Welcome back to the weekly LSU football and recruiting mailbag.
Every week, 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 right before we approach the team’s annual elite prospect camp and two weeks before fall camp kicks off. Naturally, that leaves the door open for plenty of questions about where the Tigers stand on the recruiting trail and how the depth chart is shaping up heading into August.
Without further ado, here we go:
What true freshman will make an impact this year? (@Derrick70292577)
There’s a lot of candidates that fit this ball largely because the team inked a star-studded 2016 class with so many prospects capable of contributing as early as this season.
However, LSU returns 18 starters on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, which means starting roles may not be attainable for the majority of the true freshmen. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to carve out significant roles, though.
First, let’s take a look at the positions where LSU is already pretty settled at — quarterback, running back, tight end and offensive line. Don’t expect many of the true freshmen to work into rotations at those spots barring injuries.
That leaves the wide receiving corps, defensive line, linebackers, secondary and special teams units for the true freshmen to make their marks. We’re going to dive heavily into the receiving position a little bit later on, but I’ll tease it here by saying that Drake Davis and Dee Anderson are both candidates to see extended playing time as early as 2016.
That leaves the defense and special teams. Rashard Lawrence is a prime candidate to slide right into LSU’s defensive line rotation, particularly because the team is quite thin at nose tackle. Only Davon Godchaux stands in front of Lawrence at this point, as we await a verdict on Travonte Valentine’s return to LSU. Nonetheless, with or without Valentine on the Tigers’ roster, you can bet on Lawrence, the nation’s No. 5 defensive tackle in the Class of 2016, making his mark in the LSU defensive line rotation as he splits reps with Godchaux and possibly splits out to defensive end behind Christian LaCouture.
Additionally, LSU is in great need of help at the defensive end spots, and freshman Sci Martin is a candidate for time there. Martin set a record for sacks in a single season at McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans. This offseason, he shed some weight to add some speed, though he may get a very unique role in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s defense coming off the edge as perhaps a stand-up end or linebacker. Nonetheless, he has garnered the attention of the LSU coaches early on this summer.
Devin White already proved he’s capable of being an every-down linebacker when he filled in for an injured Kendell Beckwith this spring. Duke Riley is the projected starter opposite Beckwith on the inside, but Les Miles recently said that he expects White to see time at linebacker in every single game this season.
Also in the linebacking corps, Michael Divinity Jr. was an early enrollee and a candidate for a spot in the rotation along with starters Tashawn Bower and Arden Key, as well as Corey Thompson, who could see time at safety and linebacker. Divinity was arguably the best defensive player in Louisiana his senior season at John Ehret High School (Marrero, La.), and like White, has spent the entire spring getting accustomed to Aranda’s scheme. For that matter, I find it difficult to think that Rahsaan Thornton won’t also see time getting after the passer at some point in the year, too.
In the secondary, Saivion Smith already impressed while filling in for an injured Kevin Toliver II and Tre’Davious White this spring. The early enrollee should also be joined by Kristian Fulton, Cameron Lewis and Eric Monroe as players capable of cracking the defensive back rotation right off the bat. Senior Rickey Jefferson is the projected starter opposite Jamal Adams at safety, but both Lewis and Monroe should see time there during fall camp. Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond may mix and match them at both corner and safety — along with Smith and Fulton — and take advantage of their versatile skill-sets early and often.
Lastly, Trent Domingue recently did not have his scholarship renewed, which means Connor Culp should be a part of the LSU kicker competition. There are a number of upperclassmen that should vie to fill Domingue’s role, but Culp was a player that Miles rained praise on during SEC Media Days.
What would LSU have in scholarship numbers if Mullen and Fowler had signed? (@LSUPETERadams)
This is certainly a loaded question, but let’s look back at February and relive the final moments of the 2016 recruiting cycle.
On National Signing Day, 4-star cornerback Trayvon Mullen selected Clemson over LSU and 4-star defensive end/outside linebacker Erick Fowler flipped from LSU to Texas in a span of just a few hours. The LSU coaches had an inkling that this was going to occur. That Sunday, they landed commitments from quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. and offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry Jr., the latter being of the silent variety.
With Mullen and Fowler out — and Cushenberry and Scott in — that still left LSU at 24 letters of intent for signing day. The 25th came about a month later after 3-star New Orleans defensive end Sci Martin opted not to sign his letter of intent for TCU.
The McDonogh 35 product received late visits from Miles and Nick Saban leading up to National Signing Day, because both SEC West powers were trying to flip the talented pass rusher. It also came when Martin was weighing a future in Fort Worth, Texas, which is about eight hours outside of his hometown of New Orleans. At the time, Martin’s mother was ill, so he was naturally unsure of how far he could leave while she battled her condition.
In March, Martin signed his letter of intent with LSU to take the 24th scholarship from the team. Three-star Louisiana receiver Da’Monte Coxie was the lone commit in the class not to sign one because his grades did not meet the necessary benchmarks, which led him to enroll at junior college at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi.
Even though Edwin Alexander and Andre Alexander have not yet reported to campus (but are expected to), their scholarships are still honored — at least for the time being. So, in conclusion, that leaves 24 scholarship from the LSU football team in the Class of 2016.
Do you think LSU will be interested in Mykelle McDaniel, who is now eligible to sign/play in 2016? Would he be a candidate for OLB in the 3-4 scheme? (@adamsmr123)
I think a lot of SEC teams are interested in McDaniel. I don’t consider LSU one of them.
McDaniel recently gained eligibility and is a full-qualified. That means he’s OK to sign with any schools that is willing to take on his scholarship. Since then, 10 schools have reached out to the 3-star Georgia defensive end. If I were a betting man, my money would be on Alabama, Texas A&M Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina to be included in that mix, since McDaniel has visited those SEC schools or has a relationship with them.
The Peach State product will likely decide between the in-state Bulldogs and South Carolina. He unofficially visited Georgia right before National Signing Day and did the same to Columbia, S.C. in March.
While LSU may or may not consider McDaniel a good fit for the 3-4 scheme, the team had little contact with the strong-side end after extending an offer to him. LSU reeled in a deep outside linebacker class in 2016 and is aiming to further those efforts with three to four of the best in the nation in 2017.
In other words, McDaniel will be a late gift for another SEC power, likely Georgia.
What is your take on the importance of FB John David Moore? (@tsoroe)
As a former high school fullback myself, I may be a bit biased. But whenever you’re the likely candidate to lead block for Leonard Fournette, you have an important role.
That’s precisely the case wth Moore, who is expected to be fully healthy when fall camp gets underway Aug. 4. Moore missed half of his sophomore season after sustaining a knee injury against South Carolina.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound junior is shaping up to be a big, physical presence in LSU’s downhill running game. Last year was his first season as a full-time fullback after transitioning to the backfield from his tight end spot.
Keep in mind that Fournette opened the 2015 season at a record-setting pace, amassing 1,000 yards in the first five games of the season — behind Moore — becoming just the 10th player in FBS history to accomplish the feat. Moore may face some competition for the starting role during fall camp, but he’s the odds-on favorite to land the job. That means he will be as critical of a component to the Tigers’ rushing attack as the interior linemen creating holes for Fournette to explode through.
Fullbacks don’t usually garner a lot of praise, but LSU’s downhill approach is strengthened by an effective presence at fullback. Moore won’t get many touches and maybe a handful of receptions throughout the season, but he’s essentially a sixth lineman that lines up right ahead of Fournette in the backfield to accentuate the running game. If that doesn’t summarize his importance, I don’t know what else can!
Who will be the third WR in the offense? (@Derrick70292577)
There are three candidates for this role — Tyron Johnson, D.J. Chark and Jazz Ferguson. All three saw extensive action during the spring with senior Travin Dural limited to a spectator role, but all three should vie for snaps and all three should see time considering the shift toward more spread formations in the offense.
First and foremost, Chark is the veteran of the bunch as a junior. He saw time in five games last season and was heavily involved in LSU’s romping of Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl last December, when he took a handoff 79 yards to pay dirt. Chark has been working with wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig throughout the spring as he tries to cement a spot in LSU’s starting lineup as the No. 3 option. He can stretch the field and has strong hands, and would likely excel out of the slot.
Expect a lot of competition from Johnson, though, who certainly provided flashes during his freshman campaign and saw a lot of reps behind Malachi Dupre this spring. The elite New Orleans product possesses the dynamic ability with the ball in his hands that makes him a candidate to thrive in the newly emphasized short-passing game. He could line up out wide or expose defenses from the slot, and last year displayed his ability to be a vertical threat with nine grabs for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Ferguson will also be in the mix. Naturally, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound wideout possesses a height advantage over both Chark and Johnson, which could make him valuable in the red zone. He saw limited action during his freshman season last year, which is why he’ll need to follow up a strong spring with an even better fall camp.
While Chark and Johnson are the favorites to earn the Nos. 3 and 4 jobs, don’t count out roles for some of the freshmen either. Davis and Anderson are two players that are highly capable of earning playing time with big fall camps. Anderson could be the team’s most dynamic deep threat, after he corralled a 70-yard touchdown in the spring game.
Davis was not an early enrollee, but was arguably the most polished receiver in LSUs 2016 class. The Baton Rouge, La., native is a multi-sport athlete with supreme athleticism, and already caught the attention of quarterback Brandon Harris during team workouts this summer. I’d count on either Anderson or Davis — or both — to flash some encouraging signs at different points in their true freshmen seasons.
What’s the word on LSU recruiting Amik Robertson? I keep hearing this kid is a baller! (@chris_baudean)
Chris, what you’re hearing is absolutely correct.
Robertson, the versatile defensive back from Thibodaux (La.) High School, is one of the state’s hidden gems. How long he will continue to fly under the radar remains to be seen, though.
A 3-star athlete, Robertson has made several visits to LSU, beginning with the team’s “Boys from the Boot” event in February, the annual Bayou Picnic and again this past weekend for the 7-on-7 tournament. Robertson played defensive back for the Louisiana Bootleggers, a perennial star-studded squad, which had the LSU coaches watching closely.
During his past visit to LSU in May, the LSU coaches told Robertson that he reminded them of the Honey Badger. That comparison is fitting, considering Robertson is a versatile defensive back that doesn’t exactly boast a big frame, but has elite ball skills, can shadow opposing receivers and has a nose for the football.
So, is he on LSU’s radar. Certainly. But LSU is going to hold off on offering the in-state talent because there are other Louisiana and out-of-state cornerbacks that they hold a bit higher on their 2017 wish list. There are guys like his 7-on-7 teammate Cheyenne Labruzza, New Orleans corner Tre’ Swilling and Florida cornerback Kaheem Roach that already hold offers from LSU. But that doesn’t mean the coaches won’t be monitoring Robertson throughout the remainder of the summer and fall while also seeing how their current class shapes up.
Robertson procured a handful of big offers this spring while recovering from a torn ACL. Arizona, Cincinnati, Purdue, Kansas State and Tulane all have extended offers to the 5-foot-9, 165-pound corner. So has Texas-San Antonio, where former LSU assistant Frank Wilson is trying to stockpile some of the talent on the Tigers’ radar. Robertson fits the bill and maintains a good relationship with Wilson, who at one point recruited the Honey Badger to LSU.
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.