Spring Football Practice

LSU football cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse (24) and wide receiver Jack Rilling (89) run a drill Thursday, April 7, 2022, during LSU’s spring practice in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Under Brian Kelly, the Tigers had their most successful offseason in terms of navigating the transfer portal, acquiring twelve players and having LSU’s transfer portal class ranked No. 13 according to 247sports.com. Over the past few years, the transfer portal has gifted an endless array of teams with players that were able to immediately transform a program’s offense or defense, granting some with the boost they needed to contend for a title.

With those twelve players in mind, here is a list of LSU transfers that have the highest expectations to make an impact in 2022. To make this more interesting, no position will be featured twice, minus honorable mentions.

5. Defensive Tackle Mekhi Wingo (Missouri) 

Having two returning defensive linemen with All-American potential in Jaquelin Roy and Maason Smith is one thing, but having depth that can bring a similar skill level is enough to keep any offense on their toes throughout an entire game. Roy sported the highest Pro Football Focus pass rusher rating in the Power 5 last season, but Wingo did not trail him by much, despite only being a freshman. 

He contributed 27 total tackles, 14 solo and 13 assisted, a sack and two quarterback hurries, along with a 40-yard interception return during his single season with Missouri, earning himself SEC All-Freshman honors. While he likely won’t see the same numbers due to less playing time, he is expected to play a vital role for LSU’s defense, giving Roy and Smith a breather while also providing a similar level of pressure to opposing offensive lines. 

And once Roy opts for the draft, Wingo could immediately replace him as a starter, providing LSU with potentially the scariest defensive line in the country if he and Smith maintain their progression. 

4. Running Back Noah Cain (Penn State)

Of all the players on this list, Cain is the biggest question mark. After a stellar freshman season during which he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and sported 443 yards and eight touchdowns, he suffered an ankle injury at the beginning of his sophomore season that sidelined him for the season.

Cain’s return in his third year with the Nittany Lions was not a return to form, as he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and halved the touchdown total he contributed in his debut season. However, there are reasons to believe he can bounce back. 

Penn State has switched offensive coordinators twice since Cain’s debut, with their most recent offensive approach under current coordinator Mike Yurcich being much more pass oriented. Cain did triple his reception total from 2019 as a result, tying for fifth on the team despite a lack of playing time. 

Cain is expected to share time with John Emery, who will likely get the starting nod initially. Both players have had their difficulties remaining on the field, but if each back displays their full potential and keeps from getting sidelined, they could be a dangerous duo. 

3. Inside Offensive Lineman Miles Frazier (Florida International)

Honorable Mention: Tre’Mond Shorts (East Tennessee State) 

LSU’s offensive line lost many pieces after last season, with Austin Deculus, Chasen Hines, Ed Ingram and Liam Shanahan all graduating. With the line being arguably the biggest question mark for the team heading into 2022, Brian Kelly immediately set his focus on the position.

Just under three weeks after Kelly was hired, he picked up the most coveted offensive lineman in the transfer portal, third-team All-Conference USA freshman Miles Frazier. 

Frazier makes the list due to a slight uptick in competition, playing in the Group of Five as opposed to the FCS, but Shorts does offer something that Frazier does not: experience. Shorts started 40 straight games with East Tennessee State, eventually helping them win the Southern conference championship in his final season. 

That experience is worth noting, but it takes time for a player transitioning from the FCS to FBS to adjust.

The offensive line for LSU will feature a lot of competition, but don’t be surprised if both these players obtain a starting role when LSU takes the field in the fall. 

2. Safety/Defensive Back Joe Foucha (Arkansas) 

Foucha was a match-made-in-heaven grab for a multitude of reasons.

He is a versatile, hybrid safety that can play the pass, rush the quarterback and provide run support while also bringing an unmatched energy to the field that motivates the teammates around him. Sound familiar? 

While comparing him to Tyrann Mathieu would be a stretch and likely wouldn’t hold up, we can compare him to another former LSU safety, a more recent one: Grant Delpit. Each defensive back is incredible at using their speed and agility to get into the backfield and their awareness to find the best avenue to tackling a back for a loss.

He has never come close to hitting Delpit’s average for pass deflections per season (eight) and his hands still need some work. However, he was second on his respective team in deflections this past season with five.

 

He has three full years of experience starting in the SEC West, meaning his transition to LSU will be completely seamless, as there is no competition jump that warrants adjustment. All these factors, coupled with the acquisitions of the last listee and honorable mentions have completely replenished the secondary after the losses of Derek Stingley Jr., Cordale Flott, Eli Ricks and Dwight McGlothern.

1. Cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State) 

Honorable Mentions: Greg Brooks Jr. (Arkansas), Mekhi Garner (UL-Lafayette) 

As mentioned previously, LSU’s secondary was stripped bare after the 2021-22 season, with Stingley and Flott opting for the NFL and Ricks and McGlothern transferring to other SEC West teams. The necessity to effectively fill those holes was urgent. 

To say the coaching staff did an excellent job of filling that need would be an understatement.   

Bernard-Converse was arguably the best cornerback in the Big 12 last season, garnering first team All-Big 12 honors, ranking No. 1 in the conference and No. 9 in the country in pass deflections and headlining a top-25 passing defense in terms of yards per game, against FBS opponents. He doesn’t produce flashy stats, but whenever he is required to make a tackle, he rarely misses, sporting an incredible Pro Football Focus tackling rating in 2021. 

He will bear the role of shutdown, first-option cornerback that Stingley bore so well in 2019. He has more experience at the position than anyone in the country, logging 47 straight starts during his four seasons with the Cowboys. 

Garner, who is expected to replace Flott at the other outside corner position, headlined the fourth best passing defense in the country in terms of yards per game against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents, although that was mostly against the Sun Belt. He will have to adjust to the jump in competition, but he isn’t a stranger to that, transitioning from Junior College (JUCO) to FBS competition after his freshman season. 

His coverage has improved each season, sporting an incredibly proficient Pro Football Focus rating in that category, the highest of the trio in 2021. He tied for fifth in his conference with eight pass deflections last season and earned third team all-conference honors in just his second season of starting. 

And the last projected starter on this list, Greg Brooks Jr., will be expected to man nickelback come September. He committed to LSU just two days after fellow Razorback Joe Foucha, signifying a strong bond between the pair. 

He brings more experience to a transfer-filled secondary that already has an abundance, rounding out a well-rounded group proficiently pieced together by the LSU coaching staff.

Load comments