PHILADELPHIA — Maybe Tashawn Bower is the difference-maker.
Or maybe it’s Josh Boutte. Or Colin Jeter or Dwayne Thomas or DeSean Smith.
It could be Lewis Neal or Travin Dural or Rickey Jefferson, too.
Two of those seven former LSU players need to hear their names called this weekend in the NFL draft for the Tigers to set a program record: most selections in a single draft. The mark to hit is 10 players over the seven-round, 253-pick event.
The fun begins Thursday night with the first round from an outdoor theater set on the famed "Rocky steps" here in the City of Brotherly Love. The record, though, won’t fall — if it does at all — until Saturday. The second and third rounds are Friday, and the fourth through seventh rounds are Saturday.
Three ex-Tigers and coach Ed Orgeron are scheduled to arrive here Wednesday, and they’ll attend Thursday’s first round. Safety Jamal Adams, running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Tre’Davious White expect to walk the red carpet, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and into the draft theater on those stone steps Sylvester Stallone made so famous.
Adams and Fournette are projected top-10 picks, and White borders on the first and second round. Five more former LSU standouts are thought to be locks to be drafted over the three-day event: linebackers Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith, center Ethan Pocic, defensive lineman Davon Godchaux and receiver Malachi Dupre.
Thaddeus Moss ignored Matt Canada's attempts to redirect him once.
You know plenty about those eight players. You’ve read about their draft projections, seen them run blazing speeds at the combine and heard their names across ESPN’s draft coverage.
But the previously listed eight — the “next eight,” if you will — will make the difference in whether the Tigers achieve something that hasn’t been done in the program’s 124-year history.
“I think it gets to 10,” said Mike Detillier, NFL draft analyst for WWL-AM radio. “Boutte and Dural can get you over the hump.”
Detillier said he believes Neal will get drafted, too, pushing the Tigers to 11. That's three off the all-time record set by Ohio State in 2004, and that’s two more than the largest two classes in LSU history. The 2014 and 2013 drafts each included nine LSU players.
At the very least, this year’s crop will be the second-largest in the modern draft format. LSU had eight players drafted in the 1990 and 1948 drafts. Those drafts were more than seven rounds. The current format began in 1994.
Sure, the pressure’s on for guys like Fournette, Adams and White. They’ll be in the spotlight Thursday, their faces — disappointed or jubilant — broadcast across the country. But there’s a different kind of pressure on guys like Boutte and Bower and Neal and Thomas.
Have they done enough to get picked?
“LSU will crack the record,” said Matt Miller, draft analyst for BleacherReport.com. “This is a loaded class.”
It’s not just top-heavy either, said Boutte, a 325-pounder who started at right guard last season.
“(The next eight) all have NFL talent,” Boutte said. “I feel like you can go from the tops, the Leonard Fournettes and Jamal Adamses, to the Josh Bouttes and DeSean Smiths, and we all have the potential to play in the NFL.”
The first eight know they’ll hear their names at some point.
For the second eight, that’s not the case.
“I’m going through a bunch of emotions,” said Bower, who plans to watch the draft back home in New Jersey. “I’ve been told there’s a good chance I’ll get drafted, but you never know.”
“This week and past week has been a nervous wreck," Boutte said.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey is expecting the league …
Many of the next eight aren’t projected to get drafted at all. They all have a story.
Neal and Dural — they might have the best shots to get picked — were in many projections as recently as November before falling out during the pre-draft process.
Jefferson is recovering from a fractured leg that cut short his senior season, his first as a full-time starter. Ten of Smith’s 19 catches in his college career came last year, not enough to rocket him up the boards.
Thomas was only a part-time starter, and Jeter was a former junior college player who evolved, eventually, into an every-down player at tight end.
Boutte only started his senior season, and Bower never started a full year.
“He’s right on the cusp (of being drafted),” Detillier said of Bower. "He would have been great having another year."
The Rams, Raiders, Patriots, Cardinals, Dolphins and Texans have shown Bower the most interest, he said. Boutte, meanwhile, has heard most from the Ravens, Jets and Raiders.
Now, it’s just time to wait and maybe be a part of the biggest draft class in LSU history.
“That,” Boutte said, “would be amazing.”
LSU could break the school record for picks in this year’s NFL draft. Nine is the most ever. Here are the largest LSU draft classes since the draft moved to seven rounds in 1994.
*Draft was 12 rounds or more, and even as much as 30 rounds before 1970. It changed to the current seven-round format in 1994.
LSU is almost assured of having at least two first-round picks for the sixth time in school history.
First round picks
Barkevious Mingo (6th overall), Eric Reid (18th)
Morris Claiborne (6th), Michael Brockers (14th)
JaMarcus Russell (1st), LaRon Landry (6th), Dwayne Bowe (23rd), Craig Davis (30th)
Wendell Harris (9th), Earl Gros (14th)
Billy Cannon (1st), Johnny Robinson (3rd)
Y.A. Tittle (3rd), Elbert Van Buren (7th), Kenny Konz (14th)