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LSU Football: Newcomers to Watch for the Tigers

LSU Football: Newcomers to Watch for the Tigers

LSU Football: Newcomers to Watch for the Tigers

Score one for the Crimson Tide voodoo witch doctors. After the LSU Tigers feasted in 2019 and brought home a national championship, laying waste to all who got in their way, the Bayou Bengals hit hard times last season, finishing 5-5 and missing a bowl game for the first time since the 1999 season. But the down season for the prideful program will soon be an anomalous footnote in the team's record books with a stout roster returning in 2021. In addition to all the starters coming back, the roster has been reloaded with high-profile recruits.

LSU's 2020 recruiting class was among the best in the nation at No. 4 in the country. Head coach Ed Orgeron followed that up with a 2021 grouping that pushed up to third in the nation, complete with two five-stars, 16 four-stars, and five three-star prospects, finishing behind only bitter rival Alabama and Ohio State.

Even with all the talent acquired, talent that would find their way onto the field in a heartbeat on most other squads, LSU's experience and depth in 2021 is championship caliber. Those newcomers who crack the two-deep or even earn a start are accomplishing something big.

Mike Jones Jr., LB

Even on a roster expected to return 20 of 22 starters, Jones could challenge for a starting spot in LSU's 4-3 defense. A transfer from Clemson, Jones started seven of 10 games for the Tigers last season, totaling 30 tackles, four TFLs, and three quarterback hurries. The former Class of 2018 four-star recruit is expected to be eligible for the 2021 campaign. With any luck, Jones can replicate the success of transfer Jabril Cox (North Dakota State).

Jordan Toles, DB

Toles appeared in eight games during his true freshman season but was only able to put four tackles on the stat sheet. Toles was listed behind Todd Harris Jr. and Maurice Hampton Jr. at safety in-season, what can he do with the experience under his belt and a new defensive staff to impress? With JaCoby Stevens entering the NFL draft, there will be a battle at DBU this spring.

Sage Ryan, DB

Ryan may be too athletic, talented, and fast to keep off the field. The five-star recruit out of Lafayette Christian helped lead the Knights to a 3A Louisiana state championship in 2020, doing everything imaginable at the skill positions. His frame (5-11, 193) and 4.45 laser-timed 40 is perfect for LSU's secondary at safety. Another spot where he could impact the schedule sooner than later is in the return game. If Derek Stingley Jr. doesn't want to return kicks or if Trey Palmer can be beaten out at punt return, Ryan has the ability to be an immediate impact player.

Maason Smith, DT

Although there is depth along LSU's defensive line, the transfer for Siaki Ika to Baylor opens a pathway for Smith to claim snaps this year. Smith was rated the second-best tackle in the 2021 class and shook off 30 other offers to stay in-state for college. The former Terrebonne five-star abused Louisiana defenses with his size (6-5, 316), speed, and strength during his senior year logging 82 stops, 24 TFLs, and 10 sacks.

Five 4-Star Class of 2021 receivers

There are two holes in the LSU roster from last season, one at receiver with Terrace Marshall Jr. testing the NFL and another with tight end Arik Gilbert transferring to Florida. The Tigers have leading receiver Kayshon Boutte with senior Jontre Kirklin returning along with underclassmen Koy Moore and Jaray Jenkins at the ready. The receiver meeting room is getting restocked with five Class of 2021 four-stars heading to Baton Rouge. Deion Smith is already on campus, and soon he will be joined by Chris Hilton, Brian Thomas Jr., Malik Nabers, and Jack Bech. Smith, Hilton, and Thomas were top-15 ranked receivers. Thomas is big (6-4, 190) and Hilton is that speedy slot that few defensive backs can run with.

— 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, Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.