Miles thought for a second then rattled off a range.
“Six to 12, and I think six will play key roles,” Miles said. “But don't ask me to name those guys.”
So we’ll name those guys for you, Les.
LSU has grown a reputation for playing its true freshmen at the first opportunity. LSU had eight first-year players see action in last season’s opener against TCU.
Kendell Beckwith and Christian Lacouture each saw snaps along the defensive line. Desean Smith was targeted at tight end but didn’t reel in a pass. Anthony Jennings got in a quarterback sneak. Duke Riley, Melvin Jones, Tre’Davious White and Josh Boutte all saw time on special teams.
So which players from LSU’s No. 2-ranked 2014 signing class will take the field at NRG Stadium on Saturday against Wisconsin? Here’s our breakdown of the true freshmen we’re expecting to see.
The TSD staff came up with four consensus freshmen that will have “key roles” on Saturday with a fifth that should see time but the level of his impact is still in question.
Brandon Harris may not start — Miles remains mum on that issue — but he will certainly play a key role. He and Anthony Jennings are expected to split time at quarterback with each trying to separate himself from the other. LSU seems to be using these first few games as a preseason of sorts to determine a winner in the quarterback battle, and Harris will get a big chance Saturday to prove his case.
Leonard Fournette will make his much-anticipated college debut against the Badgers. He’s currently listed behind Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard on the depth chart, but you can be sure to see plenty of No. 7 as we finally get to see if he can match the hype.
Jamal Adams has been the talk of the month, emerging as one of the more promising freshmen in his class. He’s worked not only at safety but also closer to the line of scrimmage in LSU’s “mustang” package. He could also have an impact on special teams, so he’ll have a big role in the Tigers’ opener.
Trey Quinn should also be on the receiving end of some passes. He’s lined up primarily during fall camp as an inside receiver, and both he and John Diarse have emerged as the top two receivers for that position.
Malachi Dupre is where the TSD staff disagreed. While he has all the talent to be a key player in the opener, nagging injuries slowed his development during fall camp. He can certainly be one of LSU’s top receivers by the end of the season, but his impact may be limited against Wisconsin.
Ed Paris has received rave reviews since the spring as a lockdown outside corner. Though Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson are entrenched as the starters, Paris could see time when the Tigers go into extra-DB sets or if either Robinson or White need a breather.
LSU’s kickoff coverage has always been a unit featuring several true freshmen. A few from this year’s signing class seem like perfect fits there — John Battle, Clifton Garrett and Donnie Alexander. They’re all athletic and confident tacklers, which is an ideal blend for special teams.
Speaking of special teams, look for Cameron Gamble to see the field Saturday. He’s been mentioned as a possible kickoff specialist along with Trent Domingue. LSU will love his big leg and ability to kick touchbacks.
D.J. Chark has also placed himself in the discussion for early playing time. Miles regularly mentions him right along with Dupre and Quinn, largely because of his elite speed. LSU could very well find a role for him, whether it be in the passing game or in the return game, against Wisconsin.
We’ve already mentioned the three backs ahead of Darrel Williams, but Frank Wilson likes to have a rotation of four. Magee, Fournette and Hilliard are in line to get the bulk of the snaps, but the LSU coaches have said throughout the offseason that Williams is a capable back, possibly worthy of playing time in the opener.