LSU football: 10 standout players this preseason, including Maason Smith and Andre' Sam

BATON ROUGE — With six preseason practices in the books, LSU football continues to inch its way toward the start of the season in Orlando on Sept. 3 against Florida State (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
And numerous players — new and old — have begun to make their presence felt on the field through those first six practices.
Here are 10 players who have excelled through the beginning of preseason practices.
Garrett Nussmeier
Garrett Nussmeier has outplayed Jayden Daniels so far this preseason. The backup quarterback has been more accurate and aggressive in throwing the ball downfield than Daniels, all while protecting the ball better than he has in the past.
It's too early to declare that LSU has a quarterback battle between Nussmeier and Daniels. But Nussmeier's continued progression and Daniels' performances this month will be something to monitor as the calendar moves closer to September.
Andre' Sam
Sam had an interception during Monday's practice and has played extensive snaps with the first-team defense this preseason, even when Greg Brooks Jr. has been available.
His progress has excited Kelly because of the versatility he allows LSU's defense to have.
"I think the versatility allows us to play our three safety look," Kelly said. "That three-safety look for us allows us to rotate different guys down into the box depending on what their skill set is and still give us the kind of coverage from top down."
Ka'Morreun Pimpton
At 6-foot-6 and 242 pounds, Ka'Morreun Pimpton's elite catch radius and size at tight end have allowed him to consistently win in one on one coverage this preseason. And he's already added more than 20 pounds to his frame since he arrived on campus this summer, Kelly said.
"He's long. I mean, (it's) not just (that) he's tall. His arms are down to his knees," Mason Taylor said.
Aaron Anderson
Aaron Anderson has the kind of elite speed and agility LSU's offense simply didn't have a season ago. He's been the Tigers' most explosive receiver this preseason and their top candidate to handle punt and kick return duties this fall.
His potential versatility on offense is exciting for Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock. The media saw a glimpse of Anderson's versatility on Thursday when he received a handoff from Nussmeier during the 11 vs. 11 portion of the scrimmage.
"He's a guy that has to touch the football," Denbrock said. "And... me and the rest of the offensive coaches (need) to make sure we're creative enough that we're using the skills that he brings to the table the right way."
Laterrance Welch
Kelly has been pleased with Laterrance Welch's continued progress this preseason following a strong spring. With JK Johnson being out with a leg injury, the Tigers are going to need Welch to step into a bigger role this season.
"He's had a great summer and he continues to get better each and every day," Kelly said.
Maason Smith
When asked by The Advertiser on Tuesday if he thought Maason Smith has looked as explosive as he did before his ACL tear, Kelly said, "he looks pretty darn good to me."
Sai'vion Jones seems to agree.
"Yeah he's still got that explosiveness from watching that pass rush, most definitely," Jones said.
Mac Markway
Mac Markway has been a steady presence at tight end despite being a freshman. His consistency has led Denbrock to believe that he can help the Tigers right away this fall.
"Mac Markway in particular has had the best camp so far as moving himself in a position to contribute to the team," Denbrock said.
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Omar Speights
Omar Speights has already stepped up as a leader on the Tigers' defense, as his veteran presence has brought stability to a young linebacking corps. Speights will be a critical figure in helping Harold Perkins transition from the edge to inside linebacker.
Kaleb Jackson
LSU's running backs room is remarkably deep with eight scholarship players, including Kaleb Jackson. But the freshman has still been able to stand out thanks to his sturdy frame and explosiveness with the ball in his hands.
"He's big, he's physical, he's strong, but he's raw," Kelly said.
Shelton Sampson Jr.
Shelton Sampson Jr.'s freakish size has made him a standout at receiver among LSU's deep room at wide receiver. Denbrock believes Sampson still has a ways to go in terms of learning the offense and grasping the mental side of the college game but has still been encouraged by what he's seen from the former Catholic Baton Rouge star.
"Shelton Sampson is as gifted as any wide receiver we've got on the roster," Denbrock said.

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