Experienced trio: Three signees from NCAA transfer portal expected to provide boost for LSU

Swann, Gilbert, Thomas can help on both sides of ball, special teams

LSU football coach Brian Kelly made it official Friday with the announcement the Tigers added quarterback AJ Swann, safety Jardin Gilbert and wide receiver Zavion Thomas from the NCAA transfer portal.

The Tigers also signed 27 high school players and one junior college player and were ranked 10th by On3 Sports in the national team rankings for the Class of 2024.

With redshirt sophomore Garrett Nussmeier primed to become the team’s starting quarterback in 2024, Kelly took measures to add an experienced quarterback to battle with Nussmeier. The Vanderbilt transfer will also serve as a bridge between Nussmeier and true freshman Rickie Collins and incoming freshman Colin Hurley.

The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Swann, a former four-star prospect out of Cherokee High in White, Georgia, started in 12 of 15 games in two years at Vanderbilt. He completed 56.3% (222 of 395) of his passes for 2,731 yards with eight interceptions and 22 TDs.

Because of injuries in ’23, Swann was limited to six games, passing for 1,447 yards (242.8 per game) and 12 TDs. He completed 58% of his passes in ’22 for 1,274 yards and 10 TDs. His 159 consecutive completions without an interception was the longest in school history for a freshman since 1996, and his passing yards were the fourth most in school history by a freshman.

Gilbert, a former University High standout, spent the first three years of his career playing safety at Texas A&M. The 6-1, 200-pounder started for the Aggies in 2022 and in the first two games of the ’23 season before a persistent shoulder injury resulted in season-ending surgery.

After playing primarily on special teams in 12 games his freshman year, Gilbert moved into a starting role in ’22 with 10 starts in 11 games. He made 61 tackles, including 38 solos which ranked second on the team, and added four pass breakups and two interceptions.

The addition of Thomas, a native of Marrero and former John Ehret standout, can help LSU at both wide receiver and kick returner.

With the Tigers expected to lose both of their top receivers, Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., to the NFL Draft after the Jan. 1 ReliaQuest Bowl, the arrival of Thomas couldn’t have been more timely.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Thomas, a distant relative of former NFL great Walter Payton, made eight starts in 11 games for State in ’23 and had 40 receptions for 503 yards and a TD. He also returned six kickoffs for a 33.7-yard average and a 94-yard score, and had 14 punt returns for an 11.6-yard average with a long of 31 yards.

Thomas, who had 42 catches for 507 yards in two seasons, was named to the Football Writers Association of America’s All-Freshman team in ’22 at punt return specialist with a 13.5-yard average which ranked fifth nationally and second in the SEC.

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William Weathers

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