LSU’s John Chavis enjoys having roomful of talented linebackers

It has happened more than once.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis glances over his room full of linebackers and says something like, “I’ve never had a room this deep.”

Reporters aren’t privy to team meetings, but multiple linebackers during the first week of fall camp have revealed Chavis’ closed-door comments. LSU fans are happy to hear them.

The Tigers linebackers last season were criticized more than any other position on the team. They’re not fast enough, not smart enough, not good enough, some said.

This group is out to make up for whatever miscues were made in 2013. It’s expected to be a large group.

“Last year, we didn’t have that many. Like four (playable linebackers),” said Deion Jones, known more for his special teams headhunting than anything. “Now it seems like it’s going to be a lot more. We’re a lot deeper.”

By many accounts, Jones is one of those linebackers on the second line of the depth chart competing to be in what could be a six-man linebacker rotation.

Six? Really?

“Chief has never really rotated (more than) three, four linebackers,” starting strong-side linebacker Lamar Louis said. “He says he might be able to have two full rotations plus one this year if everybody can get it down pat. If we don’t get it, it might just be three or four.”

With offense’s new hurry-up offenses, a breather for the starting trio is a bonus.

“We’d rather have 45 plays at 100 percent than 80-90 at 80 percent,” Louis said Wednesday after LSU’s morning practice of Day 3 of fall camp.

The first group seems to be Louis, D.J. Welter and Kwon Alexander. The second line is Duke Riley, Kendell Beckwith and Jones.

The latter seems to be catching attention.

“I feel like Deion could be one of the starters,” Welter said.

The linebackers are a tight-knit group. They talk of meeting at one another’s homes and studying together on team-issued iPads.

They’re teaching each other.

For instance, Alexander moved from strong side to weak side over the spring. Jones, his backup, had to teach him the spot. Welter is instructing Beckwith, a guy who moved from the defensive line in spring.

Those two positions seem to be the hottest of battles, too.

Jones taught Alexander things like alignment and blocks to expect and how to beat those blocks.

“It makes the whole unit better,” he said of teaching a competitor. “That’s my boy. It’s competition. Wouldn’t be much of a competition if someone didn’t know what they were doing.”

Louis’ transition isn’t as difficult as Alexander’s. Louis began his LSU career at strong side. After a year away, he’s back.

The strong-side linebacker (SAM) must recognize the strength call — or which side the tight end sets. The middle linebacker receives the play call from the sideline. Then Louis takes over, making a signal call — left or right — that shifts the defensive line and the linebackers.

Louis said Alexander and he swapped positions because both felt more comfortable at the other spot. Chavis trusted that both players could learn the position quick enough, Louis said.

Alexander is progressing with his transition. Jones said there were some rough patches in the spring, but that seems to be over.

And this linebacker group isn’t just deep. Chavis has told them something else.

“He’s said multiple times,” Welter recalled, “it’s the most talented room he’s been around.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU football, follow our Tiger Tracks blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/tigertracks/.