Nick Suss/SEC Country
LSU linebacker Devin White (40) starred in Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense in the spring.

LSU football: 3 under-the-radar Tigers who could be first-team All-SEC in 2017

Nick Suss

Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we look into the crystal ball, break down the ol’ hardball, catch up with the roundball and more. Enjoy!

Forecasting the first team

Earlier this week, Athlon Sports released its projections for 2017 first-, second-, third- and fourth-team All-SEC performers. The list was littered with LSU football players, notably first-team members Derrius Guice, Arden Key and Will Clapp.

Those three are pretty obvious. Guice and Key are among the best players in the country at their respective positions. And while Clapp hasn’t played center yet at LSU, he was a dominant performer at guard last season and the SEC crop is somewhat week on the offensive line this season.

But which other LSU football players have the best chances of breaking out and securing first-team All-SEC status this season? Here are my picks:

LB Devin White

There are plenty of gifted inside linebackers in the SEC this season, namely Georgia’s Roquan Smith. But in the vacuum left behind by former Alabama backer Reuben Foster, LSU’s burgeoning superstar in the middle could be the guy to step up.

Devin White was a star this spring and, in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense, could rack up a ton of tackles as Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley did a year ago. Not to mention his past as a running back makes him a big-play threat, as evidenced by his play against Texas A&M last season:

DL Rashard Lawrence

Rashard Lawrence is another player who’ll be a first-year starter in 2017, but his talent speaks for itself. Another breakout defender from the spring, Lawrence’s 6-foot-3, 301-pound frame makes him a menace in the middle, while his deceptively quick feet enable him to get by blockers with finesse.

The sophomore will likely be asked to fill the role Davon Godchaux left behind by leaving for the NFL draft, but perhaps as more of a run stopper and less of a pass rusher. With his ability as a run stopper, Lawrence would be an easy All-SEC performer if he can replicate Godchaux’s 6 sacks.

FB/TE J.D. Moore

Given the way LSU ran its previous regime, it might seem like a minor miracle to even get LSU tight ends involved in the passing game, let alone get them nationally recognized. But Matt Canada’s offense heavily employs H-backs, a role that former fullback J.D. Moore will fill nicely.

We already know Moore is capable of being a great lead blocker. But he’s also LSU’s second-leading returning receiver by catches, and might prove to be a hyper-capable pass catcher as well. Combine that with the SEC’s underwhelming crop of tight ends post O.J. Howard and Evan Engram and you have yourself a chance that Moore could show out.

Let’s talk about baseball

The LSU baseball team braved rainy conditions and lit up one of the SEC’s best young pitchers Wednesday to advance in the SEC Tournament with a 10-3 victory against Missouri.

Senior second baseman Cole Freeman led LSU’s offensive charge with a 4-for-4 day with 4 RBI, 2 runs scored and a home run, his second of the season. But Freeman wasn’t LSU’s only offensive spark plug, as both Kramer Robertson and Antoine Duplantis — the men hitting before and after Freeman respectively — notched 2 hits apiece as well, scoring 4 runs and driving in 3.

Through the last three weeks of the regular season, LSU’s offense relied primarily on the bottom third of the lineup, especially catcher Michael Papierski and center fielder Zach Watson. Thanks to those two, LSU turned on a long winning streak, one that carried into the tournament.

But now, the top third of LSU’s order seems to be waking up, along with cleanup hitter Greg Deichmann, who went 1 for 4 with a walk Wednesday. If the top half of LSU’s lineup continues to hit and the bottom half doesn’t drop off too much, LSU may well be the most dangerous team in the country heading into regionals.

That all depends on if the pitching can stay hot, though. Speaking of which …

Well that was a segue

LSU will return to action Thursday, as the No. 2 seed Tigers take on the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats at approximately 8 p.m. CT. The time of the game is subject to change, as three games beforehand could run long, pushing the game back. Weather may also play a part, as rain has delayed or forced cancellation of games on the first two days of the tournament.

LSU will send ace Alex Lange to the mound Thursday night. The first-team All-SEC performer has gone 7 innings or longer in his last 4 starts, allowing 6 runs in those outings for an ERA of 1.67 over the last month.

Conversely, Kentucky will start an All-SEC starter of its own, Sean Hjelle. In SEC play this year, Hjelle is 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA. That included a 6-inning, 3-run affair versus LSU in April, a game Kentucky won, 12-5. Jared Poché started that game for LSU, so Lange and Hjelle have not faced one another this season.

You’ll be able to watch the game on the SEC Network.

Meet the LSU football team

Fellow SEC Country LSU beat writer Alex Hickey and I trekked out to the beautiful town of Bay St. Louis, Miss., on Wednesday to meet with LSU quarterback Myles Brennan. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll roll out a ton of content about Brennan, including one story that’ll likely come out Thursday.

But, to sate your appetites in the meantime, here’s a video of a conversation Alex and I had with Brennan over Facebook Live.

Checking in with hoopy-hoops

As I discussed in Bayou Bengal Briefing on Wednesday, former Wright State guard Mark Alstork was scheduled to make his decision about where he would transfer Wednesday. And he did.

He didn’t choose LSU.

Alstork chose Illinois over LSU and South Carolina, among other schools, still leaving LSU with one scholarship to spare heading into 2017-18. Don’t expect new head coach Will Wade to pocket the scholarship, though. As Wade told SEC Country last week, he’s looking for a transfer guard to fill the last spot, and missing out on Alstork won’t cause Wade to give up.

I have a feeling we’re going to be checking in with hoopy-hoops plenty in the next couple of weeks. Keep your eyes peeled.

ICYMI

News happens. Here’s some:

Today in made-up holidays

Oftentimes, I use this section to highlight meaningless made-up holidays. But the made-up holiday celebrated on Thursday actually is a meaningful one.

Across the nation on Thursday, we celebrate Red Nose Day, a holiday that raises money for children’s health charities through comedy and celebrity endorsement. Go ahead and buy yourself a red nose at a local Walgreen’s and wear it all day to show support and solidarity with the cause, a cause everyone should be able to get behind.

And, since this section is the home of random sitcom references in the Bayou Bengal Briefing, let’s post the best Red Nose Day clip there is, courtesy of The Office. No, not that one. The first one.

There’s going to be a Red Nose Day special on NBC on Thursday night. If you like comedy and telethons that help out the less fortunate, it’s the place to be. Or, you know, it kind of conflicts with LSU baseball. So, flip back and forth.

Miss a previous edition of the Bayou Bengal Briefing? Find every one of SEC Country’s daily LSU football columns right here.