LSU plays 17 freshmen in opening win

Good thing they weren’t checking IDs too closely at the door of the Superdome Saturday night.

LSU might have had trouble rounding up a varsity.

Even under Les Miles, the Tigers were never afraid to throw true freshmen into the fire of big-time college football.

But if one game is any measure, head coach Ed Orgeron is taking it up a notch.

The Tigers started four true freshmen — five, really — while dominating Brigham Young 27-0 in the season opener. Another handful saw significant playing time and, all told, 17 saw action against the Cougars.

The technicality would be Kary Vincent, who started at nickel back. The Tigers did not open the game with that package, but Vincent was in for the second play and much of the game. Over the course of the season, LSU will use the nickel as much or more than the base defense.

So for the most part, Vincent was one of four true freshmen in the LSU defense who had a big role in never allowing BYU to cross midfield.

There was one young shaver starting in the offensive line with Saahdiq Charles at right guard –— and he alternated with another true freshman, Ed Ingram.

“We’re glad we have them,” Orgeron said. “They are exactly what we thought (we had) in recruiting.”

At least two of the freshmen defensive starters — inside linebacker Tyler Taylor and free safety Grant Delpit — were likely opening the game because presumed starters Donnie Alexander and Ed Paris did not make the trip, presumably for disciplinary reasons.

Both returned to practice this week in preparation for Saturday’s home opener against Chattanooga, but Orgeron was wishy-washy as to whether the two upperclassmen would have their starting jobs waiting for them.

“They are going to work their way back,” he said. “We are not going to make that decision right now. That could go all the way to game time.”

K’Lavon Chaisson was starting in place of injured All-American Arden Key, who hasn’t been cleared for contact and definitely won’t play this week, Orgeron said.

But the Tigers didn’t seem to miss any of them against BYU.

“We knew they’d play,” Orgeron said of his kiddie corps. “I thought they’d make more mistakes than they did, but it didn’t seem like it.

“I feel like this is one of the best freshman classes I’ve been around. I thought the young guys played fantastic for their first game.” 

Even not counting Vincent, four freshmen starters was the most in the nation for the season openers, and the 17 who played tied with Miami and Georgia for the most there.

LSU records on the matter are sketchy beyond the mid-1980s, but four true freshmen starters for a season opener is likely a school record as well.

There were others who got plenty of action, most notably running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has won the kickoff return job (BYU kicked short on its lone kickoff) and got six carries for 30 yards. He also caught two passes late in the game, one of them from true freshman quarterback Myles Brennan.

“The thing I was really impressed with the most was their mental outlook,” Orgeron said. “The game was not too big for them at all. They were running around ready to go. They didn’t have a deer-in-headlights look at all. They played like vets.

“They did pretty well. This is a fantastic freshmen group and we are going to continue to play those guys and we are going to continue to grow with them.”

””

LSU cornerback Kary Vincent Jr., left, celebrates with cornerback Andraez Williams and safety John Battle after Vincent’s breakup of a second-half pass against Brighman Young Saturday in New Orleans. (Associated Press)

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