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Better Know a Freshman: Saahdiq Charles

LSU found their left tackle of the future.

We’ve spilt enough ink on the woes of the LSU offensive line. Though there remains strong potential on the unit, one could say there’s many sides to the issue. The combination of Clapp, Malone Jr., Brumfield and Weathersby logged plenty of time in the previous two seasons. Depth behind them is woefully thin to the point of wondering what happens if multiple injuries strike, which is often the case on the offensive line. Ever heard of Turner Simmers, Jibrail Abdul-Aziz or Justin Mikush? No? They are three junior walk-ons that have not too inconceivable paths to playing time.

I hate starts as a metric. Especially in an age dominated by situational football where lineup changes are shuffled through on single offensive series, much less quarter-by-quarter or game by game. Sure, if you pull up “starts” Garrett Brumfield registers a 0. But he’s also played in 23 games in his career and is a former four-star, top-100 recruit. My level of concern for his ability to man his new responsibility as “starter” ranks somewhere near my concern that our week 2 opponent, Chattanooga, will give us a run for our money.

But bigger questions exist at right guard, once considered a strength, now a major question mark since being vacated by Maea Teuhema. Earlier this week, Orgeron already disclosed LSU will rotate a pair of true freshman at the RG spot. OL isn’t typically a spot a true freshman walks into a starting role, unless he’s a special player.

Saahdiq Charles might be a special player.

Back of the Card

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Ranking: ****
247 Composite Rating: .9038

Charles finished as the number 262 overall player in 247’s composite rankings, and listed as the No. 18 guard in the country. Although he was not selected for any All-American teams, he did make the Opening Finals. While there, only five-star Walker Little and top-75 lineman Josh Myers finished with better testing numbers. He tested better than five-stars Alex Leatherwood, Foster Sarrell and Trey Smith. He also bested four-star, top-100 players Jedrick Willis Jr., Cesar Ruiz and now teammate, Austin Deculus. Isolated testing numbers are pretty useless, but it does give you an idea of the type of physical assets he brings to the table.

Charles is listed at 6’5”, 321 pounds, impressive size for an incoming freshman. He spent the bulk of his career playing defensive tackle, before shifting to the offensive line as a Junior. By the way, he was also a goalie for his soccer team his senior year.

On the Field

Already There: Size, Movement Skills

Working On It: Learning his Position

Doesn’t Have It: N/A

Already There

This will be an unconventional scouting report, as Charles is an unconventional player. The only tapes available of him are on the defensive side of the football and while that’s instructive for his athletic traits, it doesn’t tell you a whole bunch about how he will play his future position of offensive line. There’s simply not film out there of him playing OL and what does exist are camp settings without pad.

So let’s talk about Charles theoretically. He’s massive in the right way. Charles isn’t a dude that carries around gobs of body fat. He’s just a big, naturally thick athlete. To be 6’5”, 321 and looking like this:

The big guy isn’t walking around with a six-pack, but that’s carrying your mass exceptionally well. It’s the type of frame that will allow you to get on the field in a hurry, even as a true freshman. And it’s not just that he’s a squatty mass either. 6’5” is great height and he’s got long arms as well. Charles is built more like a Junior that’s been in the program four years than an 18-year-old newcomer.

Even more impressively, he can really move. Years of playing defense may actually have aided his overall developmental arc. He looks much more like a defensive tackle than your prototypical high school lineman. He’s limber and he can really move around. Even in his camp settings you can almost see him fighting his defensive instincts to plunge and attack rather than anticipate. When thrust into pass pro., I’m impressed by how well he bases. He looks really comfortable slide stepping and keeps his weight evenly distributed and over his feet. This is something a lot of young players struggle with and to Charles it all comes very naturally.

Working On It

Charles, by all means, should be exceptionally raw and trying to figure the whole OL thing out. Which is why this tweet comes as a surprise:

You’ve heard it said that it’s easier to learn something new than unlearn something. I think that plays with Charles here. He’s a defensive guy that didn’t spend 10 years perfecting bad techniques on offense. So the first real coaching he’s getting there comes at the highest levels. He’s a blank slate that’s hungry to learn.

Poseur’s 80s Movie Comparison

One of the hardest things to do is to change genres. You get a reputation as one thing, and then you have to change the public’s firm impression of you to become something else. Oh, and do it while jumping up a level. Saahdiq Charles is the TV drama/comedy star that is now trying to become an action hero, just like when Bruce Willis shed David Addison to become John McClane. that’s right, it’s time to unleash Die Hard.

Bruce Willis flashed that charm becoming a star on the set of Moonlighting, but he moved into the stratosphere with Die Hard. at the time, industry insiders didn’t think a balding, comedic TV actor could make the transition to action star in the era of Sly and Arnie. So he just changed what an action hero could be, and helped make the greatest action movie of the decade.

McClane himself is also going through a transition. He changes scenery from New York to Los Angeles, and finds depths to himself he didn’t know he had. He stops a terrorist plot, saves his marriage, and he does it all without a pair of shoes. Charles is ready to become an action hero and save everybody on the roof that’s triggered to blow.

What the Future Holds

Upside is the immediate word that comes to mind here. Some guys have this limitless potential that can only be undone by poor decision making or injury. There was a near zero chance a guy like Leonard Fournette wouldn’t be a hit. Chidi Valentine-Okeke, on the other hand, brought a world of promise and none of the production. I still think Chidi has greatness based on his ability, though it seems his desire to work at it may not equal his immense physical traits.

Charles being immediately thrust into a starting role illustrates he’s got both. He’s grade-A talented and ready to work for it. Charles is a kid, like so many, that was flushed out of New Orleans by Katrina, and spent time in Texas, Georgia and Alabama before finally winding up in Mississippi.

I think his displacement, coupled with his change in position lead to recruiting services undervaluing him as a prospect. His load of SEC offers and Opening Finals Invite suggest to me his ranking may be askew.

Charles will play guard this year and I’m sure he’ll have his ups and downs. It’s not easy being a true freshman offensive lineman in the SEC. I think his placement there is a case of him being one of the best five available and the hole. Next season, I wouldn’t be at all be surprised if Charles is our starting left tackle. He’s got that upside and potential. This is a long, nimble athlete with natural pass protection skills. He’s brute strong and built like a tank. He’s exactly the type of blocker you expect to play early.

High End: All-American, top-10 NFL Draft pick
Low End: Never matches his work ethic to his ability and flames out of the program.
Realistic: He’s on the path of being a multi-year starter already. He’s the future left tackle. He’s on the La’El Collins trajectory. Just wait and see.