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ATVS Roundtable: Impact Freshmen and Breakout Veterans

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Georgia Southern v LSU Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

Hey we’re going to have an actual football game in two days. Now seems like a good time to get the gang together and preview the season.

New member you’re most excited to see?

Poseur

It’s got to be Jabril Cox, right? OK, people are raving about Arik Gilbert, and I’m sure he’s going to be a force, but he’s also a freshman and as a general rule, it takes freshmen a little time to adjust unless their name is Derek Stingley. He’s going to be a player, but he’s not going to be the New Megatron until later in the year at the earliest. Cox, on the other hand, arrives on campus as a fully formed monster, and arguably our (second) best defensive player before he ever plays a down.* Cox is already an elite player, but I am curious to see how he adjusts to the faster speed of the SEC. I think he’s going to be awesome, and he’s a legit NFL prospect, but there is the fact he is stepping up a level in competition. I want to see how that brings out the best in him. Our linebacking corps is the strength of the team, which is not really something an LSU fan has been able to say since the mid-80s.

*Stingley is our best defensive player. Period. No arguments allowed.

Adam

Easily Arik Gilbert. If Chase was still with the team I could see Gilbert being eased into the role like Poseur said. But now LSU kind of needs him to step in and make some plays. He won’t have to carry the entire offense on his back, but his size and speed should create mismatches that LSU really needs to count on. We’re all aware that Brennan is about to get his first start, and every quarterback ever making his first start needs a safety blanket A 6’5”, 253 pound tight end in the middle of the field can pretty much fill that role easily.

Evan

I’ve also gotta go with Gilbert. Yeah he’s a freshman, but he got a whole extra month of practice! The way people are raving about this guy has me a little worried to hype bar is set too high, but with defenses keying in on Terrace Marshall and the RBs, I imagine Gilbert won’t have too much trouble getting open.

Max

Yeah I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s followed my work this offseason or just generally on twitter. It’s Arik Gilbert, and I haven’t been this excited about a recruit since Fournette (sorry Stingley, you don’t play offense). Arik Gilbert is 6’5 250 ALREADY and seems to be an unbelievable mover and athlete. He isn’t just gonna be LSU’s tight end, he’s probably gonna end up LSU’s best WR over the next few years too. Any other answer is wrong, and I’m a huge simp for Jabril Cox so that’s saying something.

Zach

I’m going to purposefully pick someone besides Arik Gilbert. Now for the record I am absolutely buying the Gilbert hype—I mean come on he’s already preseason 3rd-team All-SEC and hasn’t taken a single collegiate snap— but where’s the fun in echoing what Adam, Evan and Max have already said?

So instead let me pick Gilbert’s Marietta High teammate, BJ Ojulari. I like LSU’s defensive tackles, especially now that Neil Farrell is back in the fold, but defensive end is a big ole question mark. Travez Moore and Andre Anthony are seniors and have yet to have any kind of significant impact in their collegiate careers, and Ali Gaye is still relatively new to football. So the door’s open for Ojulari to have a massive impact as a true freshman. Orgeron has said Ojulari is “probably our best pass rusher right now” and foresees him becoming an All-American. I’m inclined to listen to Ed Orgeron when it comes to defensive linemen. If Ojulari can live up to those lofty expectations, he could shore up the biggest whole on the LSU defense.

What returning player makes the biggest leap?

Poseur

This is a bit like throwing darts at a board as the running back stable is pretty loaded right now, but at the risk of being burned two seasons in a row... I’m going with John Emery. He is too talented to just be a guy in the backfield and while I do think all three of the top guys will contribute all year, I think Emery is the one who has the best chance to break out into a truly special player. Right now, all three are listed together, so it is anyone’s job, and you have to think Curry has the early leg up with the earning of the #18 jersey. But Emery laid waste to the competition in high school, and he wouldn’t be the first player in history to have some issues in adjusting to the speed of college. Adjustment is over. Last year was a learning experience for him and if he uses that as a motivation rather than a frustration, he’s going to break out big time this year.

Adam

I think out of necessity and lack of returning production, it’s got to be the running backs. But unlike Poseur, I’m going with the whole stable instead of just one guy. The offense likely hasn’t changed so much to were we’re reverting to the 2014 offense but given Brennan is getting his first live reps, they’ll have to shoulder more of the load than they did last year. And while it would be easing to have one established bellcow, I think the days of that are in the rearview. LSU is going to rotate backs and do it often unless one guy establishes himself as above and beyond, I don’t hate that. It keeps them fresh and it takes away a lot of playcalling tells based on personnel for the defense

Evan

Poseur stole my answer with Emery. I think his freshman year looked a whole lot like Fournette’s freshman year. The freaky combination of speed and strength were apparent, but the player just had to get used to the defenses also being strong and fast. This comparison may seem strange because Fournette rushed for 1,000 yards his freshman year and JEJ ran for.... fewer. But Fournette got more chances as the year went on because he was in (shudders) that offense while Emery didn’t get significant carries later on because he was in (swoons) that offense. I expect we’ll see a different guy this year.

I also want to throw out Racey McMath which I think is the most obvious choice for a leap. His physical tools are absurd and he caught a large share of Myles Brennan’s garbage time passes last year. That probably doesn’t mean much, but if the announcers talk about Brennan and McMath having a rapport, that’s why.

Max

Emery seems to be an popular answer and certainly an appropriate one. That said, I’m gonna go with Racey McMath, he’s unbelievably gifted physically and he’s gonna be a handful for college DBs (he is 220 lbs, they aren’t). Chase Claypool esque player.

Zach

Once again, the guys beat me to the John Emery/Racey McMath punch. I was big on Emery last year and said he’d unseat Clyde Edwards-Helaire by season’s end. I’ve never been happier to be wrong about a prediction.

So let me pick Cordale Flott as my veteran player who makes a leap. While Derek Stingley Jr. got all the attention as LSU’s freshman sensation corner, Flott only allowed eight completions on the 25 passes directed his way. Flott will man the nickel corner position and with him, Stingley and Elias Ricks will give LSU arguably the best group of corners in America.