LSU football coach Les Miles isn’t afraid to play freshmen. He’s done so his entire career with the Tigers.
But with 18 starters back and only one underclassman gone to the NFL Draft, Miles has a luxury that he doesn’t normally have – he doesn’t have a glaring need to force the class of 2016 into action.
With that said, LSU’s recruiting class is ranked No. 1 by many publications for a reason – it’s made up of several incredibly talented future stars.
Here are five players in the class who may see time on the field next season if they land in Baton Rouge.
Erick Fowler – Linebacker (UPDATE: SIGNED WITH TEXAS)
If LSU has any thin spot on its depth chart, it’s at linebacker. That makes Fowler a huge priority for the 2016 season. A Manor, Texas native, the LSU five-star commitment is everything that a coach would want out of a linebacker on paper.
Fowler is massive and already has a college body. He’s quick, owning a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time, and he’s not afraid of contact, owning a reputation as one of the most physical high school seniors in the country. There aren’t many starting spots available at LSU right now, but Fowler’s raw talent alone should get him playing time in 2016.
Devin White – Fullback/Linebacker
LSU cherishes its fullbacks. It’s a position that Les Miles covets and recruits harder than any other coach in the country. White should be the next great LSU lead blocker, and he’s sure to see the field as a true freshman.
Already weighing 258 pounds and possessing a body that can easily hold more muscle, White is a monster when running through the hole, but the incoming freshman is more than just a lead blocker in an I-Form set. He’s also a good athlete. White possesses good hands and runs a 4.5-second 40. He can be a weapon for Cam Cameron in all phases of the offense.
Michael Divinity – Linebacker/Defensive End
For my dollar, Divinity is the most underrated player in the country. As a senior at John Ehret, the quick, heady linebacker single-handedly disrupted opposing offenses, showcasing an ability to stop both the run and pass.
At LSU, Divinity can either be a disruptive outside linebacker or he may add some weight and become an undersized, but extremely explosive defensive end, much in the same mold as Arden Key. Divinity is too talented to sit on the sidelines for long. With LSU, Ed Orgeron will find a way to showcase his talents on the field.
Stephen Sullivan – Wide Receiver
LSU is loaded at wide receiver with Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural and plenty others coming back next fall, but don’t be shocked if Sullivan finds a way to avoid being redshirted because of his sheer size and ability to find the football in the red zone.
At Donaldsonville, Sullivan just made plays when it mattered most – at critical times when the ball was near the goal line. If he develops and learns LSU’s system, he may find action late in the season.
Connor Culp – Kicker
LSU kicker Trent Domingue missed four out of his final seven field goals in 2015, including two kicks in the 20-29-yard range. That’s not good.
Combine that with LSU’s inability to consistently kick the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, and one can easily envision a world where Culp sees the field right away – assuming that he has the chops to play at the collegiate level. According to scouts, the Phoenix native has a big leg and can routinely pound touchbacks out of the back of the end zone. If that’s the case, he will be LSU’s kickoff specialist next fall – if not more.
Follow Casey Gisclair on Twitter @Casey_Gisclair.