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).
Today the countdown kicks off its fifth week with a player trying to make a move into the starting lineup, offensive lineman K.J. Malone.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
There’s a lot of upside – and a pretty incredible set of genetics – with Malone, son of NBA Hall of Famer Karl, even if there hasn’t been much experience to date for the Ruston native. A redshirt sophomore in 2015, Malone (6-4, 289) fits the athletic mold of a pulling guard that Les Miles has traditionally loved on his offensive lines.
His is a name that Miles frequently mentioned last season as a viable replacement for injured players at no less than two different positions. And while Malone’s time never did come (in reality the offensive line was strangely healthy in 2014), he continued to gain steam and impress this spring while working out at both guard and tackle.
The most likely path to the field for Malone this season will come at right guard, a starting spot that Josh Boutte (No. 35 in our countdown) tenuously held when the spring game concluded. After speaking with a number of people post-spring game, it says here that Malone is likely to beat out Boutte, hence his ranking five spots higher. Malone’s versatility, able to play right tackle should Vadal Alexander move back inside, also boosts his value.
STILL LEFT TO PROVE
At this point a lot of the talk surrounding Malone is conjecture and possibly a little premature, at least based on his background the last two seasons. He took a redshirt year in 2013 and, last fall, played in just five games, starting none. Malone did compile five knockdowns on 65 total snaps played in 2014, but only eight of his snaps came against SEC competition – all of them late in a blowout home win over Kentucky.
Then there’s the competition factor. As much good as I’ve heard about Malone, and as much as I believe he’s got a good chance of beating out Boutte, that’s not exactly a consensus. Others believe Boutte will be the young offensive lineman to step forward, filling in the only projected opening in the starting five (LSU returns three starters and a fourth, William Clapp, seems pretty assured of a spot). The Tigers also have redshirt freshman Garrett Brumfield at guard and are bringing in one of the best offensive line signing classes in program history.
So Malone will have to climb the depth chart and prove he’s in the top five. There may be some lineup juggling that occurs by position, but ultimately the best five will play. At least at the end of spring ball, Malone wasn’t in that number.