Summer Top 50 - No. 39 Duke Riley

TSD continues its countdown of the top 50 LSU players for 2015 with a hard-hitting special teams player eyeing a bigger role at linebacker this fall.

Because everyone loves to rank things, and because summer is the best time to argue and debate, TSD is spending the coming weeks through the end of July rolling out its top 50 LSU football players for the coming season.

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 at No. 39 with Duke Riley, an experienced special teamer trying to carve out more time at linebacker.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM


Coming into his third season on campus, Riley has been a dynamo for LSU on special teams. The former John Curtis standout has played in all 26 possible games as a Tiger, and in every one of them his main focus has been running down kicks. He’s proven good at it, and a violent hitter, to boot.

As a true freshman in 2013, Riley (6-1, 218) registered seven tackles, with 0.5 tackles for loss. He followed that up with a 20-tackle campaign in 2014 to go with a recovered fumble. Riley did garner one start last fall at outside linebacker, early in the season versus ULM.

He inches a step closer to more consistent playing time on the defense’s second level this season after underclassman Kwon Alexander bolted for the NFL this offseason. There’s also a new defensive sheriff in town in first-year coordinator Kevin Steele. Riley will have his chances to impress Steele and possibly gain some more time as an outside edge rusher and a player capable of occasionally dropping back into coverage.

STILL LEFT TO PROVE


Even though Riley has been a consummate program player, there’s nothing given and he’ll have to earn time on the field at linebacker. LSU may have lost Alexander to the Tampa Bay Bucs, but Steele does inherit two returning starters in Lamar Louis (strongside) and Kendell Beckwith (middle) on top of a rising senior projected to start on the weakside in Deion Jones.

Then there’s sophomore-to-be Donnie Alexander who will also serve as competition for Riley. Add it all up, and Riley is almost certain to be a rotational player that could possibly benefit of LSU moving intermittently into a 3-4 alignment.

Finally he is a bit on the lighter side. Jones is only listed at two pounds heavier, at 220 pounds, but he seems to carry more weight on the football field. Riley is capable of blowing up returners on special teams. It’s his ability to play within the tackle box in the SEC that remains in question entering his third season in TigerTown.



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