The goal of this piece is to project which of the first-year Tigers will take to the field over the next two weeks and in what capacity. For some the P.T. in non-conference action will prepare them for the 2014 season and beyond, but, for many others, getting in gear against the Blazers and the Flash will be a necessary precursor for times when these youngsters are called upon in SEC play.
Let's start with the eight true freshmen who already featured in the season-opening win against TCU.
QB Anthony Jennings
TE Desean Smith
FB Melvin Jones
OL Josh Boutte
DT Christian Lacouture
OLB Kendell Beckwith
OLB Duke Riley
CB Tre'Davious White
- Of that group Beckwith and Smith played far and away the biggest roles in Arlington. In fact they were the only two true freshmen who really factored into the defensive and offensive game plans, respectively. Beckwith played eight snaps as a rush end for John Chavis' defense, coming in strictly on third down in certain packages. Smith filled in for the injured Travis Dickson at tight end and lined up all over the field – in tight, out wide, in bunch formations. He was even targeted twice, including once in the end zone. Assuming Dickson's back, expect Smith's time with the first team to at least be slightly curtailed. The same is not true of Beckwith, who will continue to go after the quarterback in passing situations.
- Just about everybody else on that list primarily played special teams, with the exception of Jennings, who took one snap and ran a QB sneak, and LaCouture, who played two snaps at DT. Look for both to play significantly more on Saturday. Jennings could well be the cure to what ails LSU in the red zone, and I expect Cam Cameron to give him a look there as well as a good chunk of the second half spelling Zach Mettenberger. As for LaCouture, he's the fourth DT in LSU's rotation. Against UAB and Kent State, that means he'll play more in the first half and lead the second-half group once the starters take a seat. It's no secret LaCouture will be needed come SEC action.
- The remaining four true freshmen should also see more time on their respective sides of the ball, not just special teams. But, of that quartet, it's most important White get his feet wet at cornerback. Look for Corey Raymond to find some time for him as a dime back with the first team and then a whole lot more on an island when the reserves flood the field.
Moving on to the rest of the true freshmen, there are a number of newbies who seem more likely to play this season than redshirt. For the sake of perspective, consider that LSU sent 15 true freshmen to the field in 2012. Seven more would have to feature for the Tigers just to match that number, and it would not surprise anyone if LSU even exceeded 15 this fall.
Bearing all that in mind, here's a list of true freshmen I expect to play over the next two weeks, in order from most to least likely.
DE Tashawn Bower
C Ethan Pocic
DE Lewis Neal
S Rickey Jefferson
WR John Diarse
RET Jeryl Brazil
OL Andy Dodd
- Here's what Miles had to say earlier this week when asked which additional freshmen would play versus UAB: "I think Tre'Davious White will play and continue to play a significant role for us. I can see in the future Rickey Jefferson paying significant football (as well as) Lewis Neal, Tashawn Bower. I think those guys will all be guys that you'll see on the field. So we're not done exposing our freshmen just yet. I think you can look forward to seeing [Jeryl] Brazil and Anthony Jennings. Jennings should certainly have played a little bit more than one snap, we think."
- Bower and Neal, in that order, jump off this list as young guys who are expected to see a lot of second-half time over the two-week home stand. It was thought going into the TCU game that Bower was the fourth DE in the rotation, but redshirt junior Justin Maclin assumed that role. As the season goes on, and especially in games like UAB and Kent State, expect Bower to get more of a shot at end.
- On the offensive line Pocic is a given to see time at center, perhaps even a series or two with the first team over the next two weeks. Elliott Porter entered the season as the most unsure starter on LSU's O-Line, and it would be surprising if position coach Greg Studrawa didn't at least begin grooming a potential backup. It also isn't out of the realm of possibility that Pocic play a little guard with the second team, as Miles hinted last week he could fill in at either guard or center for the line.
- Jefferson and Diarse are in similar situations on different sides of the ball. Both are sitting behind veteran guys, but both also made great impressions this Fall Camp. Look for that to be rewarded in the form of P.T. And, yes, since Diarse is likely to play (and his name frequently rolls off Miles' lips in press conferences), it's seeming more likely Kevin Spears redshirts at receiver. Dodd is a very borderline case for a redshirt as well. On one hand he had a strong start to Fall Camp and looks the part, but on the other LSU already played both Jonah Austin and Evan Washington as backup tackles in the opener. I'll say Dodd plays, but it's close. Finally, there hasn't been a ton of positive momentum for Brazil lately, so his inclusion, if at all, will strictly be as a return man in garbage time.
Which freshmen do you think play against UAB?