LSU holds commitments from 19 players in the 2017 class with upwards of eight more spots to fill leading up to National Signing Day.
However, each year presents a different challenge for the coaching and recruiting staff, as they target certain priority positions to fill impending needs up and down the current roster.
For instance, there are obvious parts of the roster that will need to be addressed after the 2016 season wraps up. LSU is set to lose multiple offensive linemen, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs to graduation, and possibly even more to the 2017 NFL Draft.
The list of seniors includes Ethan Pocic, Josh Boutte, Colin Jeter, DeSean Smith, Travin Dural, Lewis Neal, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, Tre’Davious White and Rickey Jefferson. And we don’t expect Malachi Dupre, Leonard Fournette, Tashawn Bower, Davon Godchaux and Jamal Adams to return for their senior campaigns.
Among the positions hit hardest by impending departures include LSU’s backfield, wide receiving corps, defensive line, linebacking corps and secondary. Part of that will be addressed by the 2016 recruiting class, which featured a number of high-profile candidates that should be in contention for playing time when spring practice rolls around.
However, there are still positions in need of depth.
Short Term: Most Important Recruit
LSU’s linebacking corps is set to undergo major renovations this offseason with the departures of Beckwith, Riley and Bower. With three-quarters of the unit on the way out, there a number of in-house options to join Arden Key on the outside such as Ray Thornton and Andre Anthony.
The larger question at hand is how Dave Aranda will address middle and inside linebacker. Devin White is the obvious candidate to replace Beckwith. After all, he did so swimmingly during the spring and has played well in limited playing time as a true freshman this fall.
One name you should expect to hear quite often is Patrick Queen. The 4-star linebacker from Livonia (La.) High is slated to play the “Rover” position for the Tigers, which is a linebacker-safety hybrid, a role numerous 3-4 defenses and professional teams are beginning to utilize these days.
Queen boasts incredible athleticism and, more importantly, plays with instincts on the field. Whether he can beat out Michael Divinity Jr. or Donnie Alexander for a starting job beside White remains to be seen, but with a pressing need for help at linebacker, Queen is an obvious candidate to earn a spot in the rotation.
Runner-up: JaCoby Stevens. LSU is set to lose both its starting safeties after this season, leaving John Battle, Xavier Lewis and current freshmen Cameron Lewis and Eric Monroe to fill the voids left behind by Jamal Adams and Rickey Jefferson. Stevens is entrenched in this LSU along with another high-profile safety in Grant Delpit, and both represent prospects capable of earning playing time right away for the Tigers.
Long Term: Most Important Recruit
LSU’s reputation of “DBU” certainly has held true with the recruiting classes the team has reeled in over the past few years.
The Tigers are slated to lose both its starting safeties and All-World nickel back Tre’Davious White after the 2016 season. That leaves a couple of upperclassmen to vie for the open safety spots. With Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver II already in place, secondary coach Corey Raymond can turn to Kristian Fulton, Greedy Williams or Saivion Smith to replace White at the nickel.
That leaves an incredibly potential-laden prospect like 4-star cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. to eventually nab a starting role once Jackson and Toliver move on. Vincent, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 170 pounds, possesses many of the same exact skills as Jackson — speed, quick hips and a nose for the football. Additionally, he is a Texas state championship track runner with elite return skills.
While Jackson and Toliver are set to man the cornerback positions for at least another season, and with highly-touted prospects like Fulton, Smith and Williams waiting in the wings, we may be a few seasons away from Vincent being minted as the new playmaker in LSU’s secondary. With 7 interceptions, including 3 returned for scores, through 10 games already his senior season, we have a glimpse of Vincent’s capabilities.
Runner-up: Austin Deculus. If the loss to No. 1 Alabama taught us anything, it’s that LSU lacks a true offensive tackle on its roster. Ethan Pocic is the tallest lineman, but he’s firmly minted at center. K.J. Malone, Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby are natural guards. Deculus is rated as a top-10 tackle in the 2017 class. At 6-foot-6 and 331 pounds, the 4-star Texan is on an incredible workout regiment to be an instant-impact player at the next level. He, along with current redshirt freshman Willie Allen, represent true options at tackle for the Tigers.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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