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Ryan Baker Injury Will Hurt Tigers

Carter "The Power" Bryant Monday, August 16, 2010 , , , , ,
LSU junior backer Ryan Baker suffered a broken jaw in a tackling drill on Friday during summer camp.

The injury will sideline the junior for 4-6 weeks.

Despite playing very little at linebacker during his career at LSU, Baker has been a standout on special teams. He also played a key role versus Mississippi State on the final goal-line stand that won the game for the Tigers.

Stepping in for Baker will likely be redshirt freshman Kevin Minter. Lamin Barrow and former safety Josh Johns are also expected to get time.

Much of the fuss has been around guys who will replace Baker. But the big question is what happens to guys who were going to start along side him.

Senior Kelvin Sheppard led the team in tackles last season and is expected to be heart and soul of the LSU defense this season. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has always raved about Sheppard's knowledge of the game.

Expect Sheppard to play all three of the linebacker positions, especially if Minter feels more comfortable at middle linebacker.

Sheppard had the luxury last season of rotating with three senior linebackers, Harry Coleman, Perry Riley and Jacob Cutrera. With Sheppard's sideline to sideline style, LSU not having as much depth at linebacker could possibly hurt him.

If LSU doesn't use ice baths, they better make an exception for number 11.

Strong side linebacker Stefoin Francois has had an injury riddled career at LSU, and, like Baker, has played mainly on special teams. He is a former defensive back with superb speed.

But this is his first season playing linebacker. Even though Chavis is 1-for-1 at LSU in making defensive backs productive linebackers (Coleman), Francois hasn't played much. The East St. John product has no choice but to produce quickly for the Tigers to succeed.

But because Francois was originally a member of the secondary, this opens up options for Chavis. Expect LSU to play a lot of 'Nickel' defense, which uses only two linebackers and five players in the secondary.

The Nickel is at its best when its played by players with speed, which LSU as a lot of in its back seven. Safety Brandon Taylor isn't afraid to stick his head in the box, redshirt freshman Craig Loston is a super athlete looking to make plays anywhere on the field and Ron Brooks, the likely 'Nickel backer', has always been a tackling machine on special teams.

If LSU can stifle the running game and force teams into third and long, LSU will be able to play more Nickel defense.

The injury to Baker will hurt the Tigers. But if LSU were to drop their first game versus North Carolina, there will be no reason to finger point at this road bump.



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