One of the benefits of having practically an entire new staff is that it puts all of the players, new and returning, pretty much on level ground. There are only so many surefire starters returning to this LSU team in 2021.
Derek Stingley Jr., Elias Ricks, Kayshon Boutte and much of the offensive and defensive lines feel like safe bets to see the field come fall. But for early enrollee freshmen like Maason Smith, Derrick Davis Jr. and Navonteque Strong, spring camp is a time when they can show their new coaches what they bring to the table.
Smith, Davis and Strong all have something in common, they're all have new position coaches. Defensive line coach Andre Carter, linebackers coach Blake Baker and defensive coordinator/safeties coach Daronte Jones don't have any pre conceived notions about who should and shouldn't be with the first team.
Another aspect that helps all three players out this spring is that there aren't many guarantees with their positions. It's widely expected that veterans Glen Logan and Neil Farrell will play on the inside of the defensive line but both are coming off unproductive seasons which is why they're back in Baton Rouge.
The ascension of Jaquelin Roy on the interior is also something to keep an eye on when it comes to potential hurdles for Smith to climb but the true freshman was undoubtedly Ed Orgeron's biggest target and Orgeron himself has already talked up the Terrebonne native quite a bit.
"I've seen him grow up into a man," Orgeron said of Smith back in December. "I think he's gonna be a dominant football player and a team captain for our football program. He's always on the phone recruiting, talking to other guys, has a great personality and excited about him."
As for Strong, he'll be competing with Damone Clark, Micah Baskerville and Josh White this spring for reps at inside linebacker. Keep in mind that Clemson grad transfer Mike Jones Jr. will be on campus this summer when the rest of the 2021 signing class arrives so Strong has some opportunity to earn playing time with a productive camp.
With a powerful frame, good lateral quickness and football instincts are all traits that best describe Strong as a potential inside linebacker.
As for Davis, he's one of the top two safeties in the entire country heading to Baton Rouge but also has a leg up because he's already enrolled. There's no doubt that LSU envisions Davis and Sage Ryan as the future of the safety position but can Davis make up some ground on guys like Todd Harris and Jordan Toles?
He's more of a big bodied safety who has the physical traits to make plays all over the field as he continues to fill out his body. Davis is certainly one of the more promising prospects in this class and will be interesting to see if he can win over Jones over the coming month.
Guys like receiver Deion Smith and offensive lineman Garrett Dellinger are also early enrollee names to watch but there are many jumps that both will have to make because of the crowded rooms they're positioned in.
If LSU wants to get back to some level of consistency, then many of the freshmen will have to step up this spring and show that the future could very well already be here.