The LSU Tigers had a solid 2017 season in head coach Ed Orgeron’s first full season at the helm, compiling a 9-4 record, which included a 6-2 showing in SEC play. Big wins over Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M were among the highlights, but losses to Mississippi State, Alabama, Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, and Sun Belt member Troy (at home) definitely dampened the season.
As all LSU fans are now accustomed to experiencing, the Tigers saw another mass exodus of talent in the form of underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft. Now Orgeron must manage high expectations in Baton Rouge and find the new pieces on the roster that will help ensure wins in 2018. So the big question there lies with the latest recruiting class – does it contain any immediate impact players?
The Tigers always recruit well and seemingly always add a couple of true freshman capable of getting on the field and leaving their mark right away. Orgeron’s first recruiting haul in 2017 produced standout safeties JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit along with projected 2018 starting quarterback Myles Brennan. With more than a dozen starters gone from last season, including All-SEC running back Derrius Guice, outside linebacker Arden Key, All-SEC center Will Clapp, along with cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver, there will certainly be opportunities for younger players to secure playing time.
Per 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings, LSU’s 2017 class was ranked No. 7 overall with one five-star recruit, 14 four-star talents, and nine three-star prospects. The 2018 class slid to No. 15 overall signing one five-star, 12 four-stars, and nine three-stars. Considering that former head coach Les Miles’ final recruiting class in 2016 was second behind only Alabama, that’s quite the drop-off. But the wins are what matters in the end and Orgeron actually improved in that department going from eight after taking over for Miles a month into the 2016 season to nine last year.
So what are the expectations for the Tigers this year? The 2018 class comes in even lower on 247Sports’ rankings, checking in at No. 15, so is this the year the LSU takes a step back in the always-competitive SEC West? Here are five newcomers to keep an eye on that will look to maintain the Tigers’ winning ways this fall.
Terrace Marshall, WR
Marshall is the highest-rated player heading to Baton Route in 2018. Marshall’s talent is undeniable after working with four-star TCU quarterback signee Justin Rogers at Parkway High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, but his status going forward is a question mark that will not be answered until the pads go on during spring practices. Marshall suffered a gruesome ankle dislocation and fractured fibula in the second game of his senior season. Being an early enrollee should help Marshall get up to game speed quickly while acclimating to the new offense.
Marshall was pushing 30 reported scholarship offers before deciding to stay close to home. The Tigers were able to fend off heavy recruiting efforts from Florida State, Texas A&M, Alabama and Texas for his letter of intent.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR
With the loss of All-SEC receiver/return specialist DJ Chark due to graduation, Chase fits the profile as his possible replacement. Chase was an all-purpose dynamo for Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, Louisiana) during his senior year, pulling down 61 passes for 1,011 yards with 13 scores. In the return game, he took back six kicks for 230 yards and 10 punts for 179 more yards. Chase has work to do to tighten up his game, but he possesses great straight-ahead speed and size (6-1, 195) that should allow him to compete for snaps in 2018. If he can pick up the playbook quickly when he reports over the summer, LSU’s offense should add another dynamic playmaker.
LSU was able to keep the New Orleans area talent in state flipping him away from Florida. Michigan, TCU and Auburn all made a big push hoping to land Chase.
Dare Rosenthal, OL/DL
Rosenthal is a mountain of a man (6-7, 327) ready to make his presence known up front as either an offensive or defensive lineman. It’s the combination of his size and athleticism that gives him a chance of ending up on either side of the ball and playing right away. Another talent with a similar outlook is Chasen Hines. Hines (6-3, 335) played defensive tackle and guard for his Texas high school and could end up an option on either side of the line of scrimmage as early as this fall.
Rosenthal, a product of nearby Ferriday High School, committed to LSU on June 17 and is another early enrollee. Rosenthal had 29 reported offers, including ones from Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Michigan, Miami and Ohio State.
Badara Traore, OT
Most Power Five schools do not take junior college players unless there is a need, something that Traore does for LSU. The ASA (New York) College transfer was ranked as the No. 6 overall JUCO talent in the nation and second at tackle, per 247Sports. Traore could be the answer for starting left tackle K.J. Malone’s departure. The Hyde Park, Massachusetts, native is already on campus in hopes of being ready to contribute right away.
Traore was one of the more heavily recruited junior college talents in the nation with 30-plus offers. Auburn, Texas and Tennessee were among the other schools interested in adding Traore to their recruiting class.
Travez Moore, DE
LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is one of the best in the business. If Aranda felt the need to go out and get a junior college defensive end, it’s a good bet LSU really needed one. Moore will be given an opportunity to compete for the opening created by Arden Key’s departure. The four-star recruit was the No. 1-ranked weak-side defensive end in the JUCO ranks, and the No. 9 talent overall. Moore (6-6, 250) is a very effective edge rusher who can help against the run. His wingspan makes it hard for ball carriers to get past.
Moore cut off his recruiting process after committing to the Tigers last February. He signed on Dec. 20 and took care of his classwork to enroll on Jan. 30. Getting spring practice reps only increases his chances of playing in the Sept. 2 opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against Miami.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.