BATON ROUGE, La. -- That Duke Riley plays linebacker and is able to run a 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds had many thinking he might be destined to fill LSU's need for a safety in the 2013 class.
The way J.T. Curtis, Riley's legendary coach at River Ridge (La.) John Curtis sees it, Riley might fill pass coverage needs while not having to move from his linebacker comfort zone.
"I see him at that weakside linebacker spot where he might be asked to cover that No. 2 receiver," said Curtis, the winningest high school coach in Louisiana prep history. "The game has changed so much. It's about quickness and being able to play in space and that's what Duke brings."
LSU wasn't necessarily looking for a linebacker in this class before getting a commitment from Riley Wednesday night. He was the 27th commit of the 2013 class and, at first blush, he might seem redundant. The Tigers signed six linebackers in 2012, many who saw significant playing time as true freshmen, and already has two players in this class who seem to project as linebackers.
But Riley's linebacker skills and unusual speed give him a unique ability that perhaps other linebackers don't -- the ability to defend spread teams without having to get out of defensive coordinator John Chavis' base 4-3 defense. Usually, LSU shifts out of the 4-3 and into a 4-2-5 package when opponents line up in the now-ubiquitous spread formations. With Riley's ability to cover receivers in the slot, the Tigers might not have to.
Some might be concerned that the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Riley might be a tad small for a linebacker, but Curtis thinks he'll have no problem getting to SEC size.
"He's going to be able to defend the run," Curtis said. "You have to understand, he goes right from football to indoor track, then outdoor track. So I think when he goes there and just concentrates on football, he'll get up to 220-225 pounds, somewhere in there. There are guys who can get to 240, but they can't turn their hips and they can't cover. Duke is really what you're looking for."
LSU started the week with 27 commits, but it came out that safety Jeremy Cutrer won't sign next week because of academic issues and might head to junior college. Defensive tackle Tevin Lawson's status is also in doubt after LSU asked him to grayshirt because of a clearinghouse issue centered around a summer school class.