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How LSU Football Has Utilized the Transfer Portal to its Advantage and Why it’s as Important as Ever in 2020

Cox, Shanahan will look to continue string of success for Ed Orgeron in the portal.
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Since Ed Orgeron received the head coaching job in 2017, he’s made it his mission to build a culture in Baton Rouge that exemplifies sustained success. He’s done it all kinds of ways. 

He’s gone after the best the state of Louisiana has to offer, bringing high profile natives like Derek Stingley Jr., Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall and John Emery aboard. Recently he’s made splashes out-of-state, signing big time recruits like Elias Ricks out of California and Arik Gilbert out of Georgia.

He’s done it every which way imaginable but perhaps his most important tool has been the way Orgeron has utilized the transfer portal. Just think about a few of the players Orgeron has grabbed from the portal since 2018.

Quarterback Joe Burrow and kicker Cole Tracy headlined the 2018 portal class. We all know how those moves turned out, one setting the single-season program record of 29 field goals in the 2018 season, the other having the most successful passing season in college football history.

After not picking up a player from the portal in 2019, Orgeron dipped his toes into the portal once again in 2020. Coming into the offseason, there were a few glaring holes but none more important than linebacker and offensive line depth.

Orgeron checked both boxes by bringing in North Dakota State linebacker Jabril Cox and versatile Harvard offensive lineman Liam Shanahan.

Cox figures to step in and immediately contribute as one of the more talented and experienced players on the defense. A three time All-American and three time champion for the Bison, Cox figures to be one of the starting linebackers for the Tigers this fall.

“We feel he’s going to be an immediate impact player for us,” Orgeron said. “We talked to some NFL people, and they felt like he’d be a [first-round] draft choice if he came out.”

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It didn’t take much convincing on Orgeron’s end as Cox felt comfortable signing with the Tigers despite never visiting campus. In an interview with WWL radio last week, Orgeron said Cox was literally en route to Baton Rouge for a visit when recruiting was shut down and had to be sent home.

“He's never taken an official visit to LSU so just think about what that championship has done for us, that we were able to sign the best graduate transfer out there without him even visiting our campus,” Orgeron said. 

As for Shanahan, the coaching staff believes he has the versatility to play center, guard or tackle, depending on what the o-line might need. At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, that’s a nice luxury to have for a unit that was barely going two deep during the few spring practices they were able to squeeze in.

“We are very young at all three [positions],” Orgeron told “Off the Bench” in a recent interview. “Who knows, he may come in and start, but we brought him in so at least we could have a backup at those positions. We have some young freshmen coming in but we are unstable at some spots, as far as depth. For sure, he can bring some depth for us.”

Cox and Shanahan having success is important for the program in 2020 because there isn’t the luxury of having a ton behind them. In Shanahan’s case, him being a swiss army knife, plug and play guy is a much needed quality for a young, inexperienced o-line as a whole.

For Cox, he’ll likely be asked to be an every down player from the jump with Micah Baskerville and freshmen Antoine Sampah and Josh White as backups. While Sampah and White’s futures are certainly bright in Baton Rouge, given the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine either being prepared for heavy snaps in 2020.

How Cox and Shanahan pan out in purple and gold remains to be seen but Orgeron’s track record in the portal, at least thus far, is without a blemish.