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.
For this final week I’m rolling out my top 25 players for the upcoming season, bringing you five players a day through Friday. CLICK HERE for Monday’s release of numbers 21-25, and CLICK HERE for yesterday’s installment with numbers 16-20.
When it comes to 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. Enjoy, and be sure to let me know how you feel about the rankings via the link at the bottom of the story.
15. WR Malachi Dupre
- LSU’s been searching for a big-bodied playmaker at receiver ever since Rueben Randle left town, and it seems the Tigers have finally found their man in Dupre (6-3, 188). The incoming freshman, a consensus five-star prospect, posted ultra-efficient numbers in a run-heavy John Curtis offense. As a senior Dupre averaged 17.9 yards per catch a year after he carved up Class 2A to the tune of 22.7 yards per catch. He also terrorized state track meets for several years running, taking home long jump, triple jump and high jump titles in 2013. What’s more: Dupre has already begun forming a bond with fellow freshman Brandon Harris on and off the field. That’s a QB-to-WR connection that already has LSU fans salivating. There’s a lot of hype for Dupre, but everything he’s shown so far indicates he’s ready to handle it. I expect him to start at receiver, opposite Travin Dural, from game one.
14. DT Christian Lacouture
- As much as a true freshman defensive tackle can, LaCouture made a splash in his debut season of 2013. The 6-foot-5, 298-pounder enrolled early and quickly established himself atop the rookie pecking order at his position, outpacing five-star Greg Gilmore and four-star Maquedius Bain once they got to campus several months later. That head start prepared LaCouture to take the field in year one, and the former Odessa Permian player made good on his potential. As a second-teamer he played in all 13 games, finishing with 11 tackles (two more than DT mate Quentin Thomas), 1.5 for loss and a sack. He’s not only projected as a starter this fall as a sophomore, but LaCouture has been tabbed as a leader along the defensive line by position coach Brick Haley. Considering he’ll start next to two juniors and a senior, that’s heady stuff.
13. QB Brandon Harris
- And now to a young man who could’ve fallen a lot of places on this countdown, depending on how you see the future unfolding in LSU’s ongoing quarterback battle. That I have him ranked this high should tell you how I believe things will play out this August and beyond. Harris (6-2, 184) arrived on campus as an early enrollee this spring with as diverse a skillset as any incoming Tiger quarterback since Ryan Perrilloux. He showed off some of the goods in LSU’s spring game, outplaying sophomore Anthony Jennings and finishing with 195 yards and three touchdowns on 11-of-28 passing to go with 77 yards on six carries. The accuracy still has a long way to go, but Harris isn’t afraid to sling it downfield or take off and run on opposing defenses, which he does more decisively than Jennings. Whoever wins the QB battle will take his lumps on the field in 2014, but it’s my belief Harris gives LSU a better chance to win. To me, that makes him a pretty valuable player.
12. WR Travin Dural
- Dural had an interesting redshirt freshman campaign a year ago. On the positive side he caught the game-winner against Arkansas and got LSU back into the Alabama game with a touchdown catch right before halftime in Tuscaloosa. On the other hand his numbers (seven catches for 145 yards and the two aforementioned TDs) and overall impact never approached what many had hoped for prior to the season. While it’s true no one could’ve expected Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry would account for THAT much of LSU’s receiving game, Dural was a wallflower compared to the Tigers’ active and terrific duo. In 2014 much more will be expected from Dural (6-2, 182), who moves into starter’s shoes and carries the mantle of best returning wide-out. He has a great pair of hands and tremendous leaping ability, making him a preferred target in the red zone. Dural also figures to factor in on special teams, potentially LSU’s primary punt returner.
11. OT Jerald Hawkins
- For the second straight day a starting offensive lineman ends the five-man countdown. Hawkins (6-6, 301) was a wall-to-wall starter for LSU in 2013 as a redshirt freshman, making 12 starts at right tackle and one at left tackle – versus Furman, spelling an injured La’el Collins. The Baldwin native was extremely durable, playing a total of 808 snaps. Like Elliott Porter yesterday, Hawkins also had his best statistical game versus Texas A&M, registering nine knockdowns on 74 snaps. The former all-around athlete at West St. Mary HS has an ideal body type for a collegiate right tackle, blessed with very long arms and quick feet that allow him to stay in front of and subdue opposing pass rushers. The biggest remaining question on Hawkins, who becomes draft-eligible after this season, is just how much longer LSU will have him?