Harvard graduate transfer Liam Shanahan has been taking snaps at center, a position of need for LSU, and Tigers coach Ed Orgeron spoke Tuesday morning as if Shanahan had a shot at being the starter this season.
It's a position Shanahan didn't play at Harvard, according to the school's records, but the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Massachusetts native is now in the mix to replace two-year starter Lloyd Cushenberry, who left after his junior season for the NFL draft.
Orgeron said he's heard Shanahan has been "snapping well" in the time he's spent with other players leading up to the six-week preseason plan that's set to start July 24.
Orgeron said on 104.5 ESPN's "Off the Bench," he's "very impressed with the young man so far, but he's got to go through camp and get it done."
"We feel that he for sure can make the calls and be a leader for us," Orgeron said.
LSU entered the offseason with no players with starting experience at center.
Chasen Hines, a junior who played in 10 games in 2019, appeared to have the initial edge on the position over freshman Charles Turner, whom Orgeron frequently said needed more development.
Then, just before spring football practice was canceled due to the initial spread of coronavirus, Orgeron announced that freshman defensive lineman Joseph Evans was moving to center.
On national signing day, Orgeron made it clear his coaching staff was still searching for depth at center.
"Obviously we're always looking for offensive linemen," he said then. "If there's a center position there, we'll look at it. ... It all depends on the guys we have, that we may need, may not."
Shanahan signed with LSU in April. He was an All-Ivy league first team selection in 2019, and he won the team's Joseph E. Wolf Award for top interior lineman.
In three seasons, Shanahan had 16 starts at right guard, 11 starts at right tackle and two starts at left guard. He had nine starts at right guard in 2019, one at right tackle, and he started all 10 games at right tackle in 2018. He had seven starts at right guard in 2017, with two starts at left guard.
Orgeron said LSU offensive line coach James Cregg showed him film of Shanahan one morning, and Orgeron said he liked Shanahan's athleticism.
"James, he played at Harvard," Orgeron said. "Do you think he can handle the SEC?"
"Coach," Cregg replied, "I know he can."
Shanahan has the potential to play in the NFL, Orgeron said.
"Another great find by James Cregg," Orgeron said. "I think he's one of the best offensive line coaches in college football."
Cregg oversaw one of LSU's biggest position group turnarounds from 2018 to 2019. A unit that was often stuffed and overwhelmed in 2018 improved in almost every metric in LSU's national championship season, when the unit was awarded the Joe Moore Award for nation's top offensive line.
An early look of what LSU's 2020 starting rotation is beginning to take shape. The tackle spots seem accounted for by returning starter Austin Deculus at right tackle and Dare Rosenthal, who has received high praise from Orgeron, at left tackle. Rosenthal left school in March to attend to "personal reasons" back home in Ferriday.
Ed Ingram was a rotating fixture at left guard in 2019, when he played in 10 games, and he is expected to start at the position in 2020.
That leaves two position battles: Center, where Shanahan is now in the mix, and right guard, a vacancy created by the departure of two-year starter Damien Lewis for the NFL after his senior season.
Freshmen Anthony Bradford and Kardell Thomas, who missed the 2019 season after ankle surgery, are set to compete for the right guard spot.
Orgeron said Thomas, a former four-star and Southern Lab graduate, "looks very good" in his return from injury.
"He worked very hard and he's going to compete for that right guard spot," Orgeron said. "That right guard spot right now is wide open, and let's see what he can do."