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As The Portal Turns: LSU Gains Two, Loses One

In comes Jardin Gilbert and Zavion Thomas, out goes Sage Ryan

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The weather may be getting colder, but the transfer portal drama is heating up.

Friday has been the busiest day yet for LSU since the portal opened. LSU saw third-year DB Sage Ryan enter his name into the transfer portal, but offset the loss by adding former Texas A&M safety Jardin Gilbert and former Mississippi State receiver/returner Zavion Thomas.

Let’s start with Sage Ryan. Ryan was a five-star prospect coming out of Lafayette Christian Academy but for whatever reason never lived up to the billing. For all the hand-wringing about LSU’s secondary not having the peak DBU talent, Ryan was one of those high school talents the Tigers would pull in every cycle.

Ryan has appeared in 30 games with 12 starts and has done a little bit of everything over the past three seasons. He was recruited as a safety, played some nickel, and this year had to play corner out of necessity. This season’s been by far and away his most productive as Ryan had 35 tackles and three pass deflections.

Ryan’s decision to enter the portal is almost certainly linked to Jardin Gilbert decision to transfer in. Gilbert was an LSU target coming out of U-High, but he spurned LSU and picked Texas A&M. He played sparingly as a freshman in 2021, but played 11 games with 10 starts in 2022. Gilbert had 61 tackles, four PBUs, and two interceptions last season.

Gilbert started the first two games for A&M this season but missed the remainder of the 2023 season due to shoulder surgery. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining but will be draft-eligible at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

Thomas, like Gilbert, is another Louisiana kid coming back home. Thomas is from just outside of New Orleans and prepped at John Ehret. A low four-star/high three-star prospect, Thomas burst onto the scene in 2022 by capturing Freshman All-American honors as a punt returner. Thomas ranked second in the SEC and fifth in the nation in punt returns, averaging 13.5 yards per return. He brought one back for a touchdown against Georgia last season, and this year returned a kickoff for a score against Texas A&M.

Mississippi State’s offense was a mess in 2023 but Thomas still managed 500 yards receiving and added nearly 400 yards in kick and punt returns. Thomas will hopefully solve LSU’s punt and kick return issues. Since Brian Kelly’s taken over, LSU’s punt return game has been basically non-existent.