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 comes to a young defensive end with plenty of promise at No. 42, true freshman Arden Key.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Key, a rangy athlete at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, is touted as the defensive end pass rusher of the future for LSU. He’ll also have a chance to make a contribution in year one, aided by two starting spots vacated from a season ago when Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco were mainstays. New position coach Ed Orgeron will no doubt turn to veterans like Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal off the bat, but Key will have every opportunity to win time in third-down situations and try to earn a spot in the rotation.
His production coming from the high school level in Lithonia, Ga., where Key was a consensus four-star prospect, points to a player used to making an impact behind the line of scrimmage. As listed by LSU’s official website, Key registered 12 sacks as a sophomore, more than 100 tackles and eight sacks as a junior and, last fall, 15.5 sacks in his final campaign.
There’s also the undeniable truth that Key is Coach O’s first defensive line recruit while at LSU. While Orgeron will obviously play the guys who give the Tigers the best shot to win, if there’s such a thing as tie going to the runner . . . will Key be the default runner? It certainly happens across other sports – consider LSU basketball in year three under Johnny Jones in 2014-15 had no players from the previous regime. Key will definitely have to work for anything he gets, but it’s established Orgeron is a fan of his game.
STILL LEFT TO PROVE
It’s no coincidence that Key makes the fourth true freshman – joining CB Kevin Toliver (44), RB Nicholas Brossette (46), and OL Maea Teuhema (50) – to already make the countdown, this far back in the line. They all have to prove themselves for the first time in front of new coaches and a higher level of competition around them. In many ways you just have to wait and see how new players react when thrust into that type of situation.
In Key’s particular case he’ll also have to navigate a long line of experienced (but still very much young) defensive ends, several of whom project to the same pass-rushing mold to which Key belongs. Lewis Neal sometimes feels a bit light to be an every-down end; Sione Teuhema and Deondre Clark both have advantages as edge rushers, especially Teuhema. Add it all up and Key will have to excel in comparison to those three, as well as the likes of Tashawn Bower and Maquedius Bain for playing time.