Updated: Apr 3
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
I am not making this list to track the 5 best players on LSU's team....
I am making this list to collect the 5 Tigers who's current stock is rising high enough through Spring practice to catch our eye.
There are no serious requirements, although this is not the place for us to list & breakdown every household name on LSU's roster, either....because, as you well know, LSU's roster is always filled with surprises, each and every season.
Here, we track a few Tigers who's rise this Spring may not have been surprising, but still commands our present attention:
5. GREG BROOKS JR
(DB / #12)
Showing elite ball-hawking skills at nickel corner, Arkansas transfer Greg Brooks Jr announced himself right before our eyes by way of a stunning interception during 11 v 11 practice.
Brooks Jr showcased his primeval DB intellect & anticipation prowess, breaking on the ball with confidence, swagger and an aggressive approach to each snap, displaying nice jamming / route disruption techniques.
Now, in the aftermath of Quinton Pig Cage's transfer following 3 practices, I feel it's become abundantly clear just how much Brooks Jr and Sage Ryan have a stranglehold on LSU's nickel spot, specifically after Brooks Jr grabbed 2 more interceptions & recovered a fumble during practice #5 this last Saturday.
Forcing 4 turnovers through 5 practices, the former Razorback is looking like a huge pickup for our once-depleted DBU depth chart, and given his experience, Brooks Jr could be a likely starter at this juncture.
4. GREG PENN III
(LB / #30)
Recovering John Emery Jr's fumble for a scoop and score during last Saturday's practice, LSU Odyssey witnessed the best of sophomore LB Greg Penn III in the flesh.
Due to veteran Micah Baskerville's partial absence (carrying a small knock which kept him on the sidelines for most reps), the former De Matha High prospect raised hell from sideline to sideline, taking the right angles, playing with physical passion, and keeping his eyes, hips, hands and mind active.
Matt House was glued to Penn III for much of the practice, carefully observing how well the Maryland native can adapt to shifting fronts, from a 3-4, 3-3 or 4-3; Due to his revved up motor & nonstop drive, Greg can adjust to different roles or points of attack across the middle of the field.
More than his schematic fit, Penn III is physically advanced enough to warrant starting contention:
As if his solid 2021 freshman frame was given an NFL-esque boost, Greg's off-season physicality went from promising to potentially elite.
#30's renegade showing vs Kansas State in the Texas Bowl showed us flashes of promise, a mighty helping of dedication, commitment, incredible stamina, and a rather large dose of ultraviolence......and now, we have LSU LBs Coach / Defensive Coordinator Matt House eyeing his every move.....openly wondering if Greg Penn III could start for LSU in 2022.....
Grabbing first team reps within a two man LB tandem alongside Mike Jones Jr, Greg Penn III is definitely rising as a prime inside LB candidate for Matt House.
While the LB options aren't as plentiful or proven as you'd expect (Baskerville, Small, Weeks, Fields, Perkins, Sampah), there are still high quality talents all over House's depth chart.....and we feel Penn III belongs near the top of House's list.
3. JOHN EMERY JR
(RB / #4)
Sure, his detractors will point at his 2 fumbles after just 3 practices....
They'll gawk at his academic issues from 2021....
They'll continuously regurgitate "off field whispers" and "rumors of bad character" regarding John Emery Jr.......but every one of those tags couldn't be more wrong:
First of all, anyone trying to paint John Emery Jr as a "bad kid" has never met or talked to John, let alone any LSU Tiger, and doesn't know a damn thing about anyone who's ever stepped foot through the doors of LSU Football Operations;
Secondly, fumbling is mental...always....and though he was careless when fumbling during 11 v 11 practice (forced out by DT Jacobian Guillory) or allowing teammate Corey Kiner to pry the ball loose during a RBs drill, historically Emery Jr's biggest issue isn't fumbling.
Far from it.
Though we don't want fumbling to become a growing trend for LSU's most talented running back on roster, the facts are actually in John's favor, historically:
From 114 official Tiger carries, John's only coughed up the ball twice in games, losing only one fumble (against Utah State 2019).
Third, at a press conference LSU Odyssey attended, Brian Kelly called John Emery Jr a "great kid" who's "above the line" academically; "Johnny B Damn Good" is taking care of business.
What I'm actually concerned about???
I'm not worried about John becoming a fumbler....I'm more troubled by his past failures in pass protection, as we witnessed with his shockingly anonymous, even lazy backfield blocking vs Auburn (2020), Utah State (2019), Mississippi State (2020), among other examples.
But if John can become a solid blocker, which he could definitely grow into if he takes care of the small details, then LSU would have a complete running back at their disposal....
Catching out of the backfield with maniacal grace....zooming or zigzagging around, under or through would-be tacklers....possessing the perfect mix of speed & vision, Destrehan High's former 5 star running back is ready for year 3 to be his time.
2. CHRIS HILTON JR
(WR / #17)
Showing up for Spring practice as a thick, ripped and far more physically stout version of himself, Chris Hilton Jr ended LSU's first losing campaign this century with a walk-off 81 yard touchdown inside Houston's NRG Stadium, catching a long bomb flea-flicker after burning Kansas State's secondary to withering ashes.
Following that one single instant, Chris Hilton Jr's 2021 freshman year wasn't all in vain:
Here wasn't just a tantalizing preview of Zachary High's former football / track champion, the Texas Bowl's final play will be known as a reckoning for #17....the moment Hilton Jr turned his fortunes around.
2021 wasn't kind to Chris, catching merely a pair of passes and returning a kickoff for 3 yards overall, thanks to a knee injury forcing LSU's incoming sophomore receiver to miss all but 2 games......
Regardless, 2022 already has a positive vibe growing for Hilton Jr, starting fresh with a clean slate, hoping his elite catching abilities and tectonic-shifting pace can build from his fast start.
1. QUENCY WIGGINS
(DE / #93)
Why is he #1?
Because he's a freshman...and he shouldn't be this big or playing half this much....
Why is he #1?
Because Quency is only two months removed from a nearly fatal accident on a scooter, flipping high into the air after a car hit him at a crosswalk; Wiggins was lucky to walk away from the incident, somehow only injuring his arm...
Why is he #1?
Because he shouldn't even be anywhere near this level yet.....but there he is....as big and as badass as a fully entrenched sophomore or experienced junior....
Why is he #1?
Because....simply put....Quency Wiggins is rewriting the expectations for every freshman D-Lineman in America.
The Baton Rouge native holds a special skill set & physical stature that most players can only dream of....and now, he'll be deployed within a perfect system to expose his greatness to the world.
Reminding me of a "Danielle Hunter and K'Lavon Chaisson crossover", Quency Wiggins' arrived on campus in January ready to be molded by Strength & Conditioning Coach Jake Flint.....and the results are staggering....
Quency already had a special physique, but now LSU's conditioning staff are led by a man who can take the freshman to a whole new world of footballing destiny........in 2022, Quency is ready to launch.
RIP AURI THE GREAT
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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