LSU Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices
LSU head coach Les Miles will rely on freshmen in 2014 now more than ever. Luckily enough for Miles, his incoming class of newcomers is his best ever.
Fall practice will be a vital period for the incoming freshmen, as they will have their first chance to prove their worth in pads. The pressure for them to perform in their first year is unlike any other crop of players Miles has ever coached.
The 2014 class is headlined by 5-star running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Malachi Dupre. No matter what happens in fall practice, odds are in Fournette and Dupre's favor to play in the season opener against Wisconsin. The same cannot be said for the rest of the players.
Here are four freshmen to keep an eye on for the rest of the offseason.
There are few things in college football more intimating than starting at quarterback as a true freshman. Brandon Harris might find himself in that position for the season opener against Wisconsin.
LSU's quarterback battle is so close, fall practice might determine who starts against Wisconsin. Sophomore Anthony Jennings is the only thing standing in the way of Harris being named the starter. He worked with personal quarterback coach George Whitfield over the summer to help him become a better all-around signal-caller.
Harris, one of LSU's two early enrollees, ended spring on a higher note than Jennings, but that will be nullified if he struggles during the fall. He must show progress as an overall passer to win the job.
LSU needs playmakers on the outside to step up.
The Tigers lost two of the best receivers Les Miles has ever had in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason. The leading returnee at receiver, Travin Dural, only caught seven passes last season.
Outside of Dural, there is plenty of uncertainty in the receiving corps. John Diarse, Quantavius Leslie and Avery Peterson all return but only have one combined career reception amongst them.
The Tigers will rely on 5-star freshman Malachi Dupre to provide a vertical threat next season. Dupre's role becomes even bigger if Brandon Harris is named the starter, as the two have worked together extensively this offseason.
But Dupre is not the only talented freshman pass-catcher in the 2014 class. Trey Quinn, who has sub-4.4 40-yard dash speed, per 247sports.com, is a smooth pass-catcher who can get behind safeties.
Quinn must prove he has the physicality to fight through defensive backs once the Tigers put the pads back on this fall. If he does, expect him to get a chance to make plays.
LSU will need a true freshman defensive tackle to play right away. Travonte Valentine is the most likely candidate.
Valentine, at 6'3'', 325 pounds, has a size advantage over fellow incoming freshman Trey Lealaimatafao and Davon Godchaux. Look for the Tigers to possibly take advantage of his frame in short-yardage situations on defense.
But Valentine could be used more if he proves fit enough in fall practice.
LSU's inexperience at defensive tackle could be a problem next season. The season opener against Wisconsin, a power-running team led by Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon, will be a great test for new starting duo Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture.
Thomas and LaCouture's backups will both be redshirt freshmen. Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain must play at a high level. If not, Valentine's, or another freshman's, name will be called upon to play right away.
Bain told ESPN.com's David Ching that Valentine could be a crucial addition to the defensive tackle rotation.
Jamal Adams is the total package at safety.
Adams is a bruising tackler with amazing ball skills in the passing game. LSU's returnees have already been impressed by Adams' natural ability, according to The Advocate's Ross Dellenger.
Adams might start primarily as a special teams performer, but expect him to eventually see the field on defense. How fast that process might take will depend on how quickly he learns the many nuances of defensive coordinator John Chavis' playbook this fall.
The Tigers have a multitude of veteran safeties who have all registered a start. But Chavis has never been afraid to play the best player available, regardless of experience. If Adams proves to be the best, he will be on the field.