good mood.

As you’re reading this, Beckwith is probably back home in Jackson, La., engrossed in his Sunday ritual: tending to his quarterhorses.

It’s for his peace of mind, he says — a man with his feet rooted firmly in the rolling fields of his country home who needs his breaks from the demands of football and school at LSU.

Not that the football part is going poorly for him.

The former prep All-American from East Feliciana made the switch at the start of spring football practice from defensive end to middle linebacker.

It’s taking some work. Middle linebacker is arguably the most cerebral position on defense; he’s the player responsible for getting the front seven in the right setup on every snap.

But it’s where Beckwith wants to be, where he wants to stay.

“I hope so,” he said when asked whether the move is permanent. “It’s what I want.”

He then flashes a smile that would be hard to dislodge if you hit him with a horseshoe.

Despite his talent (he was arguably the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana in 2013) and his size (at 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds, he’s the biggest of LSU’s fleet of fleet-footed linebackers), Beckwith knows he could well spend this season as an understudy to senior D.J. Welter, the returning starter.

That prospect doesn’t bother Beckwith one wit; it just elicits another smile.

“I’ve got a ways to go,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I have to learn. I have to get the mental part of the game down pat and be a technique freak. I need to use my technique right and learn all the plays.”

Helping mentor the talented Tiger who is trying to learn the position well enough to beat him out puts Welter in a rather difficult position. Asked about his understudy, Welter is positive but political at the same time.

“Chief’s system is basic, but it’s tough to learn,” he said, referring to the scheme of defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John “Chief” Chavis. “I think Kendall will be good when his time comes. Teaching him the ins and outs of the system takes a lot of practice reps to be game-ready. Being in our meeting room will help him.”

There were times last season when LSU’s linebacker corps was perceived as a liability, finger-pointing often directed at Welter.

This year, with Welter a year more experienced, Beckwith moving in behind, junior Kwon Alexander at weakside linebacker and junior Lamar Louis at strongside, the linebackers are confident they can be counted on as a strength.

“I think (weakside) is the perfect position for Kwon,” Beckwith said. “He really made a lot of plays for us last year. Louis is another great player — fast and physical. Those guys really help me, too.”

Welter is confident the linebackers are up to the task of bracing up a defensive line that will send out three new starters this fall.

“The linebackers need to be taking on the collision, meeting the (offensive) linemen at the line, working with the (defensive) linemen to set up that fence so they can’t run the ball,” Welter said.

If LSU’s linebackers can do a good job of that, that smile may not be leaving Beckwith’s face anytime soon.

NOTE: Former LSU quarterback Stephen Rivers, who decided earlier this year to transfer, said he visited Vanderbilt last week.

The Commodores have a new coach, Derek Mason, and are looking for a new quarterback since Austyn Carta-Samuels graduated.

Rivers, who is still in school and working in LSU’s sports information office, said he has been contacted by about 10 schools since announcing his decision to transfer.