30 days, 30 topics inside the world of LSU football.
TSD is previewing and analyzing the 2014 edition of the Tigers from every angle, bringing you a daily dose of "Summer Session" each weekday through July 11, three days before the unofficial kickoff to football season at SEC Media Days.
TODAY'S SESSION: FOUR FOR THE FOURTH
First off, Happy Fourth of July to all. Today, like every day in this country, is a great day to be an American.
And, if you haven't been having fun yet with these daily Summer Sessions, we'll kick it up a notch on Independence Day. All next week I'll be publishing my picks for the top 25 LSU players for the 2014 football season. As a teaser I'll give the next four in line today, those that finished 26-29, my "four for the fourth."
In terms of criteria the list was assembled based on a combination of talent and expected impact. It should also be noted that I'm including Jalen Mills in the mix, if for no other reason than to show what his value to this team normally would be.
The "four for the fourth" below are listed in no particular order (although my top 25 next week will absolutely be in ranked order). Enjoy, and be sure to let me know how you feel about the rankings via the link at the bottom of the story.
1. DE Tashawn Bower
- It was extremely difficult to leave this sophomore defender – and the one below – off the top 25, but there are questions of how much playing time each will receive and just about all above them on this countdown are starters. Bower (6-5, 243) is going to be a dangerous man before he leaves LSU's campus, but he's currently third on the defensive end pecking order behind senior Jermauria Rasco and junior Danielle Hunter. It does help Bower's cause that Jordan Allen vacated the premises, leaving him the next man up for rotational purposes. We'll find out this fall how ready the New Jersey native is to make a leap forward in his game.
2. LB Kendell Beckwith
- When it comes to natural talent and size, Beckwith probably belongs in the top 10 on this LSU team. In other words, at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, he aces the eyeball test. But with redshirt senior D.J. Welter on the roster, that alone doesn't seem like it's going to be enough to push Beckwith onto the field at middle linebacker . . . at least not as a starter. The defensive staff may well find ways to use Beckwith in rush situations again, and if they do his value increases. For now, however, he's playing catch-up on the mental side of the game that's crucial to playing Mike ‘backer.
3. OG Fehoko Fanaika
- Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is yet to name a starter at right guard between Fanaika and Evan Washington, but here's going on a hunch that the former JuCo transfer gets the nod. Fanaika, listed at 6-foot-6 and 348 pounds, has been on a mission to shed some pounds this offseason, slimming into the shape required to play a position filled the past season and a half by the mobile Trai Turner. If he's successful at doing that, and the big man proves he capable of pulling and coming around the edge with some tenacity, Fanaika could end up a lot more than the presumed weak link of a (damn) strong offensive line.
4. DB Dwayne Thomas
- Thomas (6-0, 181) is the smallest player of the four by three inches and, more impressively, 62 pounds, but that doesn't mean his impact will be any less than the aforementioned guys. A season ago, as a redshirt freshman, the New Orleans native totaled four tackles for loss, three sacks, five passes defended and two forced fumbles (most on the team). Look for Thomas to continue his development as a nickel and dime specialist in 2014, especially in the event Mills isn't available for a stretch of time. His versatility, able to play both corner and safety, makes Thomas a key figure in the secondary this season.