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Cole Smith Enters the Transfer Portal

Freshman offensive lineman makes six departures from the 2018 signing class.

NCAA Football: Miami at Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Add another one to the list. Redshirt freshman Cole Smith, a three-star center prospect from Mississippi, is now in the transfer portal. Though we’ve seen some vacillation there around the country, this is one I expect to stick. When Smith signed, I was somewhat bullish on his overall potential, though I must admit this alternative path seemed the most or next most likely to occur next to becoming a starter. Smith surprised last year when he took the field after Lloyd Cushenberry went down with injury. That’s perhaps indicative of how thin our offensive line depth became at times last season.

Smith didn’t come with much acclaim though his dad was a former NFL player. While no one on the staff would ever outright state this, word on the street is that Smith simply doesn’t stack up to the competition on campus.

He makes the sixth member of the 2018 signing class to already leave campus. Earlier this Spring, Kelvin Joseph, one of the class’ stars, flirted with leaving himself, though the staff were able to bring him back into the fold. It’s looking more and more likely that half or more of that class will wind up contributing almost nothing in terms of playing time.

This means the offesnive line is presently without a backup center. 2019 signee Charles Turner may be the future there, but he’s got some serious weight he needs to add and shouldn’t be counted on to contribute there until 2020 in the earliest. LSU’s fortunate that Cush does have two years of eligibility remaining, though the staff will now need to cross train one of the guards as the backup center. Chasen Hines may be the most obvious candidate there, though it’s still not immediately clear who will be the starting guards come September. That’s a competition between Hines and 2017 starter Ed Ingram, who returns to the program after a one-year hiatus to sort his legal matter. Four-star 2019 signee Kardell Thomas will also have his shot at earning a role and reportedly he’s taken LSU’s nutrition and training regimen very seriously, getting his weight down to a more realistic playing weight. This should be an intriguing battle to watch this Fall.

Back in January, I wrote about how LSU would need to undergo some attrition to get into the 85-man scholarship limit. I didn’t expect the bulk of that to come from the 2018 signing class, but here we are. Quick recap on what I believed needed to get done to make the 85-man limit:

LSU is sitting at 89 scholarship players, if you count Avery Atkins and Zach Von Rosenberg who I’m not 100% have scholarships. Let’s just assume they do for the sake of argument. That means, before filling out the 2019 signing class, LSU already needs to cut their numbers down by four to meet the NCAA required limit. Coach O fully intends on signing a full 25-man class, meaning there will be six more players in that mix, driving the number up to 95 total scholarships and the need to cut 10. There’s also the pending legal situations with Tyler Taylor and Ed Ingram. I won’t account for them here, since they aren’t listed on the roster, but that could be an additional two scholarships if both return to the program.

That looks like 11 total players since Ingram has returned to the program. Taylor is not listed on LSU’s current roster and there’s not been any scuttle about his return. My assumption is that his days at LSU are over.

Scott, Sheffer, Provens, Livingston, Cotton and now Smith are gone. Giles is also transferring. Jack Gonsulin, who I listed in January, is no longer on the roster. I did a quick recalculation and it now looks like LSU sits at 87 total players on scholarship, meaning two more players still need to depart.

LSU Roster 2019

Position Player
Position Player
CB Cordale Flott
CB Derek Stingley Jr.
CB Kary Vincent Jr.
CB Kelvin Joseph
CB Kristian Fulton
CB Mannie Netherly
CB Raydarious Jones
CB Maurice Hampton
CB Jay Ward
DL Breiden Fehoko
DL Glen Logan
DL Joseph Evans
DL Justin Thomas
DL Neil Farrell Jr.
DL Nelson Jenkins III
DL Rashard Lawrence
DL Siaki Ika
DL Travez Moore
DL Tyler Shelvin
FB Tory Carter
K Cade York
LB Damone Clark
LB Donte Starks
LB Jacob Phillips
LB Kendall McCallum
LB Micah Baskerville
LB Patrick Queen
OL Adrian Magee
OL Anthony Bradford
OL Austin Deculus
OL Badara Traore
OL Cameron Wire
OL Charles Turner
OL Chasen Hines
OL Damien Lewis
OL Dare Rosenthal
OL Donavaughn Campbell
OL Jakori Savage
OL Kardell Thomas
OL Lloyd Cushenberry III
OL Saahdiq Charles
OL Thomas Perry
OL Ray Parker
OL Ed Ingram
OLB Andre Anthony
OLB Jarell Cherry
OLB K'Lavon Chaisson
OLB Michael Divinity Jr.
OLB Ray Thornton
OLB Desmond Little
OLB Soni Fonua
P Josh Growden
P Zach Von Rosenberg
PK Avery Atkins
PK Connor Culp
QB Joe Burrow
QB Myles Brennan
QB Peter Parrish
RB Chris Curry
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
RB John Emery Jr.
RB Lanard Fournette
RB Tyrion Davis-Price
S Cameron Lewis
S Eric Monroe
S Grant Delpit
S JaCoby Stevens
S Marcel Brooks
S Todd Harris Jr.
SNP Blake Ferguson
SNP Quentin Skinner
TE Aaron Moffitt
TE Jamal Pettigrew
TE Racey McMath
TE Thaddeus Moss
TE TK McClendon
TE Stephen Sullivan
WR Dee Anderson
WR Derrick Dillon
WR Ja'Marr Chase
WR Jaray Jenkins
WR Jontre Kirklin
WR Justin Jefferson
WR Kenan Jones
WR Terrace Marshall Jr.
WR Trey Palmer
WR Devonta Lee

As of today, Donte Starks and Soni Fonua are not yet academically cleared, so that’s two potential guys that may not wind up counting for 2019, though I believe the expectation is both make it in.

Using pure guess work, here’s a few names to monitor:

  • Mannie Netherly: entered the portal this spring before pulling his name back out. If the influx of freshman DBs pass him on the depth chart, he may opt for greener pastures.
  • Jakori Savage: he’s hardly played and it’s not inconceivable that Cameron Wire, Dare Rosenthal or even Anthony Bradford could snatch up his role.
  • Donavaughn Campbell: ditto the above, though slightly less likely since he’s played in actual games before.
  • Dee Anderson: seems highly unlikely, especially since Sullivan shifted fully to tight end, freeing up the receiver depth chart, but if he’s surpassed by younger guys, maybe he moves on?
  • Aaron Moffitt: no offense to the kid, but he’s on the roster because of his pops. That’s also probably his best argument for not being an attrition candidate.

So, my best guess is we see another player leave, maybe Starks or Fonua don’t qualify and then my math is simply wrong in that one of the specialists isn’t actually on scholarship right now. It feels criminal that Avery Atkins wouldn’t have a scholarship, but it does appear he was technically a walk-on in 2018.

Ultimately, LSU may already be at the number with the Smith departure. It’s unfortunate it’s had to happen along the offensive line, where we don’t yet have strong established depth, but if he wasn’t going to make an impact anyway, might as well move him along.