Updated: Sep 12, 2022
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Yes, we all expected LSU to savage Southern on Saturday, but were you surprised by how unceasing the onslaught was from the outset to the end?
Scoring 60+ Points for the first time since 2019, LSU turned the page on a horrorshow first week in style, yet there are still major questions and concerns going into the SEC opener against Mississippi State.
However, Saturday was great from a psychological aspect for so many different Tigers: Jayden Daniels airing it out, Sage Ryan creating his first 2 turnovers, members of Brian Polian's special teams have to feel better with these adjustments, Malik Nabers trading 2 fumbles for a touchdown and a team-leading 81 yards through the air, Desmond Little forcing his first turnovers, Jack Bech catching his first touchdown of the new season, it was a good day for all.
But I wanted to find the best five Tigers who could replicate their performances vs SEC competition, if not building towards that end.
Which five Tigers were on another level vs Southern?
5. SAGE RYAN
1 FORCED INCOMPLETION
Setting the tone from the opening kickoff, second year DB Sage Ryan pounced on Zavier Carter's vicious forced fumble deep inside Southern territory. Consequently, QB Jayden Daniels would slice and dice Southern defenders for an 18 yard rushing score only moments later.
Later on during the second half, Ryan recovered yet another fumble, tallying 2 fumble recoveries in the same game in only his fourth LSU appearance.
The former 5 star chipped in with a couple tackles, held up nicely in coverage (1 target turned into an incompletion due to his awareness), and was more than ready to announce himself on the national stage.
In fact, Sage made LSU history with his turnover creation:
Since 2001, only three Tigers have ever recovered multiple fumbles in a single game, Bradie James, Jacoby Stevens and now.....Sage Ryan.
With today's news of Jay Ward and Greg Brooks Jr swapping nickel and safety roles, could Ryan move to his desired position of safety or stay as the backup nickel?
Ward will likely dominate time at nickelback, but after witnessing Ryan's game-changing playmaking over the first 2 games, 15 has to receive more reps.
4. SAIVION JONES
Filling in for Ali Gaye for his first career start, Head Coach Brian Kelly called sophomore defensive end Saivion Jones "incredible" after the game, leaving no room for doubt about his value or current & future pedigree.
Jones didn't get caught up in the maelstrom, instead he kept contain on the edge, made 6 tackles, batted a pass, pulled off a tackle for loss and teamed up with Mekhi Wingo to blow up Southern's quarterback for his first career sack statistic.
Jones is primed to play much more often in 2022, as one Tiger fan to another are starting to get an ominous vibe concerning the health and presence of both Ojulari and Gaye together on the line.
3. ARMONI GOODWIN
Running with subterranean violence, battering ram physicality while drawing up bursts of searing low center of gravity pace, second year back Armoni Goodwin carved up Southern's defense for a career night in yards, carries and touchdowns, belting Southern repeatedly.
Goodwin also should've scored a 3rd touchdown early in the game, though his progress into the end zone was blocked off inadvertently by a charging Will Campbell, looking for a block to help his man.
Veteran Josh Williams would punch in on the next play, scoring his own first LSU touchdown.
Regardless of John Emery Jr's reappearance this Saturday as LSU's featured back, Armoni must continue to receive the ball, such is the effectiveness of his multi-faceted "ground-chewer" skill set.
2. MICAH BASKERVILLE
-RETURNED FOR TD
1 BLOCKED PUNT
-RESULTING IN A SAFETY
Awarded the game ball after his first half pick six and blocked punt gave the Tigers 9 additional points, the 2019 LSU veteran linebacker drew the perfect playmaking blueprint for Brian Kelly's young squad.
Scoring isn't new to the linebacker, with his first half interception touchdown return sparking his second career trip to the end zone (his other TD arrived on a blocked punt recovery in 2019; Baskerville almost returned an onside kick for a score that season, as well).
On Monday, Coach Kelly spoke glowingly about Baskerville's punt block, saying it was "like teaching tape", admiring his perfected timing and physicality.
Things have come a long way for Baskerville in just a short amount of time.
With rumors of his unrest early in fall camp, after an entire Spring on the periphery as Matt House's third choice linebacker, Saturday night was an unlikely scenario playing out to perfection for LSU's 2nd and 3rd place tackler in 2021 and 2020.
Part of a handful of players who were facing academic suspensions heading into the season, such as John Emery Jr, Xavier Hill and Raydarious Jones, Baskerville appealed his suspension and won just in time for Week 1.
Since the incident followed Baskerville's Texas Bowl suspension in January, the linebacker was on thin ice with his Head Coach.
Coach Kelly never seemed to be the biggest Baskerville cheerleader, but after this result and the game changing plays his championship veteran provided, Micah's vast experience and unique skill-set catapult him up the roster. Especially when LSU's much hyped starters at linebacker are looking susceptible in coverage and a little outmatched in the tackle over 8 quarters (Mike Jones Jr and Greg Penn III).
137 PASSING YARDS
3 PASSING TDs
18 RUSHING YARDS
1 RUSHING TD
7 MISSED TACKLES FORCED
Taking the #1 spot for the second consecutive week across his first two starts as an LSU Tiger, Jayden Daniels is beginning to electrify LSU fans with his arm just as much as his legs.
In little over a quarter, Daniels tossed 10/11 passes for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns to a trio of different receivers, each scoring play showcasing an improvement to his game:
On the pass to Bech, we could see his patience through his progressions, fighting the urge to tuck and run, he then rolls to his left while finding Bech in the back corner with an outrageous throw.
With the red zone feed to Malik, Daniels refused to get caught up in the eye candy of the various routes or coverages and purely focused on hitting a receiver in an open window with zero hesitation.
His third touchdown pass was another long bomb down the sidelines to Brian Thomas Jr, seemingly Daniels' favorite deep ball target.
The play mirrored Brian Thomas Jr's one handed catch during April's Spring Game, another connection between Daniels & the sophomore wide out. This time, the play counted and the former 5 star talent hauled in his 4th career LSU touchdown from 44 yards out.
Despite his 285.5 QBR and pretty much perfect day passing the ball, Daniels also stole the hearts of Death Valley's captivated crowd by using his Olympic legs:
We witnessed his unbelievable pace and furious legs once again, supplying LSU's opening score with a ridiculous 18 yard touchdown run on 3rd and 7.
Weaving his way through or around would-be tacklers, Daniels set Death Valley alight by beating 5, maybe even 6 different defenders, all diving, lunging, cornea-shattering stretches....nothing could take him down once Daniels took off into the open field.
While still needing polish to his timing and quickness of release in the passing game, over his first 2 appearances for LSU, Daniels has been stunning.
Throwing just 10 incomplete passes, leading LSU to touchdowns on his last 8 consecutive drives (5/8 scoring drives from 65, 71, 75, 82 and 99 yards), commiting zero turnovers (either through the air or on the ground), forcing more missed tackles than Michael Vick on NFL2K3, Jayden Daniels has been must-see-TV and I know he's only getting started.
We may need to talk about Daniels being a one and done NFL powerhouse if he keeps this rate of production going.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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