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Mike Detillier on LSU Newcomers Who Will Make the Biggest Impact
Well, on offense, everyone is interested in seeing the two freshmen halfbacks in John Emery, Jr., and Tyron Davis-Price.
I saw Emery play a lot since he went to Destrehan High School, not far from where I live, and he’s a good sized back with speed and a strong North-South presence in his running style. He’s elusive, a very good receiver coming out of the backfield, and he has another gear in space. His rushing style is along the lines of Dallas Cowboys halfback Ezekiel Elliott when he came to Ohio State. Like all backs from high school to college, the speed element is different and it’s a much more physical game and there’s more emphasis on protecting the football in a crowd.
The thing Emery will have to work on is his pass protection skills. In this offense, he will be asked to do that much more than in high school and it’s a bigger part of playing the position than at Destrehan. But he’s very gifted as a runner and receiver.
Tyrion is a bigger, more thickly-built back with excellent leg drive and the ability to shed would-be arm-tackles. He’s gotten some weight off to improve his quickness and speed and he’s still a big back. No matter what has been installed offensively I know the head coach. He wants that “power” element as part of his offensive attack and Davis-Price gives him that sort of back. Watching him, he is a lot like a back Coach Orgeron saw at USC when he was coaching there, LenDale White.
Chris Curry battled injuries in the spring, but was impressive in the Spring Game. He runs with his head up, good vision, he’s real strong in the lower-body and he has some quick “make you miss” moves that are impressive. His ability to make plays in the red zone will be important. It was a point of interest and concern for the coaches after the season to get better in the red zone/short-yardage situations and score touchdowns. Curry can help there and I am interested in how smooth he is as a receiver coming out of the backfield. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a terrific receiver coming out of the backfield, but I want to see more of Chris in this category.
I know Ja’Marr Chase played last season as a freshman, but he looks like a star player for the Tigers. Just a tremendous athlete with acceleration. He’s improved as a route runner and he catches the ball effortlessly. Outstanding “after the catch” skills also. Like Ja’Marr, he has some time under his belt, but they have to find a way to get wide receiver Racey McMath on the field more. Every time you watch him, you see he’s a playmaker. Racey is a big receiver and he gets open downfield. With this offense, with multiple sets at wide receiver, Racey has a chance to make that leap this year.
On the offensive line, certainly I want to see Kardell Thomas. Kardell has worked hard to get his weight down, improve his stamina, and physically get stronger, but he was a man out on the field manhandling people with his power. For someone this size, he moves his feet so well and he has excellent body balance and control skills. He’s an inside player at guard, but he’s very impressive. And we still haven’t gotten word about Ed Ingram, who many think will return to the team, but Kardell is a big-time player.
Interesting in doing some of the Coaches Tiger Tours, Coach O has mentioned twice about Anthony Bradford from Michigan. He’s a huge prospect who most thought would play guard, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them work him at right tackle and see how he handles things. Bradford is a power player with excellent lower-body strength and he knows how to use his arms and hands well. How well he can handle speed/quickness will be the key for him in 2019.
The other guy I want to see in the summer is Cameron Wire. There is always a developmental period for an offensive lineman and I want to see how well he has improved because physically he has what you are looking for to play the tackle spot and I could say the same for Dare Rosenthal. It’s so important to win in the trenches and develop those talented athletes to play, especially at the tackle spots. I can find the inside players at guard and center, but there is so much speed and quickness in this league that the tackles become super high priority for any SEC school.
On defense, Siaki Ika, “Apu” really impressed the coaches in the spring. I have known Coach O for quite some time and heard him talk about defensive linemen at Miami (Fla.) and USC and everything in-between, but other than Leonard Williams, who is with the New York Jets today and Ed had at USC, I haven’t heard him talk about a big man like this guy. Ika came in over 390 pounds and is now around 350 pounds and they hope to get some more weight off of him. He’s not just a big man in the middle to stuff the run. The guy moves so well and smoothly for such a large man. He’s worked hard to improve his hand and arm techniques and he is a good athlete. That’s impressive to get all that weight off and I want to see if he can keep it off and handle SEC play week to week, but he has the skills and physical ability.
Team him up with a slimmed down Tyler Shelvin and LSU is good inside at the nose tackle spot. You just hear it in Coach O’s voice how impressed he is with both Ika and Shelvin, and to be honest, when Ed Alexander was healthy last year he did a good job on the nose. Those guys will be a key to keep big bodies off of Michael Divinity, Jr. and Jacob Phillips inside and let them hit the seams to the ballcarrier.
Certainly, Derek Stingley, Jr. is the other guy the coaches rave about. He certainly passes the eyeball test. Derek is a big-time prospect, no question about it. He will get beat, like every other cornerback, but it’s his ball reaction skills, his demeanor to take on challenges. He has tremendous foot speed and recovery ability, he’s very gifted as a cover guy and a ballhawk. And he is mentally tough. That is so important to play that spot and many times you are on an island by yourself. Other teams will test you and fans will get after him when he gets beat, he has titanium in the backbone to take on the challenges and move on from a bad play and make a big play.
The other element is that Stingley will return punts and he has what Orgeron described as “elite return skills.” This team could use that element.
Marcel Brooks looks like they are grooming him to be the heir apparent to Grant Delpit. He’s built like Delpit coming out of high school and he is excellent in run support and he can cover. Marcel will make an impact on special teams too. It’s that hybrid safety spot they really like and Brooks looks to have the football goods to handle that in time.
The two guys I’m interested to see develop in the summer are cornerback/nickel-back Maurice Hampton, Jr. – who looks now like he will play at LSU and not turn pro in baseball – and cornerback Raydarious Jones from Mississippi.
I have an SEC coaching friend of mine who swears in short order Jones will play and play a lot for the Tigers. He was recruiting him and didn’t land him, but he says Jones is the real deal at cornerback and with his size, long arms, recovery speed, and ability to play the ball in flight, LSU will not be able to keep him on the bench long.
Hampton is a tremendous athlete with quick feet and he plays the ball like a receiver. He has first-rate eye-hand coordination. I look for him to play in the nickel early on and on special teams. Folks that have played against him praise his intelligence, his ability to figure out what is breaking down out on the field, and he puts himself in a position to make a play either versus the pass or against the run.
And certainly Cade York. Special teams coach Greg McMahon did not bite his tongue in saying the placekicking spot is Cade York’s to lose. He’s the guy they are counting on. Filling Cole Tracy’s shoes will be huge. It’s about consistency. You can see in York he has a stronger leg than Cole, but Cole was money inside 48 yards and the coaches trusted him. So it’s about being consistent on field goals and extra points and the mental part of the game
You are going to miss some kicks, but it’s bouncing back after the miss and hitting the next kick. On a talented team, this spot is the one that worries me the most because in crucial games it will come down to a handful of plays and some of those will be field goals and extra points. A freshman is doing this. But, no doubt Cade York is very gifted as a kicker. I learned this from listening to Morten Andersen for so long on how important being mentally tough and consistent with your leg swing is to the success of a kicker.
One thing I want to see is who emerges on special teams. Coach O told me that he wants the freshmen players to understand how important special teams are and it is a way for them early on to play and make an impact. It was a point of emphasis with him to make it clear that if you want to play and play early, play on special teams and make an impact. Like Jarvis Landry, Devin White, Tyrann Mathieu, Odell Beckham, Jr., Patrick Peterson and others did. Leonard Fournette returned kickoffs for the Tigers, too. So that opens the door for some freshman players to get on the field quickly.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier’s NFL Draft Report. He’s also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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