Late addition Terrace Marshall, a 5-star receiver, will generate headlines and buzz (and hopefully points). But the LSU offensive line figures to get the earliest boost from the players the Tigers signed during the Early Signing Period.
LSU brought in two top-notch offensive linemen from the junior-college ranks and both have an opportunity to start in 2018.
Tackle Badera Traore (6-6, 310 pounds), a native of Boston who played at ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., was rated the No. 1 offensive line junior college prospect and the No. 6 JUCO player overall.
Damien Lewis (6-3, 320), a 2-star recruit from Canton, Miss., and Northwest Mississippi Community College, was rated the No. 3 guard.
Tigers coach Ed Orgeron set out to bolster both of the team’s lines and he did just that. Of the 20 players who signed during ESP, four were offensive linemen and six were defensive linemen.
“I see how each of these guys fit our needs,” Orgeron said. “I knew what we needed, and I saw them play.”
LSU managed to keep its offensive line commitments even though offensive line coach Jeff Grimes accepted a job as BYU offensive coordinator last week. Grimes will stay with the Tigers through their Citrus Bowl game against Notre Dame on Jan. 1.
“He was heavily involved in (recruiting) every one of these (offensive) linemen,” Orgeron said of Grimes. “He sold LSU the whole time and I can’t thank him enough. That was a critical part of our recruiting. It also tells you about his character that he’s staying with this team through the bowl game.”
DC Dave Aranda on LSU's D-line recruits
Traore is expected to start at left tackle, a position that was manned by senior K.J. Malone until he was injured at mid-season and replaced by freshman Saahdiq Charles, who will move back to his natural position at guard next season.
Another freshman, Ed Ingram, started 10 games at right guard, but Lewis’ arrival and the uncertainty about left guard Garrett Brumfield, a junior who might enter the NFL Draft, leaves the guard positions wide open.
Five of the Tigers signees play defensive tackle and another signee, Travez Moore, was the No. 1 JUCO defensive end.
LSU has little experience returning in the middle of the line in its 3-4 defensive alignment. Sophomore Ed Alexander is the most experienced tackle returning along with redshirt freshman Glen Logan, who played tackle and end this season.
The Tigers also have Texas Tech transfer Breiden Fehoko, who will be eligible to play next season after being limited to practices in 2017. His performance in practice has led to high praise from Orgeron.
Unlike the offensive linemen the Tigers signed, all of the defensive tackles they signed are from high school. They include 4-star prospects Chasen Hines (Marshall, Texas) and Davin Cotton (Shreveport, La.)
The other defensive tackles are 3-star prospects Dare Rosenthal (Ferriday, La.), Dominic Livingston (Houston) and Nelson Jenkins (Plaquemine, La.)
“You look at Chasen Hines, Dare, Nelson, they’re all downhill people,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said on a signing day show on the LSU athletics website. “They can attack the line of scrimmage. They knock back versus the run and at the same time they’re able to rush the passer. We need the ability to dominate inside and we need to rebuild our lines. I felt that we did that.”
Moore likely will compete at the position Arden Key is expected to vacate to head to the NFL, though he has a year of eligibility remaining.
Two running backs have a chance to compete for playing time with Darrel Williams graduating and Derrius Guice a strong candidate to turn pro a year early. LSU signed Chris Curry (5-11, 200), a four-star recruit from Lehigh Acres, Fla. and Tae Provens, a three-star recruit from Gurley, Ala., who signed Thursday.