Five LSU Tigers newcomers most likely to see the football field in 2013

With another top-notch recruiting haul, followed shortly by the hiring of longtime NFL offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, coach Les Miles and his LSU Tigers have enjoyed a rather eventful offseason.

Spring practice is on the horizon, and considering the huge hole left in LSU’s roster by early entrees into the NFL draft, there are sure to be some furious battles for open spots. Given Miles’ penchant for playing freshmen, many of the newcomers have a great shot at getting some playing time in 2013.

A handful of these new signees are already enrolled in classes, and will participate in spring drills. The debate will likely continue on into the summer, but here are five newcomers, including both freshmen and junior college transfers, who are most likely to see the field for LSU next season:

[Related: Grading the LSU Tigers’ incoming 2013 recruiting class]

1. Kendell Beckwith – LB, Jackson, LA;  6-3, 228

When he wasn’t riding horses, or chopping firewood, Beckwith was playing quarterback for East Feliciana High School. Recruited strictly as a defensive player, it’s not certain whether Beckwith will stay at linebacker, or put his hand on the ground as a pass rusher. What is certain, however, is that Miles was more than delighted to fend off Nick Saban and Alabama, who heavily pursued the elite talent.

2. Fehoko Fanaika – OL, San Mateo, CA; 6-6, 340

Fanaika hails from sunny California, but this massive junior college offensive tackle decided early on to play his college ball with the big boys of the SEC. LSU eventually won out over Florida and Georgia, and the Tigers may already have a starting position waiting for Fanaika at one of the tackle spots. Being on campus this spring as an early enrollee can only help his chances.

3. Quantavius Leslie – WR,  Raymond, MS;  6-4, 191

Were it not for some academic qualification concerns, Leslie would easily be at the top of this list. The junior college transfer brings some much needed size to LSU’s wide receiving corps, and will be greatly welcomed by senior Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger. If Leslie does indeed qualify, he’s almost a lock to start. The move would then allow either Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry to move into the slot.

4. DeSean Smith – TE,  Lake Charles, LA;  6-4, 222

Smith may have the biggest upside of any player LSU signed. With basketball-type athleticism, he’s sure to provide a big, favorable target for future quarterbacks Stephen Rivers, Hayden Rettig, and Anthony Jennings. But when considering LSU’s lack of proven depth at tight end, it won’t be a surprise to see Smith hauling in passes from Mettenberger this coming fall while the backup passers carry clipboards.

5. Frank Herron – DE,  Memphis, TN;  6-5, 260

LSU had to fight off a scary, eleventh-hour push from Texas to secure Herron’s services, but this prototypical, five-star defensive end was a must-have for the Tigers. With the losses of Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo to the NFL Draft, there will be much ado about replacing them as the season inches ever closer. Herron will very likely factor into the mix.

In today’s win-at-all-costs college football landscape, nothing is set in stone, and no player’s job is safe. If a freshman is good enough to beat out a seasoned veteran, then he’ll play, and it’s just that simple. No major program has taken this approach to heart more than LSU, where Miles has described the playing of freshmen as a “modern necessity”. The 2013 season looks to be no different, as the LSU recruiting train keeps rolling along.

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