Get bigger. Get stronger. It’s the Orgeron path to success. Press conference after press conference. Radio show after radio show. Orgeron sounded the alarms for re-stocking the LSU lines. He knew LSU needed help both long and short term. So he responded by signing nine players in the trenches (4 OL and 5 DL). And if you are looking for what O and staff prioritized when it comes to linemen just look at this:
2018 Line Signee Size
|6 foot 3||350|
|6 foot 3||335|
|6 foot 7||331|
|6 foot 3||326|
|6 foot 6||310|
|6 foot 3||290|
|6 foot 6||275|
|6 foot 4||275|
|6 foot 1||262|
Average: 6 foot 4, 306 pounds
The staff didn’t target a ton of long term projects that needed to grow into their bodies. These are players with the size to play day one in Baton Rouge. Chief among them is 6 foot 6, 310 pound Badara Traore, the JUCO OT that almost got away.
Badara Traore could have gone anywhere he wanted. Penn State. Georgia. Michigan. Auburn. Oklahoma. Ohio State. Texas. He swallowed up offers like an elite national prospect.
But Traore was a different type of prospect. Lightly heralded coming from HS, he spent time at two different junior colleges, Nassau Community College and Asa College, before he rose to prominence. While many schools began to take notice during his freshman season, LSU was slow to come through with an offer. It wasn’t until May of last year that the staff came through with an offer. Immediately the staff began working on him as a top priority in the class. A midyear enrollee, Traore’s recruitment remained oddly protracted.
He took a visit to Auburn in July. No commitment. Texas offered in September. He took an official visit there in October. No commitment. A month later he took a visit to LSU. To the shock of many: No commitment.
Nearly two weeks later, Traore pulled the trigger and popped for LSU. But he wasn’t done yet. Newly hired Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and new Tennessee... something... Austin Thomas, set their sights on Traore, bringing him to Knoxville for an official visit. Trepidation swept over LSU fans as it looked like Tennessee may have a legitimate chance to sweep in at the last moment and sign Traore. Days later, Thomas fell out at UT and Traore remained committed, though silent. Suddenly, early signing day looked to be a decision day for Traore. Suspicions were that he’d sign with LSU, but no one could know for sure.
That morning, Traore made it official and signed his letter of intent. One month later, he enrolled at LSU.
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: .9020
At 6 foot 7, 310 pounds, Traore features prototypical LT size. It’s easy to see why teams would covet him based on size alone. He’s a solid 4-star prospect, the no. 6 JUCO player in the nation and the no. 2 JUCO OT. There’s no testing numbers available, but he’s a big dude.
One of the things that really stood out about Traore’s JUCO OL signee brother, Damien Lewis, was how well he moved for a big man. Similarly, Traore is an exceptional athlete all the way around. You can tell from the way he gets out of his stance to the way he moves on pulls and traps... the athletic giftings are all there. If he fails, it won’t be because his athletic talent didn’t measure up.
I don’t see a great power blocker. He’s got good size, though at 6 foot 7, 310 pounds doesn’t go as far. He’s leaner than you’d think, but he’s not overly slim. In that sense, he’s probably what you’d predict him to be based on his physical stature: a great pass blocker and so-so in the running game. Traore isn’t a guy that’s gonna blow people off the ball or knock their socks off with his punch.
In fact, his lack of physicality is probably my number one concern about him. I love athletic lineman, but I also want a 300 pounder to simply dominate players of much smaller stature. So when I see Traore pull and get a hat on LB and only manage to kind of push him out of the way, I’m not blown away. It’s not that he’s a liability in the run game, but put it this way, if the game is on the line and you need three yards, you probably aren’t running behind this guy.
That said, he may actually be a really great fit for what the supposed new Ensminger offense is to be. Traore looks exceptionally natural in pass pro, keeps his base well, uses his long arms to keep defenders off of him and looks like a dominant player in that role.
Saahdiq Charles did an admirable job for a true freshman thrown into the LT role, so I’m not inclined to simply give his job away. That said, it’s been a while since LSU had a LT as pure of a pass blocker as Traore. Even good LTs, like La’El Collins and Andrew Whitworth were more physical, run blocker types that were solid pass protectors. Traore isn’t Joe Thomas, obviously, but he fits the stereotype. He’s big, long and well balanced. He could probably go the year without yielding a sack. But he may not give you the best option in the run game.
This is where projecting Traore gets much tougher. If you don’t consider re-shuffling the OL to fit Traore at LT, I’m not sure I like him anywhere else. If you wind up going with Lowell Narcisse as your QB, Traore could protect his blindside, in theory, but then, if you go with Lowell Narcisse as your QB, you are probably going to want to run the ball a whole helluva lot more. As a true RT, I don’t see Traore to be a great fit. I like grinding run blockers and that’s simply not his style. Could he find that mean streak in Baton Rouge? Sure. Am I betting on it? Nope. That carries over to the interior spots as well. And there his lack of power may be even further exposed. So where does he wind up?
Assuming Charles is healthy and Cregg doesn’t get creative, I think Traore’s rotational depth. Based on size and recruiting rankings, I thought I’d much prefer him to Damien Lewis, but after giving them both a look over, I think Lewis stands a much better chance of being a great player for LSU. That said, Traore has immense athletic gifts, so if Cregg can uncork that physicality, he could easily assert himself as one of the five best OL on the roster.
High End: Starter and high draft pick.
Low End: Fails to crack the 2-deep
Realistic: Rotational depth that may get some starts in a pinch