Freshman LSU football players contributing immediately is nothing out of the ordinary under Les Miles.
Since taking over the football program in 2005, 104 first-year players have taken the field for Miles. Senior defensive back Jalen Mills was a freshman All-American in 2012. Just last season, Leonard Fournette set a new LSU freshman rushing record.
It’s a big reason why the Tigers consistently bring in stellar recruiting classes: Players know they’ll get a chance to shine the moment they enroll.
But, like on the field, sometimes the offensive linemen’s hard work goes unnoticed.
LSU signed five offensive linemen to their 2015 recruiting class: George Brown Jr., Adrian Magee, Maea Teuhema, Chidi Valentine-Okeke and Toby Weathersby.
Just one of the five may crack into the starting group — Teuhema has been working with the No. 1s — but offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said the group has potential to contribute as early as this season.
“All five of those guys are who we thought they were,” Grimes said. “They’re all very talented, hard workers and passionate about the game. At least a couple of them will have the chance to be in our two-deep and on our travel squad.”
The headliner of LSU’s new offensive linemen is Teuhema. Teuhema, brother of current Tigers defensive linemen Sione, was the top rated guard prospect and No. 29 overall prospect by Rivals. Initially a Texas commit like his brother, Maea flipped to LSU after Sione signed with the Tigers in 2014.
Toby Weathersby is another Texas native and ranked right behind Teuhema as the state’s best offensive line prospect. Like Teuhema, Weathersby was also a Longhorn commit before ultimately pledging to LSU. The commonalities between the two Texans have led to a natural bond.
“Me and Maea are real close,” Weathersby said. “We’re like brothers. We’ve come in here and worked together and try to get things done and accomplish them.”
George Brown Jr. — like his cousin, former LSU running back Spencer Ware, did in 2010 — comes to LSU via Cincinnati. Brown’s football family extends to his older brother, Aaron, who played left tackle for Virginia Tech.
Brown credits a strong relationship with Grimes as the reason he chose LSU.
“I was looking at Virginia Tech for a little bit when coach Grimes was there,” Brown Jr. said. “I really like coach Grimes, and when he came to LSU, it seemed like a good fit for me.”
But perhaps the new incoming lineman possessing the most tantalizing potential is Valentine-Okeke. A soccer and basketball player growing up, Valentine-Okeke didn’t play organized football until he was 16 years old. But his impressive 6-foot-6, 315-pound frame and the ease of which he moves earned a four-star ranking from Rivals.
He’s expecting to take a redshirt this season and use that time to try to earn the starting left tackle job next season.
“Coach Grimes and Miles are great coaches,” Valentine-Okeke said. “They’re going to help me to move higher up in football. I trust them. I have to work hard and listen to them to become a great player.”
As varied as their recruiting rankings were, the freshman offensive linemen’s backgrounds are even more diverse.
Magee is a New Orleans native and comes to LSU via Edna Karr. Valentine-Okeke is a Nigerian native and has been living in Baton Rouge only since players reported for fall camp Aug. 5.
But no matter the different lives the players lived before LSU, this young group has a shared goal of getting out on the field and helping the Tigers compete for championships.
“If you really want, it you’re going to pay attention to the plays and know what you need to do on your assignments so you can get out there on the field,” Brown said. “It’s something within you.”