It was D.J. Welter that LSU chose to replace Kevin Minter as the Tigers' starting middle LB in 2013 — the player that has only played in eight games in his LSU career and missed the 2012 regular season due to academic ineligibility.
It came as a surprise to many, but Welter ran with the first-team when LSU opened spring practices in March and he's still the starter heading into Fall Camp.
"The coaches wanted to give me a shot," Welter said. "I've been here a while and I've been working hard. It felt good for them to give me a shot, and I took advantage of it."
Welter made the most of his opportunity in the spring. The coaches named him one of the most improved veterans through spring practices, and he followed that up with a pair of tackles and pass breakups in the Spring Game.
He left the spring in the same position he entered it, and modeled his game after his two predecessors in order to secure it through the offseason.
"I feel like I've done a great job this summer," Welter said. "I learned from Kelvin Sheppard and Kevin Minter. They set up big shoes to fill. It feels good for it to finally be my turn, and learning from those guys makes it easier."
Welter may not have the speed or size that those younger linebackers possess, but he does have the knowledge of the game. He's entering his fourth year in defensive coordinator John Chavis' system, and that allows him to serve as a "coach on the field," something LSU desperately needs with Minter and Eric Reid now in the NFL.
"I know where I have to be every play," Welter said. "I know what I have to do and I can execute it."
But it's a lot more than him making sure he's in the right place. He's also responsible for the other 10 players on the field. It's the MIKE's job to relay the calls and ensure everybody is lined up properly.
That forces him to think the way Chavis would, which in turn has caused him to live inside his head.
"Before he goes to tell a young guy something, I already know what he's going to say," Welter said. "It's a system. It's the same stuff each year. You just get to know it better and better until it becomes second nature."
Now as one of the more veteran linebackers, Chavis has also tacked on the responsibility for Welter to be a teacher, which means he's helping the same young players get better that he's competing with.
"[Chavis] always says this is the most talented linebacker room he's ever been around," Welter said. "I really see that this year. We have young guys that are still just sophomores. Those guys can play…
"You have to get better everyday or you get passed up. These young guys are fresh and you can't let them creep up on you too much or they'll be starting in front of you."
But Welter isn't going to let that happen. After spending most of 2012 on the scout team, he's determined to make 2013 his breakout season.
"It's all about dedication and commitment," Welter said. "You have to be here every day. There's competition with everybody on our team. I just have to show up every day, ready to work and do my thing on the field."
Do you think Welter should start at MLB?