BATON ROUGE — LSU football enters its second spring practice under coach Brian Kelly with many players who have something to prove.
After posting a 10-win season in Year 1 under Kelly, the Tigers enter 2023 with a much more comprehensive roster.
That bodes well for LSU’s chances of making the college football playoffs in earnest. However, greater depth also means more players in the roster will have to prove their worth this spring.
Here are three players who will have to prove themselves the most on Thursday as they head into spring training.
All four cornerbacks that LSU acquired from the transfer portal this offseason will have to prove themselves this spring.
Syracuse transfer Darian Chestnut needs to show he can still play at a high level against SEC competition; Ohio State transfer JK Johnson needs to prove he’s a worthy starter after losing his starting place last season; Southeast transfer Zy Alexander has to answer if he’s good enough to contribute to a Power Five program, let alone an SEC program.
But perhaps none of them have as much to prove as Denver Harris, the former five-star recruit and Texas A&M transfer.
Harris is obviously talented. He was the nation’s 23rd recruit in the Class of 2022 and played in five of the Aggies’ first six games, including on the field for 66 defensive snaps in Week 6 against Alabama.
But two suspensions – he was reportedly suspended for the Miami game for a curfew violation and an incident in the locker room during the South Carolina game suspended him for the remainder of the season – cost Harris the bulk of his freshman campaign. Despite his talent, adding him into the mix was a risk given Kelly’s dogged insistence on establishing strong standards within the program.
Harris has much to prove by showing he can remain disciplined within Kelly’s no-nonsense approach. But if he can, Harris has the ability to be LSU’s top cornerback for at least the next two seasons.
This is the year for Sai’vion Jones.
It’s the year for him to prove he can start in the SEC, live up to the high standards set by his predecessor Ali Gaye, and possibly become a legitimate NFL Draft prospect. And after a strong second campaign, Jones is well on his way to achieving all of that.
But it won’t be easy. Redshirt freshman and former Top 100 recruit Quency Wiggins ended last season on a high note, and Arizona transfer Paris Shand could slip out of the defensive tackle and challenge Jones for snaps.
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Brian Thomas Jr.
LSU heads into this spring with talent and depth at wide receivers. But it still doesn’t have an obvious candidate for its role as No. 2 receiver.
In theory, that award should go to Brian Thomas Jr., who finished second among the returning LSU wideouts in receptions and reception yards, trailing only Malik Nabers. But with Nabers potentially out for spring following his Mardi Gras weekend arrest, LSU will need someone to show up in his absence and become an effective robin for Nabers’ Batman once Nabers returns.
Thomas needs to prove he can be Nabers’ sidekick despite his inconsistent performance last season.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South region. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @KokiRiley.