BATON ROUGE, La. — Nine members of LSU’s newest signing class have already made their way to campus for the spring semester.
The ability to practice with the team through the spring gives these newcomers a leg up on future teammates who will arrive in August. But which newcomers can we expect to see on the field this fall?
Plenty will be determined over the course of spring practice and August camp, so nothing should be taken as gospel. But based on LSU’s current personnel, SEC Country has ranked the nine early enrollees based on the likelihood they will make an immediate impact.
Potential Week 1 starters
Badara Traore, offensive tackle
With starting right tackle Toby Weathersby declaring for the NFL Draft, you can pencil in Traore as his replacement. Traore is a 6-foot-7, 310-pound behemoth who was rated the No. 2 offensive tackle in junior college this season. Even if Weathersby had stayed, Traore would have pushed him and Saahdiq Charles for one of the starting tackle spots. Now it’s academic.
Terrace Marshall Jr., wide receiver
The top-rated player in the class always has a chance to get onto the field early. That task could be made easier by offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger’s scheme. If Ensminger elects to go with more three- and four-wide sets at receiver, it obviously increases Marshall’s chances at making an impact. Marshall will spend this spring getting his stamina back after missing most of his senior year with a broken leg.
Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles and junior Stephen Sullivan are likely LSU’s top two receivers going into the year, but Marshall has a chance to be the third option — if not higher — right away.
Tae Provens, running back
If you can tote the rock, you’ve got a chance to start for LSU at running back next season. Provens will enter spring practice behind Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the depth chart, but he will have a good opportunity to prove himself.
Rotational players/one play away
Damien Lewis, guard
The transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College enters LSU behind starters Garrett Brumfield and Ed Ingram. But with injuries always a possibility on the offensive line as early as training camp, Lewis certainly has a chance to be in the mix.
Zach Sheffer, tight end/H-back
This may depend on whether Ensminger views Sheffer as a true tight end, or as the guy who will be Tory Carter’s backup. Sheffer was recruited to a position that was a staple in Matt Canada’s offense but could be changed with a new offensive coordinator. If Sheffer is used more as an H-back/fullback, he could see the field. If he’s simply a tight end, he’ll have to wait his chance.
Future is bright, but depth chart is crowded
Cole Smith, center
If Will Clapp bucks expectation and declares for the NFL Draft, Smith will compete with Lloyd Cushenberry to replace him. If Clapp stays, we may not see the Mississippi native in a game until the 2019 season.
Micah Baskerville, inside linebacker
Baskerville is being groomed as Devin White’s replacement, but there’s still another year before White needs to be replaced. (Presuming White leaves for the NFL after his junior season, which feels like a safe guess after a breakout sophomore season.)
Baskerville will contribute right away on special teams, but he has to leap past Tyler Taylor, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen to get onto the field at linebacker. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Baskerville break into the starting lineup. But as was the case with White as a freshman, it’s more likely to happen closer to the end of the season than the beginning.
Travez Moore, defensive end/outside linebacker
Moore is a hybrid player that fits into Arden Key’s Buck linebacker spot. However, the junior college transfer has to work his way past K’Lavon Chaisson, Andre Anthony and possibly Ray Thornton on the depth chart.
Davin Cotton, defensive line
Cotton played defensive tackle at Evangel Academy but projects as an end in Dave Aranda’s 3-4. Cotton is the real deal, but he’s recovering from a torn ACL that cut his senior season short. And with LSU’s defensive line likely anchored by potential all-Americans Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko, this will be a tough unit to break into in 2018.