Many are seasoned veterans and a select few are new to the roster, but all 50 Tigers figure to make an impact on the gridiron in 2015.
So we hope you enjoy this list, updated once each weekday and compiled by the TSD staff of Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua (who, naturally, had disagreements of their own along the way).
The countdown continues with No. 49, veteran safety Corey Thompson.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Thompson has for the most part been there and done that during his time at LSU. As a true freshman in 2012 he served as a special teams coverage regular, playing in all 13 games and registering 11 total tackles. He took the next step forward in his progression in 2013, starting five times in 10 games at safety while notching 40 total tackles and three pass breakups.
So he’s been productive when given chances. In fact, during that run as a sophomore, Thompson set a career high in tackles with eight against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It should also be noted that Thompson broke into the starting lineup as a preferred replacement for Ronald Martin, who returned in 2014 to become a valued starter and is now with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. That gives an idea of Thompson’s natural talent level.
He’s quite imposing physically, too, at 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds. In new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s scheme, it’s not impossible to imagine Thompson in a hybrid safety/outside linebacker role. Already this spring Steele tried out another safety, Devin Voorhies, at outside ‘backer. Thompson has the size, versatility and tracking ability to make a similar move, if it ends up giving him a better shot at playing time.
STILL LEFT TO PROVE
For all the sunny-side-up talk regarding Thompson, he still has to find a way to stay healthy and stay on the field. His sophomore season was cut short by a knee injury that’s never quite gotten right since. Thompson ended up missing not only the final two games of the 2013 campaign but also the entire 2014 season (presumably one that will become a redshirt season for him) and basically all of this past spring camp, including the spring game.
Even if fully healthy, a major question mark, Thompson will have to deal with legitimate depth and starting star power at the safety position. The projected first two up, Jamal Adams and Jalen Mills, are, respectively, the most exciting up-and-comer and most veteran presence on LSU’s defense. They’ll be tough to supplant, as will third safety Rickey Jefferson, who proved himself – particularly in coverage – during Thompson’s absence last fall.
Thompson will also have to continue to make strides in pass defense, something he struggled with at times as a starter two seasons ago. He’s lights-out in run support and can genuinely track ball-carriers from sideline to sideline, but to break into this talented LSU secondary, you’ve got to be able to cover consistently.