LSU hopefuls looking to make first big impact in 2019
As in most seasons, LSU enters 2019 with several players who will bring more to the table than they have to date in Purple and Gold. In this scenario, we are targeting a handful of returning Tigers who should play a more prominent role this fall.
As for the 2019 signing class, Derek Stingley, Jr. and John Emery, Jr. have gained a lion’s share of the attention in the group but we point out others who may surprise as immediate contributors.
Stephen Sullivan, a senior who has converted to tight end from wide receiver, had 23 grabs for 363 yards and two scores last year. One of those touchdowns came with fiv seconds remaining before halftime against Southeastern when the the 6-foot-5, 242 pounder snared a 40-yard Hail Mary-like heave from Joe Burrow. Sullivan also had five catches against rival Ole Miss and four more for 94 yards against Rice.
With the new offense and Sullivan’s developing skills, expect his numbers to rise. He uses his frame very well while added strength this offseason will help him handle his blocking assignments enough to earn more snaps. The Donaldsonville native, who figures to be a mismatch against linebackers and safeties, is on the Senior Bowl watch list.
Terrace Marshall, the Bossier City product, managed 12 catches for 192 yards last year as a true freshman. The former elite recruit was injured during his senior campaign at Parkway High but, despite the setback, he was still ranked the No. 2 overall wideout in the country for 2018. He reportedly has made tremendous strides during the offseason to help him better utilize his outstanding natural skills.
The nephew of the late Joe DeLaney has an elite catching radius, solid hands and a desire to dominate. Along with Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, Marshall forms a dangerous trio of receivers atop LSU’s depth chart.
K’Lavon Chaisson, the sophomore linebacker with coveted edge pass rushing talent, is already considered a known quantity despite limited snaps due to injury. Fully back to form after losing his 2018 season in the first game to a torn ACL, hee managed six tackles against Miami before the injury took a big piece of the LSU defense away from them.
Already awarded the coveted No. 18 jersey for the season, Chaisson’s character and leadership has brought respect from teammates and the coaching staff as he has fully recovered from surgery. Opponents will have to game plan against this 6-4, 238-pound whirling dervish of a pass rusher. It would surprise no one if Chaisson is a first round draft choice in the spring.
Jacoby Stevens, a junior safety, was a five star recruit out of Murfreesboro, Tenn. and a top two rated safety in the 2017 class. He has finally settled in at the safety spot with the Tigers after helping to fill gaps at other positions. During his freshman season, he split time between safety and wide receiver. As 2018 rolled around, he started to gain confidence and get comfortable.
Stevens had 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, an interception and five pass breakups. His high point came against Texas A&M in last season’s seven overtime thriller when he posted 14 stops. He also returned a fumble 64 yards against SLU.
A natural athlete, the 6-2, 225-pound Stevens has learned how to improve through film study. His size and skills draw early comparisons to former NFL greats Steve Atwater and Joey Browner so the young man obvious has a sky-high ceiling.
Apu Ika and Tyler Shelvin play a key position in LSU’s defense. Both are nose tackles who will look to anchor the middle of LSU’s defense. Ika, a new arrival, has flashed some starter’s ability but will have to overcome inexperience. Shelvin, redshirted as a freshman in 2017, enters his third preseason camp. He has battled weight issues but the motivation light apparently has clicked on for the in-state product. This duo’s battle for playing time will make the position much better than it’s been from a depth and fit standpoint in recent seasons.
Middle linebacker Damone Clark is a sophomore who has just scratched the surface of his talent. As a true freshman last fall, he was concentrating mainly on special teams. Now a more confident returnee, Clark will be able to play faster and allow his athletic ability to take over.
While at Southern Lab, Clark lined up at linebacker, safety and tight end. A very physical player, he delivers knock out shots and has the ability to cover in space. His great upside and size (6-4, 238) makes him a potential contributor for multiple seasons in the middle of the action.
Neil Farrell, the 6-5, 295-pound junior defensive end, posted modest numbers in 2018 (23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL) but i now one to watch for a breakout year. Naturally strong, he plays with total effort as the type of blue collar worker coaches love. He may not be pretty, but Farrell empties his bucket on the field. Clemson and Florida State were among the schools who recruited Farrell hard but it helped to gave former LSU defensive lineman Muskingham Barnes as his high school coach who has compared his protege’ to former NFL standout Nick Fairley.
Now we focus on the Class of 2019 newcomers who may take the field early.
Maurice Hampton is four star signee in the most recent recruiting class out of Arlington, Tennessee. The 6-foot, 214 pounder is already a well-known name as a two-sport star will play for the LSU baseball team as well. He has skills to play cornerback or nickel/slot but is currently learning the strong safety spot. Hampton, who reportedly rejected a $1.8 million offer in this past June’s MLB Draft to come to LSU, is the first player in the state of Tennessee to be named Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball in the same season. LSU’s secondary has plenty of talent but I would not count this freakish athlete out as an early contributor.
Trey Palmer, the four star signee out of Kentwood, won four state titles in the 200 meters at Kentwood. He is a true difference maker at receiver who reminds me of Eddie Kennison when he arrived at LSU. Palmer is a crafty receiver who will get a good look as perhaps an ideal fit at the slot.
The LSU offensive line is an area the coaching staff has been rebuilding to compete with the best in college football. Four star signee Anthony Bradford (6-5, 367) has been mentioned as a massive run blocker who will continue to see looks at both tackle and guard.
Another 2019 signee who has flown under the radar may be more ready to play than most observers think. Teurlings Catholic product Thomas Perry (6-6, 328) has been considered a sure redshirt option. Not so fast, my friend (in my best Lee Corso voice)! It may come to how quickly he can adjust to college football and grasp his responsibilities but Perry is a committed worker who learns quickly. His father Adam, played at LSU from 1993-’97 and his grandfather was a Chinese Bandit on the late 1950’s Tigers.
With surprising athleticism that includes a 5.0 forty, Perry is very solid run blocker who was athletic enough to play both defensive tackle and tight end at times for Teurlings. As an eighth grader, he attended a camp as a defensive tackle where he was coached by Ed Orgeron. Now we’ll see if he can break through on the other side of the ball as a true freshman in Baton Rouge.
Marcel Brooks, who I could have included him along with Emery and Stingley, is one of the athletes who could play a number of positions. The 6-2, 194 pounder was a five star signee who played linebacker, safety and receiver in Flower Mound, Texas. Brooks could line up almost anywhere on defense. LSU coaches liken his potential to junior All-American Grant Delpit.
Recruiting has been good for LSU the past few seasons. The cupboard is well stocked, and it will be fun for fans to see who rises up to be the next stars in Purple and Gold.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…