LSU CB Jalen Mills (US Presswire)
A trio of Tigers - WR Odell Beckham, DT Anthony Johnson and S Craig Loston - were recently named preseason first-team All-SEC by the league's coaches. TSD's Ben Love runs down the next five LSU players in line who could dent that list by season's end.
The SEC's coaches have spoken.
In this final week before the 2013 season kicks off, the league's 14 sideline bosses voted for three tiered All-SEC offenses, defenses and special teams. LSU landed a trio of players on the first team.
Among those three were the defensive duo of "Freak" and "Poppa." Junior DT Anthony Johnson and redshirt senior S Craig Loston were tabbed to the first team while Odell Beckham turned the trick as a specialist.
In fact Beckham had the honor of appearing on all three teams. The junior from Isidore Newman was selected to the first team as a return specialist, the second team as an all-purpose player and the third team as a wide receiver.
Listed below are my picks for the five LSU players next in line who could easily vie for first-team All-SEC honors themselves by season's end. They are in order from most to least likely.
LB Lamin Barrow
This choice isn't terribly bold, nor am I out on a precarious limb. Barrow, a redshirt senior coming off a 104-tackle season, made the coaches' preseason list as a second-team player. The only three linebackers listed ahead of him were Alabama's C.J. Mosley, Tennessee's A.J. Johnson and Denzel Nkemdiche of Ole Miss. No argument on this end with the first two, but Barrow definitely has the potential and pedigree to be every bit as important and productive as the older Nkemdiche is to the Rebs. He'll start at weak side LB for LSU, play some in the middle and defend well against both the run and the pass. Barring injury I expect another monster season from Barrow.
CB Jalen Mills
It is pretty baffling to me that the SEC coaches didn't deem Mills one of the top 12 DBs in the league. All he did as a true freshman in 2012 was start on an island as LSU's second corner, move down into the box on most nickel and dime sets as well as cover both punts and kickoffs. Mills enters this fall as the Tigers' unquestioned lead corner and will draw assignments opposite a bunch of future pros (Cooper, Moncrief, Mitchell). The opportunity for him to make plays will be there week in and week out. At this point the only question is how often will teams go after Mills with Jalen Collins or an unproven player on the other side of the field?
OG Trai Turner
The only offensive lineman from LSU on one of the coaches' teams was LT La'el Collins, who made the third team. While La'el could prove a lot by thriving during a position change, I believe it's RG Trai Turner who has a chance to be the Tigers' most dominant OL, making him a strong candidate for postseason award consideration. Turner is the only Tiger lineman playing and starting in the same spot where he did a year ago. He's bigger, he's more experienced and Turner moves extremely well as a pulling guard and someone getting out in front of screens and swing passes. With a lot of moving pieces around him, don't sleep on Turner making the leap as a second-year starter in this LSU offense.
RB Alfred Blue
At the end of the 2012 season, and even as spring ball came to a close in April, most would've pegged Jeremy Hill as the LSU back destined for glory in 2013. But, an offseason arrest followed by a series of court hearings has the beginning of Hill's sophomore campaign still in jeopardy. The result is that senior Alfred Blue is now atop the depth chart and poised to pick up where he left off through three games last fall, when Blue was leading the SEC in rushing before suffering a knee injury. The coaches did select Blue as a third teamer, meaning they already believe he has top-six capability at his position in the conference. If he takes the reins for LSU to start the season, especially if Hill misses time, this could be a big swan-song year for the reliable Blue.
LB Kwon Alexander
Alexander might be better pegged as a Most Improved candidate for the 2013 season, given the way his freshman campaign was prematurely cut short in the Florida game last fall (broken ankle). But, even if he is a bit of a long shot for first-team All-SEC honors, Alexander will turn heads when he plays this season. He's that good. The explosive outside linebacker from Oxford, Ala., is already factoring into the first-team rotation, and it's my guess he'll play more and more as autumn slowly turns to winter. This is the best player on LSU's team nobody outside of Louisiana knows about yet. Look for that to change in the coming months.