By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
The 2016 season was a bit of an irregular one for LSU. Yes, obviously, there was an in-season coaching change. Those certainly don’t more around often.
There was also a general lack of freshmen playing throughout the campaign. “Freshmen are expected to play big roles at LSU” is said so often around this program you’d think it was the house words.
Aside from the late-season emergences of Devin White and Rashard Lawrence, the former as a result of injury, and sporadic playing time for wideouts Dee Anderson and Drake Davis, that wasn’t the case last season.
A semi-bold prediction: youth will be served in 2017.
Here’s a countdown of the 10 true freshmen most likely to make an impact on the field this season. (Editor’s note: No. 1 denotes most likely)
Honorable mention: DE Justin Thomas, DB Jontre Kirklin, WR Racey McMath, QB Myles Brennan and QB Lowell Narciss
10| RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire: It’s a crowded backfield behind a sure-fire stud in Derrius Guice, but Edwards-Helaire’s abilities as a pass-catching scat back could eventually net him a role in Matt Canada’s offense.
9| DE Neil Farrell Jr.: LSU isn’t particularly deep along the defensive line, and Farrell could conceivably crack the two-deep rotation with a strong showing in fall camp. He’s one of the newcomers Orgeron was high on when he spoke at SEC Media Days.
8| S Todd Harris Jr.: It’s a crowded defensive backfield, but Harris has already caught Orgeron’s eye in limited time on campus. He’d certainly be higher on this list were it not for the other two blue chip safeties who had the advantage of going through spring football.
7| LB Patrick Queen: A versatile talent, Queen could play any linebacker spot for LSU, which makes him a solid candidate to see time when any of the starters need a breather. He should also contribute right away on special teams.
6| OT Austin Deculus: The most physically-ready tackle LSU signed in some time got a head start by enrolling early and going through spring practices. If one of the two starting tackles get hurt, LSU may opt to insert Deculus instead of moving an interior linemen to the perimeter.
5| LB Jacob Phillips: The highest touted of LSU’s blue chip linebacker trio, it’s only a matter of time before Phillips becomes a starter. For now he’ll be a backup to Donnie Alexander and Devin White in the middle, but should LSU require reinforcements, Phillips stands out as a prime candidate.
4| CB Kary Vincent Jr.: Vincent is a flat-out burner, and Orgeron raved about him to local reporters at SEC Media Days. The cornerback battle appears wide open behind starters Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver, meaning Vincent could see time in nickel and dime packages before too long this season.
3| S JaCoby Stevens: Stevens, an early enrollee, just seems like far too elite of an athlete to be relegated to standing on the sidelines. He’s obviously a factor in the safety competition and could even play a role on offense or in the return game this season.
2| OLB: K’Lavon Chaisson: Orgeron refers to Chaisson as “one of the best young pass rushers I’ve ever signed,” which is truly saying something. Even if it’s just as a third down rusher, LSU is going to find a role for Chaisson’s game-wrecking abilities this season. And if Dave Aranda can concoct a way for him and Arden Key to be on the field together, watch out.
1| S Grant Delpit: The breakout star of LSU’s annual spring game, Delpit may have the inside track to replacing Jamal Adams at safety. Veteran John Battle seems the obvious leader to hold down one starting spot, but Delpit’s range and ability to play centerfield in coverage should earn him playing time from day one, if not the starting nod.