Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly mailbag, a question-and-answer forum between the readers and LSU team and recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman.
In this edition, we touch on a much-needed position in LSU’s recruiting class, which young receivers could be impact players and what changes might occur in the secondary.
To submit a question for Spiegelman, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who do you see exploding more onto the scene at the WR position? (@leakdasickestt_)
This is a question on a lot of fans’ minds, so I’m glad you asked it.
D.J. Chark is the only proven wide receiver on LSU’s roster this spring, and even after a breakout junior campaign, I believe the newest player to don the No. 7 has an even higher ceiling in Matt Canada’s offense.
I know that isn’t the answer that you want, so let me delve deeper.
Dee Anderson has a chance to be LSU’s No. 2 receiver behind Chark. We know what he does best — go deep — and in the new three- and four-receiver sets, I believe that will be his best contribution.
However, I tend to lean toward Drake Davis as a player capable of bursting onto the scene in 2017. The uber-athlete Davis was not only one of the nation’s top receivers in the 2016 recruiting cycle, but a three-sport athlete. Davis excelled at football, basketball and soccer, and could have easily pursued a collegiate career at any of those sports.
Davis chose football, and under the tutelage of Canada and newly minted LSU wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph, I believe he can show that he made a wise decision.
Nobody has ever questioned Davis’ athleticism. The biggest task for the redshirt freshman is grasping the new offense. If he can do that, then there are plenty of opportunities available to him.
In LSU’s most recent spring scrimmage, Davis gathered one catch for 39 yards and was the lone receiver to reel in a touchdown. Anderson recorded 2 receptions for 30 yards and Russell Gage — the presumptive starter in the slot — had 3 catches for 59 yards. Davis’ big reception indicates he can be the explosive player we anticipate he’ll become.
Which elite RBs will be committed to LSU once the 2018 class is finalized? (@RyanMicklin61)
If I could project this now, Ryan, I think I might have a case for a serious raise with my supervisor.
Earlier this spring, the LSU staff dished out several offers to running backs across the country. In March alone, Chris Curry, Harold Joiner, Keaontay Ingram, Tavion Thomas, Lavonte Valentine, Jashaun Corbin all claimed offers. LSU has also offered Georgia tailbacks Lyn-J Dixon and Michael Barrett.
Of those backs, LSU made serious impressions on Curry and Joiner, both of whom have visited in recent weeks. There is also interest from both Florida backs — Valentine and Corbin — as well as Thomas, but those tailbacks would need to make their way to Baton Rouge before I’d project them into LSU’s 2018 class.
Based on numbers and the current depth chart, I expect the Tigers to take three tailbacks this cycle. That includes two backs capable of being on the field for three downs and perhaps a third-down speedster who can also help out on jet sweeps.
With that in mind, it would be a coin flip between Joiner and Curry. Joiner named LSU and Auburn as his early leaders, with his recruitment still blowing up. Curry included LSU in his top 3 after visiting for national junior day.
If the Tigers can secure a commitment from one of those two national elite options, it leaves the door open for the team to pursue some in-state and local talent. Louisiana’s top backs are A.J. Carter, Tony St. Julien, Jeremy Gibson, Devin Brumfield and Mississippi 4-star Fabian Franklin, the highest-rated back of the group.
A late offer may deter a budding recruit like Carter but could go a long way for Franklin, Gibson or Brumfield. The same goes for St. Julien, who fits the bill as that aforementioned speedster, change-of-pace back.
Offers to the in-state talent won’t come until late in the spring or camp season, and it could even go into the fall.
Out of those backs, the three I included in my inaugural mock signing class were:
- Out-of-state: Harold Joiner
- In-state (Mississippi): Fabian Franklin
- Speed back: Tony St. Julien
Do you see any midseason changes coming to the secondary? (@CajunTiger1787)
There are definitely a handful of scenarios where some of the young defensive backs could crack the lineup. Injury and poor performance are obviously some potential reasons why.
Ed Paris, Kevin Toliver and Xavier Lewis are the veterans to keep an eye on.
Paris, making the transition from corner to safety, could get pushed by Eric Monroe or JaCoby Stevens if there are some struggles in the process. Monroe has looked sharp this spring and certainly capable of pushing Paris. The same goes for Stevens, who, given his 5-star status and work ethic, is a popular choice to play right away.
Toliver is a veteran with a wealth of experience. Obviously, he started — and played well — as a true freshman. He has received overwhelmingly positive reviews thus far this spring. However, coach Ed Orgeron said that the staff saw some good and some bad in Toliver’s 2016 film, and if it’s more of the latter, I believe Saivion Smith would be an obvious choice as a fit on the outside.
After spending time at both corner and safety, Lewis has been anxiously awaiting his turn at the nickel. Those are big shoes to fill — replacing Tre’Davious White and Dwayne Thomas in the slot — and it’s a position of paramount importance in Dave Aranda‘s defense. Former 5-star recruit Kristian Fulton has bulked up and was the talk of the offseason behind closed doors, and would be an obvious choice for playing time in that same role.
LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond prefers veterans in the starting secondary … at least at the beginning of the season. However, if an injury were to occur or poor play was noticed, then with the wealth of talent on his roster there are several other options Raymond could quickly turn to.
How’s Kristian Fulton looking out there this spring? (@BrunetColby12)
Colby, there has been nothing but positivity surrounding Fulton behind closed doors and in practices this spring.
Fulton, the former 5-star cornerback out of Archbishop Rummel (La.) in New Orleans, is preparing for a very important season. He didn’t see the field all that much as a freshman and did not take the redshirt, so playing time will be on the table for the 2017 season.
This offseason, he has been in the weight room adding muscle to his frame. Pair that with his elite speed, he is becoming the ideal fit for the all-important nickel role in Aranda’s defense.
Remember, White played in the slot during the most important moments of games a season ago, and excelling in that spot is what quantifies him as a first-round pick in the NFL draft next month. It’s a role assumed by athletic, quick and also physical defenders. With Fulton already possessing those first two skills and working to sharpen the third, it’s a role he’ll inevitably excel in.
During spring practices, Fulton has continued to look the part. The biggest obstacle, though, is that it’s his first spring. Of the highly touted 2016 defensive back signees, only Smith enrolled early and got a taste of spring ball a year ago. Fulton, Monroe and Cameron Lewis are all participating in their first spring.
This experience is invaluable and is a critical first step toward Fulton pushing Lewis for the starting nickel job. Lewis has an edge when it comes to previous playing time, which is why Raymond is getting the nod this March. However, in time, expect Fulton to continue his surge.
Why isn’t Lindsey Scott getting more snaps in the spring games? (@Tai_Ukiyo)
For one, it’s still early. But based on the statistics from the closed-door spring scrimmage on Saturday, it is a bit concerning.
Danny Etling got 10 reps at quarterback, which makes sense considering he’s the likely starter for the season. Then, factor in that he’s getting experience in a new offense — the more reps, the better.
Justin McMillan got 6 reps last weekend, and following Etling’s lead, threw a touchdown pass.
Lindsey Scott went 2 for 3 for 23 yards but no touchdown to show. However, Orgeron still indicated that the redshirt freshman received a good chunk of action behind center.
“We’re still working (the quarterbacks) out,” Orgeron said. “Obviously, Danny, Justin and Lindsey got most of the reps today. We made some big plays in the passing game today. It’s a tribute to (receivers coach) Mickey (Joseph) and to (offensive coordinator) Matt (Canada) and the coaching staff.”
Clearly, the coaching staff is putting the onus on Etling to get acclimated to Canada’s system and McMillan to be a capable backup. Nonetheless, Scott is getting chances. Even if they are limited, those reps are significant if Scott is going to push McMillan for the No. 2 quarterback job by the spring game or into fall camp.
Scott is a very intelligent and diligent player. He may know the playbook as good or better than any quarterback on LSU’s roster and could have the best work ethic of anyone on the team. While his arm, his athleticism and his high school accomplishments can never be brought into question, his stature can.
Scott stands only 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds. He is two inches shorter than Etling and three inches shorter than McMillan or Lowell Narcisse. Maybe a Johnny Manziel or Drew Brees overcame great height with a good arm and great athleticism, but it is certainly not the norm.
While three pass attempts in a spring scrimmage are not very impressive, it is also not the end of the world. Scott is getting opportunities, and if he makes the most of them, I would trust the coaching staff to give him more. It’s only midway through LSU’s spring practice and we still have an entire August of camp to go through.
Let’s not hit the panic button on Scott just yet.
Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s weekly LSU mailbag right here.