With just more than two weeks remaining until March 14, the date spring football officially kicks off for LSU, it's time to preview the action and assess what will be hitting the Ponderosa for the Tigers.
TSD will have a series of team outlooks and address five major questions over the next few weeks (see bottom of this story for a full schedule). Today, I'll hone in on the new Tigers you'll need to keep an eye on throughout the spring.
Some names and faces are actually brand new, like the first three listed below who are early enrollees from LSU's 2013 signing class.
And then some will just seem new, or perhaps better classified as "refreshed" to Tiger fans, as they've been seldom seen or mentioned during their stays on campus. Such is the case with the final two names below.
In either case, get familiar with these five guys. They're all solid locks to end up in the early two-deep for the Tigers, with a few pressing for starter's minutes at their respective positions.
Christian Lacouture (DT, 6-5, 290, Fr.)
The big guy from Lincoln, Neb., who originally started his high school career playing at famed Odessa Permian in Texas, enters spring as the only defensive early enrollee. It's no coincidence either that the Tiger staff wanted to get in a defensive lineman who's got a real chance at cracking the four-man rotation. There probably isn't anywhere else on the field, offense or defense, where LSU will have to rely more on first-year contributors.
LaCouture immediately becomes the 2013 DT with a leg-up, even with the summer arrivals of five-star Greg Gilmore and four-star Maquedius Bain. He was originally recruited as a bit of a tweener on the defensive line, but LaCouture has put on close to 15 or 20 pounds since his senior season ended and is all tackle now. No. 91 certainly has the size to play the position, but he'll begin building up his reps against collegiate opposition this spring.
Ethan Pocic (OL, 6-7, 285, Fr.)
For four years now, jersey No. 77 has belonged to a defensive lineman – Josh Downs. Beginning this spring, get used to seeing those digits on the offensive side of the ball. Pocic comes to Baton Rouge from Lemont, Ill., and, like LaCouture on defense, will have a real shot at breaking into the two-deep at offensive tackle heading into the fall.
He doesn't quite have the mass that Vadal Alexander brought to spring camp a year ago as an early enrollee, but Pocic is an inch taller and can really move on his feet. Alexander will reprise his starting role at right tackle, with redshirt freshman Jerald Hawkins looking more and more like the leading candidate to take over on the left side, and Pocic falls in line right after that duo, along with players like Jonah Austin and Derek Edinburgh. Not a bad depth-chart situation to enter for a kid who was playing prep ball two months ago.
Logan Stokes (TE, 6-5, 253, JuCo)
Of all the early enrollees suiting up in a few weeks, Stokes is the only real synch to start for the Tigers right off the bat. That's what can happen when attrition hits a position hard, which was definitely the case at tight end this offseason for LSU. Gone are seniors Chase Clement and Tyler Edwards as well as rising junior Nic Jacobs, who transferred to McNeese State.
Stokes, a JuCo transfer with two years of eligibility, will slide right into Jacobs' projected spot (starting blocking tight end) and even jersey (No. 84). With junior Travis Dickson and summer enrollee Desean Smith more in the pass-catching mold, Stokes will have only sophomore Dillon Gordon as competition for block-first tight ends. Considering how much Les Miles and Greg Studrawa lean on a sixth in-line blocker, Stokes will be a major factor in the offense from day one.
Quentin Thomas (DT, 6-3, 294, So.)
Moving onto the first guy who's actually been around the program, let's cast a light on the rising redshirt sophomore from Breaux Bridge. Thomas is entering his third season in Baton Rouge, but to date he's had to settle for a watching-and-learning role from the sideline as others like Michael Brockers, Bennie Logan, Josh Downs and Lavar Edwards handled the duties at defensive tackle.
Now it could be Thomas' turn on the inside. With only one career assisted tackle to his name, he lacks the experience and will start the spring behind Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Freak's starting spot is pretty secure, but it would not be surprising to see the big-bodied Thomas eventually catch up to Ferguson. For my money, that could be one of your better position battles this spring. No matter who comes out on top, both will see a lot of the field in 2013.
Corey Thompson (S, 6-2, 210, So.)
The Missouri City, Tex., native is in the same boat as Thomas, but at the safety position. Thompson, a true sophomore, currently falls in line right behind starters Craig Loston and Ronald Martin at the last line of defense for John Chavis. And while the safeties typically don't platoon as much as the defensive linemen at LSU, there's plenty of reason to believe Thompson will be relied on at various points in 2013.
For starters, with the physical, big-hitting way Loston likes to play, Thompson will need to be on alert at all times. In fact this very situation arose during Thompson's true freshman year, when he was forced into brief action in the third quarters versus Alabama after Loston and Eric Reid were out. Then there's also the fact that LSU didn't take a safety in the 2013 class. That would seemingly signify that the coaches are comfortable moving on with Thompson in the near future. His growth to becoming a starter continues this spring.
Schedule for pre-spring preview stories
Tuesday, February 26: Spring Preview – New names to monitor
Thursday, February 28: Spring Preview – Two-deep depth chart
Monday, March 4: Spring Question 1 – Who's going to play left tackle?
Tuesday, March 5: Spring Question 2 – How will the new-look defensive line fare?
Wednesday, March 6: Spring Question 3 – What alignment will Chavis go with at linebacker?
Thursday, March 7: Spring Question 4 – Who will step up as leaders on this 2013 team?
Friday, March 8: Spring Question 5 – How will Cam Cameron's presence affect the offense?
Monday, March 11: Video – Offense Preview
Tuesday, March 12: Video – Defense Preview
Wednesday, March 13: Video – Early Enrollees; What to Watch: Staff Picks
Spring Preview: New names to monitor
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