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After Lost Freshman Season, LSU’s Kardell Thomas Can Be Impact Player for Tigers

Thomas will battle with Anthony Bradford, Liam Shanahan for right guard position

Not many freshmen in 2019 came in with more talk centered around their potential than offensive lineman Kardell Thomas. Outside of Derek Stingley Jr., the No. 1 prospect in the country, the University Lab product was one of those in-state prospects that was viewed as a centerpiece for the future of the LSU o-line.

Ranked as the No. 97 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class by 247Sports, Thomas, also like Stingley, was an early commit to the LSU program, deciding to join the Tigers in 2016 and never wavering. So when Thomas arrived last summer, with LSU having offensive line questions of its own to answer, there was some speculation as to whether he could push for a starting spot. 

With right guard locked up by Damien Lewis, Thomas provided depth on the o-line and competed with Adrian Magee and Chasen Hines for the left guard spot. However, two weeks into his first fall camp, a devastating leg injury ended his first season before it even started.

“I was at practice doing a goal line drill, it was the last play, and I was holding a block and Tory Carter got swung into my leg,” Thomas told 247Sports Shea Dixon. “It dislocated my fibula, I had to get two wires and a plate. It was bad. My ankle was sticking out of my leg. Really.”

After undergoing surgery, Thomas was able to return to the practice field just two months later in late October but was never cleared to play. He took a medical redshirt and is now looking to put the injury behind him as he competes for the starting right guard position this summer. 

When breaking down the offensive line depth chart a few weeks ago, Orgeron said that the right guard spot is wide open between Thomas, Anthony Bradford and Harvard transfer Liam Shanahan.

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“He's right there at second team behind Anthony Bradford. Listen, there's no starter right there at right guard. That thing is wide open," Orgeron said on 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge. "He could possibly start for us. The thing with Kardell is coming back from that injury, getting back and in condition, learning his plays and just being consistent. Once he does that, I think he's going to be a heck of a player for us."

Thomas was able to use the time off to catch up to the college game mentally but will now be tasked with putting that knowledge to the test on the field. At 6-foot-3, 326 pounds, his strong upper body and excellent use of hand placement are just a few of the traits LSU is hoping can help Thomas become an SEC starting offensive lineman.

"We all know about Kardell. Kardell's injury put him back a little bit. Kardell's big and strong," Orgeron said. "He's 6-2.5, 343. I do believe he's a baller, let's see what he can do."

Left guard seems to be Ed Ingram's spot to lose while center, along with right guard, are the two most noteworthy positions of question as we head into voluntary workouts starting Tuesday.

Fighting off Bradford and an experienced veteran like Shanahan will be tough for Thomas to accomplish coming off an injury, but at the very least he'll provide useful depth at both positions. 

Because LSU redshirted him last year, there's no real rush to force him into a starting role as he still has at the bare minimum, three years remaining in Baton Rouge. It will be one of those positions to follow as camp gets unde