LSU freshmen aiming for an impact in 2015

Breaking down LSU's first-year players in line to play this season.

LSU loves to flaunt the number of true freshmen it plays each season.

The Tigers use it as an advantage in recruiting. Les Miles brings it up often and did so in one of his press conferences last week. LSU had 17 freshmen appear in at least one game in 2014, and the Tigers are once again expected to trot out a bunch of youngsters this year.

So which members of the 2015 signing class will see the field in their first season? Through almost a week of fall camp, we’re starting to gain an idea of the freshmen closest to significant playing time.

It appears all of LSU’s defensive freshmen are expected to have an impact, one may even be in line to start.

Arden Key has been a hot topic this fall. He didn’t arrive in Baton Rouge until the eve of camp, but he’s already started working with the first-team. That’s come in place of Tashawn Bower, who’s missed two practices with an undisclosed health issue, but Key was pushing the starters even before Bower went down. His coaches and teammates have praised the shape in which he arrived, and he’s shown in these early practices that he didn’t miss a beat this summer.

Isaiah Washington is quietly having a strong camp as well. Though Key gets a lot of the attention, Washington also spent split-squad practices with the veterans and is pushing guys like Sione Teuhema and Deondre Clark for a spot in the two-deep.

Miles said earlier this week he’d have no hesitancy playing either freshman defensive end.

"Both guys are very talented, very athletic,” Miles said. “You also like some other guys, you like Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal. But there are some guys there biting at their heels."

Donte Jackson could see time in all three phases

Donte Jackson showed early in camp why he had five-star status coming out of high school. He ran that 4.36 40-yard dash over the summer and had jaws dropping with the speed he showed in practices. Jackson’s not likely to win a starting cornerback job as a freshman, but Miles has hinted since he signed that he can have a bigger impact than that.

Jackson’s competing for a spot on kickoff returns, and offensive touches always remain a possibility.

"He has world-class speed," said senior linebacker Lamar Louis. "He’s going to be doing something as a freshman. I’m not sure what it is, but he’ll be doing something.”

Jackson was joined by the two other freshmen defensive backs in veteran practices — Kevin Toliver and Xavier Lewis. Toliver benefitted from his early enrollment, but he’s not likely to beat Edward Paris for the starting job at corner. Toliver could still find his way on the field in extra-DB sets and special teams is a very real possibility for him.

Same for Lewis. He’s currently LSU’s fourth safety at best, but he too has impressed through camp and should carve out a role on special teams as well as some spot duty on defense.

Maea Teuhema already cracking the two-deep

On offense, Maea Teuhema has been a quick riser in recent practices. He was the only freshman offensive lineman to get called up to the veteran workouts. LSU’s currently working him at right tackle, though Miles admitted he could play several positions.

LSU’s starting five up front is pretty set, but one injury could shake things up. Teuhema’s pushing to be LSU’s sixth or seventh offensive linemen, and that could mean playing time as a freshman depending on how things go this season.

“He’s really a bright, very capable offensive lineman for a young player,” Miles said.

Tyron Johnson was the only other offensive freshman with the veterans during split-squad practices. He’s still behind John Diarse and Trey Quinn for the inside job, and D.J. Chark looks to be the third receiver in two-minute drills and goalline situations. But Johnson has impressed and shown the promise that made him one of Louisiana’s top recruits. He may not have a massive impact in 2015, but LSU will find a way to get him on the field.

Will Derrius Guice (pictured) or Nick Brossette get more carries in 2015?

Then there are the running backs. Derrius Guice and Nicholas Brossette will play out of necessity. Frank Wilson prefers to have four backs in his stable, and he’ll spread the carries around to all. They’ll be sparse behind Leonard Fournette, but those opportunities will be there for both Brossette and Guice.

“Both are talented, talented guys,” Miles said. “They’re bright and want to compete.”

Guice has also gotten some chances to return kicks, so keep an eye on him there as well.

And don’t forget about David Ducre. He’s worked exclusively at fullback in camp, but he provides a more versatile option than projected starter John David Moore. Darrel Williams said Ducre has replaced him in those packages that last year featured both he and Leonard Fournette in the backfield, so don’t be surprised if Ducre gets his share of carries as well.

If history is any indication, there will be other true freshmen that play this year. These are just 10 that have stood out thus far, and LSU is sure to get its young talent to the field as much as possible.

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