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 arrives at a defensive end looking to take the next step in his career at No. 33, sophomore Deondre Clark.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Clark was a known entity in recruiting circles, but I’m not sure many had him pegged as an immediate impact player at defensive end during his freshman campaign, especially not as LSU had an established top three in 2014 in Danielle Hunter, Jermauria Rasco and Tashawn Bower. That makes it all the more impressive that Clark (6-3, 244) managed to dent the rotation in year one and played in 12 of 13 contests a season ago.
A highly productive prep player (he had 22 sacks in each of his final two seasons and totaled 61 QB takedowns throughout his high school days), Clark remains a viable option at end for new position coach Ed Orgeron. In fact Clark was the first player this spring to get a shot running with the ones at end, opposite Bower. Eventually Maquedius Bain and Lewis Neal both took their turns, with Neal now looking like the starter, but Clark is battle-tested already as a sophomore and projects to see significant time under Coach O’s watch.
Part of the beauty of Clark, as compared to fellow sophomore Sione Teuhema and incoming freshman Arden Key, is his ability to aid in stopping the run as well as rushing the passer. The days of players Clark’s size manning the DE position for LSU are probably coming to an end after 2015, with the switch to a 3-4 front expected, but until then he represents a nice go-between from the Teuhemas and Keys of the world to Bain.
STILL LEFT TO PROVE
He did play in 12 games as a true freshman, left out in the ballgame at Florida, but Clark wasn’t exactly a stat-stuffer in his time between the lines. The Oklahoma City native finished with just nine tackles, all assisted, but did tally three quarterback hurries, a positive sign as it relates to Clark’s aptitude for getting behind the line of scrimmage.
Still, despite Hunter and Rasco vacating two starting jobs, Clark will have to earn his playing time with so many other options in tow. To recap Bower and Neal exited spring ball as starters, Bain and Teuhema return and are lurking, Key is now on campus as a highly anticipated rookie and even tackle Davon Godchaux is expected to flex out some to end this season.
Clark surprised some by carving out as much time as he did as a freshman – with much of it on defense, too, not just special teams. If he can continue on that arc, and get in the good graces of Orgeron, he’ll have a chance to stay ahead of the curve and expectations. But it’s time for Clark, who missed some time this spring after getting poked in the eye, to prove it against a lot of hungry players at his position.