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Link Gumbo: 12/26/17

Some after Christmas news and notes.

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NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The early National Signing Period and upcoming bowl game have made for an exciting week at LSU. On top of that, Will Wade and the hoops squad only have one more game before conference play starts on January 3rd. Let's take a closer look at the news.

Injuries have plagued the Tigers all year and it looks like the bowl game will be no different as LSU will be without some key defenders in the Citrus Bowl. Linebackers Arden Key, Corey Thompson, and Donnie Alexander will not be available. LSU will have to rely on underclassmen to fill the void. Tyler Taylor and Jacob Phillips will play in place of Donnie Alexander at the weakside linebacker spot, with Taylor most likely getting the start. Taylor and Phillips both played a good amount for a true freshman this year and combined for 46 total tackles, they should be formidable starting next to Devin White. The real uncertainty will be with the two outside linebackers. Freshman K’lavon Chaisson and Ray Thornton will presumably get the starts as the two edge defenders in lieu of Key and Thompson. The loss of those two should not be overlooked. Key and Thompson combined for 10 sacks and 76 total tackles. Chaisson has just two sacks on the year, and Thornton has not recorded a sack yet. Chaisson and Thornton should benefit from the bowl practices and hopefully can take the next step in the bowl game. Notre Dame is a run-heavy team so Devin White will need to have a huge day as he will be the only regular starter at linebacker against a Notre Dame offensive line that is one of the best in America.

Notre Dame will also be without a couple of their players on New Years. Notre Dame receiver Kevin Stepherson and tailback CJ Holmes will be suspended. Stepherson had 359 receiving yards and caught five touchdowns this season while CJ Holmes only saw eight carries over three games.

The early signing period began last Wednesday and Coach O and the staff were able to sign 21 new Tigers. A big focus for LSU this recruiting cycle was adding some reinforcements to the trenches and Coach O accomplished just that. The Tigers were able to sign five defensive tackles last week which is big for a team that had a lack of depth up front this season. LSU was also able to sign two JUCO offensive lineman that could contribute right away in Badara Traore and Damien Lewis.

LSU waited until Friday to make a huge splash when they received a commitment and the paperwork of the top WR in the country and Louisiana native, Terrace Marshall. Marshall committed live on ESPNU and got emotional while doing so. Marshall also tweeted later that he would be staying home to play for LSU. Gotta give credit to Steve Ensminger and Mickey Joseph for closing the deal with Marshall after a late push from A&M.

The second highest rated player currently in LSU’s 2018 class is Jarell Cherry, who like Marshall, also waited until Friday to send his papers to LSU. Tiger fans have to be pleased with how LSU closed the early signing period. LSU welcomed Cherry with a billboard in Dallas.

Coach O hit the JUCO ranks to bolster this recruiting class. Ross Dellenger expanded on LSU’s focus on JUCO recruits in a piece for The Advocate last week.

A couple weeks ago we found out that Jeff Grimes would be leaving after the bowl game to be the offensive coordinator at BYU. Not long after it was reported that James Cregg would be the new offensive line coach for LSU. Last week the school made it official. Cregg has worked with Coach O before at Tennessee and USC and has spent the last few seasons in the NFL. Cregg is currently working with the Chargers and has built up quite the resume over the years.

LSU also added a kicker last week. Cole Tracy from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tracy was 27 of 29 kicking field goals this past fall. Connor Culp and Jack Gonsoulin both had their share of struggles kicking field goals this year. Connor Culp looked to be the solution in October but November brought more struggles for the LSU kickers. You will remember in early October, Coach O talked about the issues saying, “We just don’t have a field goal kicker.”

Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports had an interesting tweet surrounding LSU’s QB situation in 2018 and the expected competition between Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse. Feldman highlights that even though Brennan is expected to be the starter next fall, don’t be surprised if Narcisse gets the nod. The coaching staff has been impressed with Narcisse who redshirted this year after suffering his second ACL tear in his senior year of high school.

Brandon Sampson returned to court for LSU last Friday as the Tigers steamrolled North Florida. It was good to see Sampson back out there for the first time since LSU upset Michigan in Maui over Thanksgiving week. LSU will travel to Memphis on Thursday in a Tigers vs Tigers showdown. It is the last chance for Will Wade’s group to tune up before conference play starts January 3rd. The conference opener is a tough one. Coach Cal will bring his Wildcats to the PMAC. LSU fans need to show up and get loud for that one.

Closing on a note away from the playing field, it looks like Derrius Guice spent his Christmas Eve making a young LSU fan’s holiday.