LSU returns a handful of high-profile, star-studded juniors. Ja’Marr Chase, Myles Brennan, Terrace Marshall and Tyler Shelvin headline a few of them. But what should we expect from a few ‘under-the-radar’ juniors that could be tasked with starting playing time in 2020?
With 14 players drafted and six signed in free agency, roles are certainly up for grabs. Positions like offensive line and linebacker could require players to break out onto the scene, but who will it be? We’ve projected three low profile juniors that could make a name for themselves this upcoming football season.
Chasen Hines (Center)
Backing up Lloyd Cushenberry in 2019, Hines played in 10 games with no starts, also seeing some action on special teams. He took a season-high 36 snaps at left guard against Vanderbilt on Sept. 21, and is expected to be the favorite to replace Cushenberry at center in 2020.
When Hines did see action at center in 2019, it was often in ‘garbage time’ with backup Myles Brennan. His snaps were visibly off-target on some occasions, but with an offseason to work with coach James Cregg, Hines should be good to go as an option to fill that starting role.
Hines will be given every opportunity to win the starting center job but having guys like Evans and Liam Shanahan waiting in the wings is a nice safety net for the Tigers to have.
Justin Thomas (Defensive End)
In 2019, Thomas recorded eight tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss in a reserve role. His most productive game came against Utah State on Oct. 5, where he recorded a career-high four tackles.
However, in late-October, coach Ed Orgeron announced Thomas had withdrawn from school for “personal reasons,” although there was a certain optimism that he could return by the spring.
LSU would later confirm in a February interview with 104.5 ESPN’s "Off The Bench" that Thomas had enrolled back at the school and was participating in team activities.
With the departures of Rashard Lawrence and Breidon Fehoko, look for Thomas to step in, alongside Glen Logan, Tyler Shelvin and Apu Ika, and tremendously increase his production.
Thomas will be battling it out at the right defensive end position with a couple of freshmen in BJ Ojulari and Phillip Webb. While one of the those two could certainly step in and take the position by storm, Thomas is the savvy vet and Orgeron is very high on his capabilities.
Micah Baskerville (Inside Linebacker)
If LSU hadn’t gone out and landed All-American North Dakota State linebacker Jabril Cox, Baskerville would’ve been a sure-fire starter at the position heading into the 2020 season.
Serving as a backup to Jacob Phillips in 2019, Baskerville has played in 20 games with one start, where he’s tallied 33 tackles and a sack in his two years with the program.
His biggest outing in 2019 came in Nashville against Vanderbilt, where Baskerville returned an onside kick 46 yards and blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown.
“We felt all along that Micah would be a good football player,” Orgeron said after LSU defeated Vandy. “He just took a little time to develop, but what a day he had today. I’m very proud of him.”
LSU likes to rotate its defensive players and with Bo Pelini having that linebacker background as a coach, Baskerville should find his way onto the field, even if it's not as a starter.