BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU’s youth movement against BYU in the Advocare Texas Kickoff appears to be one for the record books.
A total of 17 freshmen took the field for the Tigers in the season opener, breaking the prior 21st-century record of 15 set in Nick Saban’s first game as LSU’s coach in 2000. LSU football stats guru Todd Politz estimates there is a “ 95 percent” chance it is an all-time record, though the lack of participation guides for every game in LSU’s 124-year football history makes it impossible to say so definitively.
Saban’s first game was against FCS opponent Western Carolina, a 58-0 walkover for the Tigers that allowed him to empty his bench early.
Though the same thing happened for LSU late in the fourth quarter of its 27-0 win over BYU, many freshmen had already played significant roles in helping the Tigers build that lead.
Four freshmen — right guard Saahdiq Charles, outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, linebacker Tyler Taylor and free safety Grant Delpit — started the game. Right guard Ed Ingram split time nearly equally with Charles. Kary Vincent Jr. was the Tigers’ first-string nickel back when they played with five defensive backs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the deep man on kickoffs, though he never had an opportunity for a return because the Cougars only had one short kickoff.
The other first-year players who played: cornerback Jontre Kirklin, wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Racey McMath, linebackers Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen, defensive ends Neil Farrell and Justin Thomas, safety Todd Harris, offensive lineman Austin Deculus and quarterback Myles Brennan.
With redshirt status lost in Week 1, it’s clear that Ed Orgeron believes all of those players are capable of making an immediate impact for the Tigers.
“I feel like this is one of the best freshmen classes that I have ever been around,” Orgeron said. “I thought they were going to play well. Actually, I thought they were going to make a few more mistakes than they did. But it did not seem like they did. They answered the bell.”
Orgeron also said that it wouldn’t have been possible for so many freshmen to play right away if it hadn’t been for LSU’s veterans.
“I have to give credit to our older guys. They helped coach them up,” Orgeron said. “They stayed calm on the sidelines and before the game. Credit to the coaches for managing their positions. They played very well.”
Though the focus is on the freshmen, the presence of multiple redshirt freshmen cannot be ignored. Cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams and kickoff specialist Connor Culp made their first career starts. Outside linebacker Ray Thornton was on the field often. Safety Eric Monroe made the hit of the game on special teams. Defensive end Glen Logan and offensive linemen Jakori Savage and Lloyd Cushenberry also played for the first time.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake, who presides over one of the most veteran squads in college football, was practically in awe of what he saw.
“The talent is there. This is a great compliment to their recruiting,” Sitake said. “Some guys have stepped in and played really well and did not show that they were inexperienced.”
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