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LSU Football Players Most Likely to Breakout in 2020: No. 5 TK McLendon, Defensive End

Switch from tight end to defensive line has worked in the JUCO transfer's favor

Even if you've followed LSU football closely for the last few months, you might not know a whole bunch about Tigers' defensive lineman TK McLendon. The 6-foot-5, 263-pound former tight end is entering his second year with the program after spending one year at Copiah Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Mississippi. 

McLendon was a tight end in his lone season at Copiah Lincoln but only caught five passes. In fact if it wasn't for his head coach, Glenn Davis, knowing LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, there's no way McLendon is on LSU's campus as a scholarship football player. 

In a story released a little over a month ago from Brody Miller of the Athletic, Davis told Ensminger to give McLendon a closer look and McLendon impressed the LSU coaching staff so much at the LSU Elite Camp, he earned an offer on the very same day.

McLendon lost out on the starting tight end job to Thaddeus Moss and Stephen Sullivan in 2019, but by mid September he had made the switch to defensive end. He did catch one pass for 12 yards in a 55-3 week one win over Georgia Southern during the Tigers run to a national championship but it was clear his quickest path to the football field would be on the defensive side of the ball.

After spending much of the season learning and adapting to the new role, it was apparent early that he had a bright future at defensive end. That couldn't have rung truer when LSU coach Ed Orgeron stepped up to the podium during his 2020 introductory spring press conference and announced McLendon as a starting defensive end.

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Orgeron thinks McLendon is perfect for the 4-3 defense LSU plans to switch to in 2020.

"Looking at the guys I’ve got, TK McLendon, he’s the perfect 4-3," Orgeron said before spring practice. "He will play in four techniques, that’s inside the tackle, now they’re playing outside, more of an attacking defense. I think the 4-3 is built on speed and aggressive nature, and I think we have that.”

It was actually senior consultant John Robinson, a legend in the college game with over 40 years of coaching experience, that suggested to Orgeron to think about moving McLendon from tight end to defensive end.

"John Robinson came up to me and said 'Coach what would you think about looking at TK McLendon at defensive line' and I tell you what TK is 6-foot-6, 270 and runs a 4.7 40-yard dash," Orgeron said. "He looks good in the drills right now so we have him at left end."

The spring practices being cut short didn't do McLendon any favors but the same can be said for virtually every player on the roster. When practice does resume, McLendon will be battling it out with Jarell Cherry, Justin Thomas and Andre Anthony as well as freshmen BJ Ojulari and Jaquelin Roy.

TK McLendon isn't a household name at the moment but rest assured he will be by the end of the 2020 season.