*Ed. Note: h/t to @Studley for the idea here.*
So we've talked plenty about all the big-time prospects in this class. We've even highlighted some of the "sleepers" from the lesser-ranked prospects. But each year, a handful of guys are signed on as preferred/priority walk-ons. We've seen several preferred walk-ons ascend to contributor status during the Miles era, a few of which eventually earned full scholarships. Players like Drew Alleman, Colby Delahoussaye, Connor Neighbors and Seth Fruge were all major contributors the past two seasons, none of which stepped onto campus with a full-ride to play LSU football.
Preferred walk-ons generally come in all shapes and sizes. Most often, they wind up simply being depth-chart/practice-squad filler that offer significant contributions to the program in a very unseen way (unseen to fans, anyhow). Many are excellent high school players that simply don't merit D1-level football scholarships. Some of those will even bypass opportunities to play at smaller schools simply to fulfill their dreams of being an LSU student and being on the football team in any fashion. They are typically either big but not fast, or fast but not big. Maybe his dad is a coach on the team. Maybe he's looking to jump into coaching, and what better way to climb the ladder than by throwing oneself into a high-level environment and paying dues in front of potential future employers? Maybe he's a talented dual-sport athlete in high school, whose future is best served in another sport.
Just last year, a guy named Jake Franklin. You probably missed that... I know I did, came on from North Carolina, with virtually zero ties to LSU. It's hard to know a ton about most of these guys. Often times their names never reach the public eye. Even when they do, it's a very small, "he plays this position at this school," type of summary.
That being said, I'm going to do my best here to pay attention to the names I've seen bandied about. Before I get to them, however, I'd like to throw some words at Cameron Gamble. Gamble is on a full scholarship, but I felt he should get his due, after I failed to write anything about him in the lead-up to signing day.
Gamble is a composite 3-star kicker, and his offer is one that's been scrutinized by plenty of LSU fans. The primary reason being, he didn't really kick field goals in HS. How can you recruit a kicker that doesn't kick field goals? Well, probably because he can do things like this:
Evaluating kickers is not really my forte, but it's certainly something we've seen Miles excel at in his tenure. When's the last time we had a truly bad kicker? That said, we should also look to the ties we have to the Jamie Kohl kicking camp. Peruse the site and you'll see a litany of D1 kicking prospects signing all across the nation. Of note, Jamie Keehn and Colby Delahoussaye are recent Kohl proteges.
On Kohl's site, he ranks Gamble as the 3rd best kicker in this signing class, while praising his work ethic, booming leg and untapped upside. Kicking, like any other position is as much about physical upside as anything else. We've seen high-caliber athletes projected out to different positions for ages. A recent example which comes to mind is Barkevious Mingo, a guy who played around 200 pounds in high school, as a safety and line backer. He wound up becoming one of the best defensive ends in school history. The point here is, there's just as much merit to arguing against Mingo's success as there is to Gamble's.
So the answer to, "why do we sign a kicker that doesn't kick field goals?" is, very simply, he projects well there. Frankly even if Gamble never emerges as the FG kicker, a leg with his power will make for a dominant KO guy, and we've seen a growing tendency for Miles to opt for different players on FGs and KOs anyhow.
Gomez prepped at Parkview High School as a center. You can watch his highlights here. He's listed at 285 on HUDL, but I'm thinking this advocate article labeling him 265 is much closer to his actual weight. At only 6'0" tall, it's pretty easy to see his shortcomings as an offensive line prospect on the next level. He was an All-State player at the 3A level.
His future at LSU is at FB. In a WAFB piece, he mentions he's already begun readying himself for the transition, dropping 35 pounds since December 12th. On tape, I can easily see the thinking here. Gomez doesn't bring a great punch, but he plays with good leverage and technique, something that illustrates his coachability, and a lunch-pail mentality. He also does a pretty good job as a pulling lineman, so it's easy to see how slimming him down a bit could bring about the additional mobility required to play FB. The future of the fullback spot is still a bit of a mystery, but Miles has shown a willingness to play non-scholarship players there.
Kaigler played for McKinley Senior High in Baton Rouge, alma mater of LSU's own Tyrus Thomas as well as notable alums in NBA legend Don Chaney, former Grambling Head Coach Eddie G. Robinson, blues legend Buddy Guy and popular rapper Lil' Boosie.
In HS, Kaigler was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, lining up at QB, receiver and tight end on offense, while also playing safety on defense. Despite this, he made First Team All-District at tight end, the position which he will come to LSU to play. At 6'5", 210 pounds he's got pretty nice size. There's few highlights available, but they can be seen here. I can't help but be impressed by the first catch on this real. He looks like a 6'5" guy that can naturally track the ball and really get up and make a play on it.
He's also a good basketball player, earning All-District honors as a Junior at Istrouma. This could be a bit of a diamond in the rough for LSU. Admittedly, I've seen very little of the kid (perhaps some of you readers have watched him play more), but a 6'5" guy that can leap like that? I'm surprised he didn't field at least a few more low-level football offers.
As is the case with most walk-ons, I'd expect Kaigler to be little more than practice field depth, but you have to think Cam Cameron is excited to work with a guy of that size and athleticism. It's a formula he's found success with before, in Antonio Gates.
Gallman, like Gomez, is an undersized OL prospect that will transition to fullback at LSU. He's 6'1" around 260 pounds, and earned All-State Honors at Dutchtown his senior season. I can't locate any highlights of Gallman on HUDL, but his All-State selection illustrates he's an accomplished player.
Bergeron is a 2013 recruit that actually spent this season at Highland Community College in Highland, KS. Bergeron originally hails from Lafayette, prepping at St Thomas More. At 6'2", 200 pounds he's got good size for the position. On tape, he looks to have some decent mobility and a solid arm. He made 1st team All-Conference in the KJCCC, where he completed nearly 71% of his passes for almost 3,000 yards and 22 TDs in just 10 games.
I doubt Bergeron ever cracks the depth chart considering the wealth of current QBs, but for a walk-on he looks to have pretty good talent. Surprised a smaller school didn't take a chance on him.
Wallace also preps in Baton Rouge at Dunham High School. He's a 6'0", 190 pound CB/S prospect. Wallace is a rugged, hard-nosed defender that may lack overall athletic abilities, but can certainly play. He's a good, at times ferocious hitter, with solid coverage instincts. I hate to use a washed-up labeling, but he seems to find the football... constantly. Whether he's jarring it loose on big hits, stripping it on wrap-up tackles, punching it out from behind or jumping into a passing lane, he makes plays.
Toward the end of his clip, you get to see some Special Teams work, and that may be his future role at LSU. I doubt he could crack the depth chart with the insane number of talented defensive backson campus right now, but this is the type of kid that can be a willing gunner. Don't be surprised in a couple of years if you are taking up Google to figure out "who that Wallace kid is that keeps making plays on special teams."
Wallace tore his ACL, and I think that may play into why he's walking-on to LSU and not playing ball elsewhere next season. He was being recruited some prior to the injury. He's not a super athlete, but the kid can play ball.
Pfau is a kicker/punter from Klein, Texas. He's connected to Chris Sailer, another HS kicking expert we've drawn multiple prospects from in the past several years. Here's some clips of him kicking:
He also has an interview here:
Pfau drew some praise on Sailer's site for his FG kicking and punting as well. He was a Camp Champion at one of Sailer's events this past fall. Frankly, I don't know a whole helluva a lot about the kid, but from his Twitter it looks like his older sister goes to LSU.
There's certain to be more, but these were the names I could dig up for now. It's important to remember, most of these guys will probably never play significant minutes for LSU. I will say, I do like the upside of Kaigler and Wallace. Gallman is a guy that probably has enough talent to see the field at some point. If YOU know of any more players, please hit me up and I can add them to the piece.