Bayou Bengal Briefing: LSU’s options at NT without Tyler Shelvin in 2017
LSU football is in the news every day, and the Bayou Bengal Briefing is here to keep you updated with the latest headlines five mornings a week. Join us every Monday through Friday for the biggest news on Tigers football, recruiting, baseball and more. Enjoy!
This section will be on the nose
Massive nose tackle and top-rated recruit in Louisiana for the Class of 2017 Tyler Shelvin finally joined the LSU football team during the weekend, as was reported by SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman and confirmed by Ed Orgeron.
The nation’s No. 4 defensive tackle in the last cycle per 247Sports, Shelvin wasn’t able to enroll in school on time because he had to finish up some high school summer classes. As a result of his late enrollment, Shelvin will have to take a redshirt in 2017, leaving the Tigers with a bit of a depth issue at nose tackle.
Luckily for LSU, the Tigers return two players who would start on most every team in the nation. Senior Greg Gilmore will look to improve on his 34-tackle, 1-sack 2016 campaign as the Tigers’ starter, while sophomore Ed Alexander — a former top-10 defensive tackle recruit — will try to break out after his 13-tackle freshman season.
Orgeron said Saturday that Alexander is battling some injuries and came into camp a little overweight, so Gilmore will retain the starter’s role to begin the season. But nose tackle is one of the most rotational positions on the field, perhaps the most. It shouldn’t come as a surprise after all that the biggest players on the field need to be refreshed the most frequently.
But that’s where Shelvin’s redshirt hurts LSU a little bit. It’ll be hard for LSU to keep Gilmore and Alexander optimally fresh if they’re the only options the Tigers have. Sure, Dave Aranda’s 3-4 base defense makes it so the two big men never have to see the field at the same time. But when LSU plays quick-moving spread offenses, these guys are going to have to be especially conditioned to make sure they don’t get gassed too early.
And that’s not even mentioning what happens if one guy gets hurt. Because with Shelvin unavailable and Texas Tech transfer Breiden Fehoko taking his NCAA redshirt this season as well, LSU doesn’t have another true option at the nose.
In other words, you can add nose tackle depth to the growing list of second-line concerns following LSU into the 2017 season.
In heartwarming LSU news
Orgeron announced during the weekend that he awarded scholarships to two former walk-ons: quarterback Caleb Lewis and linebacker Jonathan Rucker.
Coach O has raved about Rucker this camp, going as far Thursday to say about Rucker: “I think Jonathan is going to start on most special teams and can go in there and play for us at linebacker, and we feel very comfortable.” Back in the spring when LSU was thin at linebacker before the freshmen arrived, Rucker got plenty of playing time and used the opportunity to prove his talent.
As for Lewis, his addition to the scholarship ranks brings the Tigers back up to five scholarship passers after Lindsey Scott’s transfer. Out of high school, Lewis had scholarship offers from schools such as Buffalo, Ohio and Florida International, but ultimately chose to walk on at LSU.
While explaining the decision Saturday, Orgeron said Lewis came to in the offseason and said he was getting to a point where he couldn’t afford to be a walk-on much longer. Orgeron promised Lewis that he’d do whatever he could to keep him. And it happened.
So keep an eye out for these guys this season. You’ll almost definitely see Rucker. And maybe you’ll see Lewis later in games to give the guy some love.
As a reminder, the preseason AP Top 25 poll will come out Monday at 11 a.m. CT (noon ET). LSU will almost certainly be ranked, likely somewhere in the 12-17 range.
LSU has been ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 every year since 2001. Eight of those years, the Tigers were ranked inside the top 10. LSU’s highest preseason ranking came in 2007, when the Tigers opened the year at No. 2. They won the national championship that season. LSU began its 2003 national championship season ranked No. 14. But before you go thinking 14 is a lucky number, LSU also began the year No. 14 in 2001, ’02 & ’15.
The last time LSU finished higher in the postseason than it did in the preseason was 2011, when it rose from No. 4 to No. 2. In the 11-year span of the Les Miles era, such a feat was only achieved three times.
In hoopity-hoop news
The LSU men’s basketball team on Saturday confirmed the transfer of former Oregon forward Kavell Bigby-Williams. He is a former national junior college player of the year and averaged 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for Oregon a season ago, when the Ducks made it to the Final Four.
According to multiple media reports this summer, Bigby-Williams played last season while under investigation of sexual assault. This news was released in June, one day after Bigby-Williams announced his commitment to LSU. LSU basketball coach Will Wade acknowledged the allegations in a press release Saturday, saying:
“This is an issue we all take seriously and we made absolutely sure we did our due diligence before considering moving forward. Kavell understands that and has made clear to me that he’s going to repay our confidence by representing LSU with his very best on and off the court.”
Your weekly non-revenue LSU sports update
LSU’s football season doesn’t begin until Sept. 2 but the 2017-18 athletic calendar is underway.
The Tigers soccer team opened up its season Friday night with a 5-0 victory against Mississippi Valley State. Freshman forward Tinaya Alexander showed out in her first game as a Tiger, scoring two goals and adding an assist. Fellow freshmen Lucy Parker and Dana Reed also scored in their debuts, as the trio combined to post 10 of LSU’s 12 shots on goal. Mississippi Valley didn’t put a single shot on goal for the game.
The five goals is already more than LSU scored in any game last season, when the Tigers went 7-11-1.
Video from the NFLSU
Here’s a video you might appreciate. It’s former LSU pass rusher Barkevious “KeKe” Mingo stripping the ball out of a quarterback’s hand, and fellow former LSU pass rusher LaVar Edwards scooping up the ball and taking it back to the house.
Talk about synergy.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) August 19, 2017
What’s the best part of this? Edwards’ Twitter handle is @scoopNscore_89_. That’s fantasy fulfillment at its highest right there. If you believe it, it’ll happen.
Today in eye-burning holidays
As you’re probably aware by now, it’s Solar Eclipse Day here in the United States. If you, like me, live in Louisiana, you’re not going to get to see the full eclipse, just a partial one. But that shouldn’t dissuade you too much.
Here’s an estimate as to when you’ll be able to see the eclipse down in Louisiana. Be sure to wear the proper eye protection. Because I don’t want you burning your eyes out and not being able to read the Bayou Bengal Briefing anymore. That’d be a shame, wouldn’t it?
Also, eclipses sometimes give people superpowers. Food for thought.
Miss a previous edition of the Bayou Bengal Briefing? Find every one of SEC Country’s daily LSU football columns right here.