BR.lsufloridamain.101319 HS 3408.JPG

LSU offensive lineman Kardell Thomas, left, hugs LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price (3) as LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) pats him on the head following Davis-Price's touchdown in the second half of the Tigers' 42-28 win over the Gators, Saturday, October 12, 2019, at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Once thought lost for the season due to injury, LSU offensive lineman Kardell Thomas will "be ready to play sometime this year," Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said Tuesday morning.

The 6-foot-3, 329-pound Southern Lab graduate was expected to miss the entire season when he injured his ankle and underwent surgery during preseason camp; but the former four-star recruit returned to practice on Oct. 22.

Thomas has not yet played in a game and he has been withheld from major football contact in practice. The true freshman runs through agility and footwork drills — an impressive turnaround, according to Orgeron, who once thought he'd lost the lineman for the year.

"He's way ahead of schedule," Orgeron said during an interview on 104.5 ESPN's "Off the Bench." "He's hungry. He told me, 'Coach, I'm gonna be back this year.' I said, 'OK.' And I'll be derned. He's gonna come back. He'll be ready to play sometime this year."

Prior to his injury, Thomas was expected to contribute to the offensive line's depth this season. The position group has taken a few hits recently. Starting left tackle Saahdiq Charles has missed five games due to what Orgeron has called "coach's decisions," and starting right tackle Austin Deculus was held out of LSU's 58-37 win over Ole Miss on Saturday due to injury.

Redshirt freshman Dare Rosenthal has been out with an undisclosed injury since starting in place of Charles against Mississippi State, which forced Orgeron to move starting left guard Adrian Magee to left tackle against Ole Miss and start reserve lineman Badara Traore at right tackle in place of Deculus.

LSU had depth to manage the shifting: Ed Ingram started at left guard against Ole Miss in place of Magee. It was the sophomore's first start since 2017; Ingram was reinstated to the team on Sept. 20, when charges were dismissed following an arrest for alleged sexual assault.

LSU can clinch the Southeastern Conference Western Division title with a win against Arkansas at Tiger Stadium on Saturday at 6 p.m., and a potential return by Thomas would bolster an offensive line for its SEC title game against Georgia and any potential playoff run thereafter.

LSU ranks 78th nationally with 23 sacks allowed, and the Tigers have surrendered at least three sacks in each of their last four games.

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.