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LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (8) and LSU linebacker Micah Baskerville (23) run through a drill during spring practice, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La.

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Patrick Queen dipped his chin into his folded hands considering the question.

The Rover linebacker position, made dangerous by All-American Devin White, who tormented opposing offenses with his wide-ranging abilities, was vacant now that White had left early for the NFL draft.

Would the Rover remain? Blitzing? Covering route-running running backs? Or would the position morph into a more traditional inside linebacker within LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's 3-4 defensive scheme?

"I feel like Devin's fast," Queen, White's backup in 2018, began. "Devin's incredibly fast. But at the same time, I wanted to race him so bad when he was here. Because I know I could at least tie with him. So, being in that position, I feel like it's just going to be the same, not much missing at all."

You could almost hear the hooves of White's horse, Daisy Mae, galloping back toward the LSU football facilities for the Butkus Award-winning linebacker to accept Queen's challenge.

White officially ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in early March, the fastest time by a linebacker this year.

Could Queen win in a footrace?

"Most definitely," Queen said. "I think I could give him a good race for his money."

Queen has been chasing White for a while now.

The 6-foot-2, 232-pound rising junior played in all 13 games in the 2018 season, spending the last three at outside linebacker to help out with the pass rush. He made his first career start against Alabama, when he filled in for White, who was serving a one-half ejection for committing targeting in the previous game.

Queen led the Tigers with two tackles for loss in the 29-0 loss to the Tide, and during Fiesta Bowl media days, White brought up one of Queen's post-play celebrations during that Alabama game while the two were cutting up with reporters.

"Where'd the celebration come from?" White asked Queen, who started to walk away before White playfully pulled him back.

"The celebration came from you," Queen said. "No lie. I look up to you as well in a respectful way. Very humble. You're the best linebacker in the country. I got a lot to live up to."

"Patrick is the next great linebacker at LSU," White said. "I'll let you hold my Butkus Award for about a week, so you can get you one and you can know what it feels like to have one."

So, did White actually let Queen hold the Butkus Award for a week, the first one won by an LSU player in history?

"Of course," Queen said.

There are parallels between the players. Both were four-star recruits who played running back in high school.

Queen was a four-year starter at Livonia High, where he was an all-state linebacker and running back, and he helped lead the Wildcats to an undefeated Class 3A state championship in 2014. Queen rushed for 1,476 yards during his senior season, and he signed with LSU as the nation's No. 17 athlete of the 2017 class, according to 247Sports.

And in the two years that Queen spent climbing the LSU depth chart, he said he's prepared himself for his own moment by learning from one of the best to play his position. Queen said White took him under his wing and continually fed him lessons: Stay tied to the hip with Aranda; you'll learn more. Stay committed to the weight room, the training room, the practice field, the film room, and everything will take care of itself.

It's the sort of advice where performance and leadership merge, and the defense will be keeping an eye on the inside linebackers, including returning starter Jacob Phillips, to see how the two linebackers step up now that White is gone.

"Right now, we're just trying to do the same thing that he did: Be vocal, be the same leaders in the room, try and get everybody in film and go over plays and stuff," Queen said. "We both want to go out there as brothers. We want to be the best linebackers in the country. So, when it comes to me and him being in a leadership role, we just have to take advantage of it."

Three practices into spring football, some of the leadership has already taken root.

Queen said sophomore inside linebacker Damone Clark has been coming to him with questions, asking for help on the field and in the film room. 

Clark, a 6-foot-4, 238-pound Southern Lab graduate, spent the 2018 season playing special teams, and head coach Ed Orgeron last Thursday said he was "impressed" with Clark, who has "been coming along" this spring.

"He's really progressed, too," Queen said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him play as well."

And what about his own future? What is Queen's perspective — the heir apparent to White, a player some might deem irreplaceable?

“I'm focused. I want everything here right now," Queen said. "So, I've got a lot of things in the back of my mind to keep me pushing.”

This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.

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