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Looking ahead: LSU’s 3 most important newcomers for 2016

DEVIN WHITE, COURTESY OF 247SPORTS.COM

We finish our “New Guys” series by spotlighting the three most important newcomers for LSU this season.

LSU has one of the most veteran rosters in the SEC and seemingly every open spot in the starting lineup will be filled by a returning player. But there is one special teams spot where a newcomer needs to come through.

Newcomers come in five categories: true freshmen, redshirt freshmen, junior college transfers, graduate transfers and “regular” four-year transfers who are eligible after sitting out last season.

Here are LSU’s three most important newcomers.

3. QB Danny Etling

Class: Junior, transfer from Purdue; originally from Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo
The skinny: Unexpectedly, the top storyline to emerge during spring practice was a quarterback competition between Etling (6 feet 3, 226 pounds) – who sat out last season after his transfers – and incumbent starter Brandon Harris. I never bought it as a real competition and you shouldn’t either. Still, seemingly every season under Les Miles, LSU has required the services of its backup quarterback. Remember Ryan Perrilloux winning the SEC championship game in 2007 for an injured Matt Flynn? How about Jarrett Lee subbing for a suspended Jordan Jefferson in 2011. Even Harris played as a true freshman behind a struggling Anthony Jennings. If LSU needs Etling – who started 12 games in his two seasons with the Boilermakers – to be a key contributor, it’s unlikely it will meet its lofty expectations. Then again, we all need a good insurance policy.

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2. P Josh Growden

Class: Redshirt freshman, from Sydney, Australia
The skinny: If a power running game is the benchmark of the Les Miles era at LSU, elite special teams is not far behind. That is why a disappointing effort from the specials teams in 2015 had pundits scratching their heads and fans calling for special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto to be fired. Growden (6-2, 197), who is 23, replaces Jamie Keehn, who had a disappointing final season in Baton Rouge as the Tigers finished 108th nationally in net punting. Growden continues the Aussie punting pipeline started by Keehn and Brad Wing before him. The Tigers will need a better effort overall from this phase of the game, but Growden will play a big part in initiating a turnaround.

RELATED: LSU’s most important game in 2016

1. LB Devin White

Class: True freshman, from Springhill (La.) North Webster
The skinny: Some Tigers fans might be surprised not to see one of the heralded defensive lineman from the 2016 signing class in the spot, but the line depth is so strong that it is hard to imagine Rashard Lawrence or another freshman being anything more than a rotational player this season. Where LSU is dangerously thin is linebacker, which is why White gets the nod. Before spring practice, I would have had Michael Divinity in this spot, but White (6-1, 255) – who rushed for 1,650 yards and 31 TDs as a high school senior – solidified himself as the backup to Kendall Beckwith. Considering LSU’s returning linebackers other than Beckwith have combined for exactly half the number of career tackles as Beckwith, the Tigers are in desperate need of immediate-impact linebackers. White will get on the field early and is the heir apparent to Beckwith once he heads to the pros.

(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)

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