by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
As Fall Camp lies just around the corner, many Tiger fans are sensing football season in the air.
The watch lists are out, the big household names are making the rounds, but what about the elite-performing Tigers we miss out on predicting every year?
While the national spotlight lands on Kayshon Boutte, LSU's QB battle, John Emery Jr, Ali Gaye, BJ Ojulari and Mike Jones Jr, there are a vast array of LSU Tigers who could break out in 2022.
We attempt to peek around the corner & call it correctly;
A lot of talk is focused around linebackers Mike Jones Jr and Greg Penn III, while returning super senior Micah Baskerville has been forced to fend for scraps in the 3rd string setup during Spring.
Regardless, Baskerville placed second in team tackles last year, behind only Damone Clark, then trailing just Clark and safety Jacoby Stevens in 2020.
Surely you'd expect his veteran presence to be counted on with such a young defense.
A veteran of 2019's National Championship squad, the last remaining linebacker from that unit alongside Jared Small, Baskerville remains a cold-blooded "brutality hound" on the gridiron, moving from strength to strength in 2021.
Will he become an outsider within defensive coordinator Matt House's nickel packages (featuring 2 linebackers) or could LSU's title-winner usurp sophomore Greg Penn III for a spot next to Mike Jones Jr, no matter what formation?
Somehow, some way, LSU's current most productive running back on roster is rarely being discussed within the fanbase or media.
Entering the portal from Penn State, LSU's Louisiana native running back heard Frank Wilson's calling, joining the Tigers' then-stacked running back room as the leader in career yards, carries and touchdowns immediately upon arrival.
We also haven't talked about Cain due to his summer enrollment, missing Spring despite having already transferred.
After a good dose of Jake Flint's conditioning program, Cain is looking beefed up in recent images, carrying 100% confidence in his abilities as he heads into fall for a showdown vs Emery Jr, Goodwin, Bradford and Williams.
Considering he's a former 5 star talent just in his red shirt freshman season, it's bizarre how LSU's fanbase or media have mostly dismissed the DB.
Impressing in 2 starts vs Florida and Ole Miss, both his only appearances of 2021, Sage experienced a few typical freshman errors, allowing 1 or 2 catches, losing his assignment on a misdirection play and coughing up a flag vs Ole Miss, however, he showcased absolute dynamism within the secondary.
Next level anticipation, an innate ability to read the game & break on the ball with expert timing, his smart pre-snap diagnosis, mind-numbing big play potential......these are all reasons why Ryan is one of LSU's more under the radar Tigers.
A curse of his own versatility, Sage would prefer to play safety, but throughout Spring, the former LCA star was handcuffed at nickel....behind transfer Greg Brooks Jr on the depth chart.
If Sage can iron out a home for himself at safety, perhaps alongside Jay Ward in tandem or next to both Ward and Foucha when our defense utilizes cover 3 packages, he'll certainly make plays.
LSU's staff must find a way to give Ryan opportunities, lest his development become hamstrung by another spell on the sidelines.
Still, the fact a local Louisiana 5 star prospect (born of Faulk blood) is being slightly dismissed by talking heads (or any surface analysis of Kelly's first-year roster) is mind boggling...especially after the tape he recorded last season.
Following two mostly fruitless seasons, blighted by injury or limited snaps, Big Tank is hoping to bust out in year three.
Among LSU's truly empirical D-Line group, household D-Line names such as BJ Ojulari & Ali Gaye, watchlist warriors & expected breakouts Jaquelin Roy & Maason Smith, young edge-men Zavier Carter and Saivion Jones, plus the often mentioned #1-rated DL Transfer Mekhi Wingo, at times Jacobian Guillory isn't just overlooked, he's forgotten.
Due to his 2020 freshman injuries, right after an off-season full of momentum and expectation, as freshman DT sensation Maason Smith signed on, while Coach O preferred Joseph Evans next to Roy as a starter, Guillory didn't lodge a statistic and didn't make a single freshman appearance; in 2021, he needed a big year 2 or he could've lost even more ground.
Once again in year 2, reps were slim pickings....but there was improvement.
Only appearing in 4 games, amassing 9 tackles, 4 pressures, 1.5 TFLs and a 0.5 sack, Guillory did well to produce some big moments despite an overall lack of on field opportunities.
Two separate flags also removed an extra pair of sacks from his red shirt freshman repertoire, though his interior devastation still had its desired effect.
While buried on the depth chart, Guillory impressed throughout spring, bullying quarterbacks for sacks, busting through guards or centers, adding a few pressures and a smattering of backfield damage;
All combined with his solid tackling prowess and hulking thickness, notching 2 sacks and a broken up pass during the Spring Game itself, right now King Girth is enjoying his most confident days as a Tiger.
Paired with his brilliant, crowd-rousing intensity and on field emotion, LSU fans have always hoped for Guillory's success; Now in 2022, Tiger supporters can do much more than hope: finally able to root him on, game in.....game out.
Although he may seem far from a pronounced role, one injury can change everything.
If an injury befalls either Smith, Wingo or Roy, a major contributing role immediately opens up for big #90....he just has to stay healthy and take his chances.
CHRIS HILTON JR
Can someone with special attributes in two different positions be considered overlooked?
Sage Ryan fits that bill, too.
Can someone with boundless athletic potential really be forgotten, or at least left on the outside looking out?
At LSU, this scenario plays out every class, such is the extremity & breadth of talent on campus each fall.
This is familiar: Three great WRs, two pull ahead, leaving one (who could start for every top program) waiting....watching....
Whether most realize it or not, Chris Hilton is one of these Tigers:
Packed in a WRs room loaded with elite talent, including himself, Chris is often kept in the background behind LSU's new #7 Kayshon Boutte, SEC Media Days rep Jack Bech, All-SEC Freshman Malik Nabers and veteran National Champion wideout Jaray Jenkins.
That shadow won't be cast for too long.....
Poised to breakout as a special teams virtuoso, simultaneously competing for starting reps vs Lacy, Thomas Jr and Jenkins, Hilton Jr may have major contributor or starter odds stacked against him, but I believe his searing track-champ pace and underrated receiving skills will create the red shirt freshman's ascension.....I sense he scores at least 4 touchdowns in 2022, including a return score.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc