BATON ROUGE, La. -- Spend any time around LSU’s football program and you’re sure to hear the slogan repeated often.
Tigers players use it all the time. So do the coaches. It's even printed on the wall in the team meeting room.
“Young guys play big roles.”
At LSU, that proves to be the case annually, and 2016 will continue that tradition. Of course, some members of ESPN’s No. 3 recruiting class will play bigger roles than others this fall.
Here are six LSU freshmen who could be instant-impact performers in 2016:
Michael Divinity: Perhaps this is the no-brainer of the bunch. Following years of recruiting misses and attrition at linebacker, LSU’s depth chart at the position is not ideal. It would not be a surprise to see the Tigers’ highest-rated linebacker signee Divinity -- the No. 51 overall prospect on the ESPN 300 and No. 6 outside linebacker -- play early. In fact, it should probably be expected. He was not necessarily the most coveted prospect in LSU’s signing class, but he probably ranks among the most important pickups at a position of immediate need.
Stephen Sullivan: LSU has lost three receivers -- Trey Quinn, John Diarse and Kevin Spears -- to transfer since the end of last season, so there will be an opportunity for young pass-catchers to carve out some playing time. Early enrollee Sullivan makes sense to fill that role, particularly since new wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig said Wednesday that he will expect toughness and sound blocking from his players. At 6-foot-6 and 228 pounds, Sullivan has the potential to be one of the physical wideouts that LSU needs.
Saivion Smith: We’ll give the nod here to Smith over fellow ESPN 300 cornerback signees Kristian Fulton and Andraez Williams because Smith is already on campus. The No. 31 overall prospect on the ESPN 300 and No. 4 cornerback, Smith will have get the first chance to compete for playing time in LSU’s nickel and dime defenses, even if starting corners Tre'Davious White and Kevin Toliver are both back. Toliver used his experience as an early enrollee last year to jump start a freshman campaign where he started eight games.
Rahssan Thornton/Andre Anthony: Similar to Divinity, this pair of edge players should have a chance to crack the depth chart because LSU’s numbers simply are not great. Unlike the three previously mentioned players, linebacker Thornton (6-2, 211 pounds) and defensive end Anthony (6-4, 219) are not on campus yet, which doesn’t help their cause. Participating in spring practice is not a necessity, though, and their athleticism (LSU coach Les Miles said on national signing day that Anthony reminds him of former Tigers star Barkevious Mingo) could still help them figure into new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s plans once they arrive this summer.
Devin White: Miles came right out and said it on signing day: “This Devin White, we’re going to have to find something to do with that guy.” What that is remains to be seen. LSU lists early enrollee White at his preferred position, running back, and Miles raved on signing day about the 6-1, 255-pound player’s surprising speed for a big back. However, early playing time might be difficult to find in the LSU backfield with Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams and Nick Brossette all returning. Some recruiting analysts pictured White as a college linebacker, and the opportunity for playing time certainly exists at that position. He rushed for 1,650 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at North Webster High School, however, so White is perfectly capable with the ball in his hands. We’ll see what he and his coaches decide about his permanent position in the coming months.