Part 11 in the "Countdown to kickoff," offers a look at five redshirt freshmen who must have an impact this season for LSU:
1. Jalen Collins: There's no debate about who the top four LSU defensive backs are, but with the different schemes involving five and six guys that John Chavis is fond of running, there have to be some extra cornerbacks and safeties ready and able to step in to fill spots and provide that flexibility. Specifically, for Chavis to free Tyrann Mathieu up to roam and sniff out plays, he needs a corner he can trust to put opposite Tharold Simon and Collins has emerged as that guy. If Collins becomes the next solid young CB for LSU, look for him to play a lot because Mathieu is at his best when he's not tied to one side of the field or one receiver.
2. Stephen Rivers: Ideally, Rivers' value this season will lie in how little he has to be used. That doesn't mean he won't be valuable because if he can get into games, take some snaps under fire and establish some confidence, that's nothing but good for the Tigers moving forward – especially if Zach Mettenberger has a strong enough season to warrant leaving for the NFL Draft. Right now Rivers is one massive question mark for LSU coaches and fans because they haven't seen in full-speed action and there are rumblings that he has not made the kind of progress needed to be a bona fide No. 2 QB, thus the entrance of Rob Bolden as an insurance policy. Make no mistake , though, if Mettenberger goes down with an injury early, Rivers is likely to get the first shot at stepping in, particularly if the Tigers do the unthinkable and lose two games early and are out of the national championship hunt.
3. Micah Eugene: Eugene is poised for playing time at strong safety because he is backing up Craig Loston, who has struggled to stay healthy in each of his first three seasons. Should Loston go out, Eugene will become a major factor because of how much Chavis and his coaches rely on the safeties to make plays in run support and over the top in pass coverage. Regardless of Loston's health, Eugene also figures to see action in dime formations to get some experience and will likely find a home on special teams as well.
4. Trai Turner: Similarly to Collins, Turner has a shot to carve a niche as an immediate fill-in up front, so he has to be ready for whenever an injury or other hurdle arises. Right, the six-man rotation on the line is established, with either La'el Collins or Josh Dworaczyk as the starting left guard and/or the man who backs up any of the four spots other than center. But Turner figures to get some snaps at some point and if he can prove he's ready, that would give a nice depth boost up front.
5. Jerrard Randall: Randall's value at this point looms not as a primary quarterback but if and when the offensive game plan calls for a wildcat look or an option attack. Of the four scholarship quarterbacks, Randall is the most athletic and best runner and would give defenses reason for concern. Whether Randall is projected as a QB long-term or not, he could get a chance to carve a niche, much as Brandon Mitchell has in the Arkansas offense.