Welcome back to the weekly LSU football and recruiting mailbag.
LSU reporter Sam Spiegelman goes through his stack to answer some of the most pressing questions submitted by you, the readers.
This week’s mailbag comes after the Tigers added yet another Texas prospect to their 2017 class in the form of 4-star safety Grant Delpit, ranked as the No. 9 prospect at his position. LSU’s 2017 recruiting class now has reached 15 commits, and more could be on the way this month as we look ahead to camps in Baton Rouge, La., this and next weekend.
Much of the attention, naturally, is on what’s next for the purple and gold. So without further ado, here we go:
What is Donte Jackson’s status … is he eligible? Will he play offense this year? (@Derrick70292577)
Jackson, a member of the football and outdoor track teams, spent part of the spring academically ineligible. That ruling came in early April as the defensive back did not meet the required hours needed for the spring semester.
However, that should not pose an issue for Jackson’s return to the field for fall camp. As long as he makes up the missing class, Jackson will be eligible to return for August practices.
The speedster was off to a fast start this spring, filling in for an injured Kevin Toliver II alongside senior Tre’Davious White and early enrollee Saivion Smith. He is also a candidate to see added reps as a punt return specialist, a role in which White has thrived in years past.
So Jackson will be back for fall camp, assuming he takes care of the academic side of things, but could he be in store for a role on offense?
Well, he’s already a candidate to see a lot of reps in the secondary, likely at nickelback, as one of the few experienced returners entering 2016. However, with Smith, Kristian Fulton and Andraez Williams all on board for fall camp, that does give the LSU coaches a little leg room to move the speedy Jackson all over the field to put him in positions to thrive.
LSU’s offense has found a genuine deep threat in freshman wide receiver Dee Anderson, but Jackson does have an offensive background. The two-time Louisiana state track champion also spent time at wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback for Riverdale High School (Jefferson, La.) and proved to be as electric a weapon at that level as there was in the country.
The former 5-star recruit racked up 1,637 yards and 20 touchdowns his senior season while also returning kicks and punts and transitioning to cornerback, where he was projected to play at LSU. That spring, he clocked a 10.42 in the 100-meter state race, repeating as champion, while also registering a 21.26 in the 200 to take down that hardware as well.
So, if LSU is looking for another explosive athlete to make plays, they may not have to look much further than their own secondary to find one.
How would Tyler Shelvin and Marvin Wilson play next to each other in a 3-4? (@chris_baudean)
This questions come after a story I posted earlier this week with Wilson suggesting he could be a better player if he played alongside Shelvin on LSU’s defensive line.
It’s good to point out that both Wilson and Shelvin are defensive tackles — the Nos. 1 and 2 in the country, respectively — but let’s not forget who coaches the defensive line at LSU.
Ed Orgeron is a guru when it comes to creating havoc up front. Wilson is 6-foot-4 and 329 pounds while Shelvin boasts an equally as impressive build of 6-foot-2 and 329 pounds. Both are nightmares to contain in the middle, but Wilson has the ability to also shift outside and spend time at defensive end.
Shelvin is the quintessential nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme like LSU’s. So is Wilson, for what it’s worth, and ideally the two would be a part of a rotation up front to ensure that the team was getting productivity for four quarters. But Orgeron would find a way to move his pieces around to generate some confusion and provide different looks to opposing offenses, and Wilson’s versatility certainly could play a factor in doing that.
For comparison’s sake, LSU’s current defensive line is comprised of nose tackle Davon Godchaux (6-foot-4, 293 pounds) and defensive end Christian LaCouture (6-foot-5, 307 pounds). Their frames are quite similar, but based on skill sets, Orgeron has moved them back and forth and mixed and match in order to see whose game is best fitted for each position.
The same can be done with Shelvin and Wilson, not to mention the new crop of freshmen in Rashard Lawrence, Ed Alexander and Glen Logan. LSU has a need all over the defensive line after switching fronts, so any defensive linemen could be subject to playing multiple positions.
How far is Danny Etling behind Brandon Harris for the quarterback job? (@Derrick70292577)
It’s not even close.
The so-called quarterback competition this spring was a politically correct way of getting both Etling and Harris to put their best foot forward for the sake of practice. But Harris was always going to be the starter barring an injury or unforseen drop in production.
Harris is preparing for his third season at LSU and his second as the unquestioned starting quarterback. Etling was ineligible to play after transferring from Purdue last year, but was also impressive and looks the part of a very capable backup.
The two signal-callers share a very close relationship and have helped each other. But let me offer you a twist as we quickly approach the fall.
Harris will enter the year as LSU’s No. 1 quarterback. He’s entrenched in that role, assuming he plays as well as he did at the start of last season, when he threw 10 touchdowns before his first interception, which coincided with a 7-0 start.
With 2016 being a season where expectations are sky high, any poor production from any position on the field may result in a change. That’s the luxury of this year’s Tigers roster being so deep. Harris is not immune to that either, so if he stumbles out of the gate to start the season, Etling may hear his name called out of the bullpen.
Having said that, Harris has looked sharp this spring and there’s reason to believe he will make the leap in 2016. He’s playing in a new offense with even more weapons at his disposal, and it cannot be overlooked that he’s got another offseason under his belt.
Who plays alongside Kendell Beckwith at linebacker this season? (@Derrick70292577)
Senior Duke Riley is the top candidate to start the season alongside Beckwith in the middle. Will that remain the situation into the season? That’s up for debate.
Freshman Devin White filled in for an injured Beckwith for much of the spring, and impressed in the process. Keep in mind White switched from running back to linebacker at the start of the spring after telling the LSU coaches he wanted to be in a position where he could see the field as early as possible.
If that’s the case, consider White a candidate to eventually replace Riley in the starting lineup or factor into the Tigers’ linebacker rotation. He seemed ready for the role in the spring, but he’ll have a chance to push Riley for the starting spot again in the fall camp and prove himself early on this season.
On the outside, Arden Key and Corey Thompson are currently the betting favorites to start. Key established himself as one of the better pass-rushers in the SEC down the stretch of 2015, notching four sacks over the final seven games of the season. Thompson has shifted from safety to outside linebacker, and immediately secured reps opposite of Key.
Thompson is a senior that has bulked up a tad since switching positions and is the most seasoned player of that group. Last year, he registered 66 tackles and three pass breakups, but he’ll have to show he has enough quickness to get after opposing quarterbacks to thrive as a linebacker in Dave Aranda’s system.
Either way, count on fellow senior Tashawn Bower to be a part of the outside linebacker rotation, as well as Isaiah Washington and true freshmen Michael Divinity Jr., Rahssan Thornton and Andre Anthony. LSU’s 2016 class was loaded with talented backers, all of which will compete for spots on the edge.
Will Sci Martin be in the defensive line rotation this year? (@Derrick70292577)
That remains to be seen. Martin was a record-setting sack artist his senior season at McDonogh 35 High School (New Orleans), breaking the storied school’s sack record with 33.5 on the year.
Martin played his senior year at 230 pounds, but has trimmed down to 214 over the summer. The last look I had as the pass-rusher, he looked lean, poised to play in the stand-up linebacker role rather than with a hand in the dirt.
So with that being said, Martin could join fellow freshmen Divinity, Thornton and Anthony in the outside linebacker rotation rather than joining Godchaux, LaCouture and Frank Herron along the defensive line.
Keep in mind that Alexander, Lawrence and Logan are all coming in pad the defensive line depth. Lawrence and Alexander will be necessary additions to the nose tackle group, while the versatile Logan — who sports a larger frame of 6-foot-4 and 284 pounds — could spend time both on the interior and at defensive end.
What’s going on with Isaiah Buggs. Is he an LSU lean? (@Derrick70292577)
The nation’s top junior college defensive end is a few days away from making his college decision.
The 4-star recruit has named a final five of Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU, so inevitably, Buggs has a future in the SEC West.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound weak-side end has made numerous unofficial visits to LSU. In early June he stopped at Auburn and plans to do the same with Alabama at some point in July before his announcement.
Buggs, rated at the No. 2 overall junior college prospect, was recruited by LSU coming out of high school in 2015 in Ruston, La. Since then, he’s transformed his body by growing two more inches and adding 35 pounds.
That type of size and the same ability that the LSU coaches saw in high school makes Buggs the ideal fit to play defensive end in the 3-4 front. In fact, he compares favorably to Godchaux, who is a close friend of his and recently got a chance to visit with when the two were together at LSU’s prospect camp last month.
Orgeron has done a fantastic job of recruiting Buggs, even after the weak-side end opted to exclude the Tigers from his recruitment after a misstep in communication. LSU’s defensive line coach showed up at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College soon after, re-establishing a connection with the prized recruit, which led to Buggs attending the LSU spring game in April and subsequent visits after that.
Consider Buggs a lean toward LSU for various reasons. He’s wowed by the opportunity to play for Orgeron. He hails from The Boot. He also likes the idea of taking Godchaux’s spot on the defensive line if and when he heads to the NFL. One other interesting piece to note is that Buggs has an outstanding relationship with his mother. He grew up without a father, so the closeness between mom and son has played a major role in his decision-making process. Returning to Louisiana to play for the hometown Tigers would give Buggs a unique opportunity to get his mother to all of his future home games. That cannot be overlooked in this process.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.