What LSU freshmen are likely to make the biggest impact?
Jazz Ferguson is making inroads towards being the third receiver in the LSU rotation this year, a big jump for a guy who didn’t have a catch a season ago.
What one might not realize is that Ferguson did play. He just didn’t play enough to record any statistics.
That’s typical at LSU, where redshirts are seen as a last resort. Les Miles is a believer in an all-hands-on-deck mentality, meaning if you are ready to help the team now, you will play now, even if the snaps are limited.
With that in mind, asking what freshmen will play this year is taking the approach almost backwards. The bigger question might be which ones won’t play.
And bigger than that, and what we’ll explore here, is which freshmen will likely make the biggest impact. After all, it’s one thing to play — like Ferguson did last year — but another thing to make a difference like running back Derrius Guice, who had 436 rushing yards behind Leonard Fournette last year, or offensive guard Maea Teuhema, who took over as a starter at guard for the season’s last 10 games.
At LSU, it’s a given that freshmen play, but which ones will make a difference?:
- P Josh Growden: This is the easiest one to predict, considering the Tigers lost senior Jamie Keehn and Growden, the third straight Australian punter to sign with the Tigers (following Keehn and Brad Wing) appears to be the natural to replace him. On a team that should contend for the SEC and national titles, there will be a lot of pressure on the 23-year-old former Australian rules football player on some important punts this year.
- DT Rashard Lawrence: Lawrence was one of the top defensive tackles in the country coming out of Monroe, La., but it isn’t so much his overwhelming talent that makes him likely to play. At 6-foot-3, 310-pounds, Lawrence gives the Tigers a player who can play a true two-gap nose tackle. LSU, which shifted from the 4-3 to the 3-4 in the spring under first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, lacks players like Lawrence because of years playing in the one-gap scheme of the 4-3 that requires less size and more quickness than the two-gap nose tackle. Lawrence’s presence will give the Tigers options to go with different approaches up front.
- LB Michael Divinity: Both Divinity, Louisiana’s top linebacker prospect last year, and Devin White had solid springs at linebacker. However, Divinity gets an edge here because White appears to be in an understudy role behind the Tigers’ best and most experienced linebacker, senior Kendell Beckwith. Divinity is playing outside, where his learning curve isn’t much different than the older players because the 3-4 outside linebacker positions didn’t exist in last year’s scheme. LSU is thin at linebacker in general, meaning both Divinity and White should see quick playing time.
- WR Stephen Sullivan: LSU has plenty of big targets at receiver, but at 6-foot-6, Sullivan is the biggest it’s had in a long time. Given the running game that features Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette, it might be tempting to get Sullivan in one-on-one matchups with smaller cornerbacks on play-action deep balls.
- DB Saivion Smith: The Floridian gave himself an edge over slightly more ballyhooed true freshman defensive back Kristian Fulton by enrolling early and having a terrific spring. LSU has plenty of DB talent stockpiled, but always seems to find ways to get true freshmen on the field (like Kevin Toliver and Donte Jackson last year). Expect Smith to see important snaps right away, and don’t be surprised if Fulton isn’t right there with him.