Three LSU signees should make immediate impacts in Baton Rouge. The talent infusion should bolster a rebuilding LSU defense.
When LSU finally reeled in Maason Smith, he became the centerpiece of the recruiting class. It’s ultra rare that a player over 300-pounds can consistently apply pressure to the quarterback, but that’s what Smith proved he could do.
The Houma (La.) Terrebonne product was a national recruit that LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron and the entire LSU staff were a part of recruiting in one way or another. With Smith joining a unit void of much depth, he will certainly be counted on for more than just pass rushing in third down situations.
If the Tigers lose Neil Ferrell and Glen Logan along the interior, it’s hard to imagine that the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Smith will not be a part of a rotation of defensive tackles in the two-deep depth chart. He’s powerful against the run, and his previously noted pass rushing skills are unique. Moving to the next level of the defense, there’s a linebacker that has just as much a chance to make an impact as Smith.
Coming from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Navonteque Strong is an every-down linebacker that can keep up with today’s up tempo offenses. The 6-foot-0, 230-pound defender provides a great combination of skills.
Most importantly, Strong can cover in space. Whether it be in zone or in man, he’s athletic enough to stop in his tracks, change direction, and cover a running back, tight end or wide receiver over the middle of the field.
When Strong is in coverage, he’s also adept at coming up and taking on a quarterback that escapes the pocket. This is as much a mental aspect of Strong’s game as it is physical; he understands when it’s necessary to go get the quarterback. Against the run, he showed signs of great instincts.
Strong’s ability to diagnose a play and take a direct path to the running back while avoiding linemen was uncanny. He found ways to shoot gaps and/or fake out offensive linemen before wrapping up the ball carrier. Strong is a savvy inside linebacker. With LSU’s limited linebacker depth, Strong should make a run at a starting position. In the back end of the defense, there’s also a talented prospect capable of playing very early.
Sage Ryan could play running back, safety or wide receiver and be a very good player, but he’s slated to stay in the defensive secondary for the Tigers. At 5-foot-11, 195-pounds, Ryan’s quickness in and out of his breaks is exceptional. He moves like a running back. More importantly, Ryan knows what to do when he reaches the ball carrier.
A big-time hitter, Ryan utilizes his explosive first step to gain an advantage over the competition. He’s twitchy like a cornerback, yet strong and powerfully built like a safety. That combination will allow LSU to utilize Ryan in the box against a power running team such as Texas A&M or move him around within the deep secondary against a passing attack such as Mississippi State.
Much like Smith and Strong, Ryan’s ability to be an every down player is what makes him a high probability to be an impact player. Overall, LSU’s defensive recruiting class is loaded with talent and even narrowing it down to three players was quite difficult.
It would have been easy to pick Greg Penn III or Derrick Davis, Jr. or Landon Jackson among others. It’s a loaded defensive recruiting class. The versatility of those three players made the most sense, and that’s why they were selected.
LSU fans will see many new faces amongst the LSU defense next season. It’s going to be a dynamic group arriving in Baton Rouge.