BRIAN THOMAS JR
-17 Catches Over 9 Yards
-7 Catches Over 18 Yards
-3 Catches Over 30 Yards
-16 1st Down Conversion Catches
-4 3rd Down Conversion Catches
-1 4th Down Conversion Catch
Sophomore LSU Tiger wideout Brian Thomas Jr is an enigma to most, if not all outside of his family, friends, coaches or teammates, a quiet, reserved and private young man in a world full of open door online voyeurism.
Back in 2019 & 2020, when his recruitment was all over the front pages of every LSU or Alabama paper & site in America, even the top national recruiting reporters couldn't get a dab of insight on whether he would spurn Saban's Alabama or stay home to rep his home-state purple and gold.
Mystery sprouted from every vantage point surrounding his decision, with all kinds of rumors spread about Alabama money on the table. LSU fans wondered if we were about to see a DeVonta Smith situation once again that February...
In the end, none of it mattered when the 5 star WR declared his LSU commitment inside Walker High's gym.
Since that day in early 2021, Thomas Jr wasn't just anticipated to rise at LSU, he was expected to attain the same level of star power or production as LSU's most recent receiving greats, drawing easy profile comparisons to Ja'marr Chase or Terrace Marshall due to his length, strength, hands and speed combination.
I quickly became a fan, dating back to his days at Walker High, even naming BTJ our #1 overall WR of the 2021 class just ahead of some other big time names you'll recognize, former LSU commit & current Alabama WR Jo Jo Earle, current Tiger Jack Bech, dominant JUCO transfer Deion Smith and BTJ's close friend & fellow Tiger Chris Hilton Jr.
But life as a freshman Tiger wasn't so easy for Thomas Jr, nor did he receive as many opportunities to showcase his abilities within the disastrous Peetz offense.
Headlined by BTJ's opening score vs Alabama, alongside his season-high 61 yards & a TD vs University of Louisiana-Monroe, LSU's incoming sophomore hauled in 28 catches overall for 359 yards and 2 TDs. Though you may say these are pedestrian numbers, 7 of Brian's catches went for more than 18 yards, 3 eclipsing over 30, while averaging over 12 per grab & converting 16 catches into first down yardage.
He eats up ground like a lawnmower....
In all reality, Brian's numbers were lower than they should have been:
As I'm watching through BTJ's game tape, I hit last October's bout vs Florida and I'm left stunned by two big time penalties (away from the play) ripping off 121 combined yards, 1 TD and 2 catches of 50 & 71 yards from LSU's freshman #11, with the 2nd penalty appearing to be a horrific, phantom call.
Of course, these two plays never counted officially on any stat sheet, however.....it's only a narrow distance between BTJ experiencing a strong season instead of a good but not great debut campaign.
Regardless, both Florida plays exist on their own plane of time & space, proving he is a big play machine if given the chance.
But chances won't come by easy this fall....
In 2021, Thomas Jr only received consecutive targets on just a pair of drives all season.....and 2021 became a "lost weekend" where Kayshon Boutte was out injured for half of the season & Jake Peetz continued to waste Jack Bech's athleticism at tight end....with both problems fixed at this point, Boutte & Bech looking to be the first two off the board as automatic starters for LSU, 2022 should be even tougher:
Brian will have to face an extreme amount of competition for wide receiver reps this fall, competing against America's top WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU's leading catcher in 2021 Jack Bech, All-SEC Freshman selection Malik Nabers, 2019 Champion & reliable veteran presence Jaray Jenkins, close friend & fellow 2021 juggernaut Chris Hilton Jr, highly-prized transfer Kyren Lacy, even strong walk ons Evan Francioni and Noah Nash......all under the scrutinizing eye of Cortez Hankton.
While there is palpable pressure on Kayshon Boutte to take on Jordan Addison for the 2022 Biletnikoff, as well as expectations for Jack Bech and Malik Nabers to ascend to that next step, the anticipation for Thomas Jr isn't reaching a max fever pitch this off season......which could be exactly what he needs to have a big year.
No relentless pressure, just a chip on your shoulder and boundless talent......
When going back through Thomas Jr's LSU film this past season, the young man looks so stout in full flight after the catch he's nearly a running back in strength, longer in size and most likely as fast or faster; Once he gathers his momentum, he starts to glide in a manner reminiscent of his teammate Kayshon Boutte, or when an opponent first tries in vain to wrap him up, they often struggle, bounce off, or approach BTJ with the wrong angle.
Still, Brian Thomas Jr has a lot to work on this summer if he's wanting to challenge for those top 3 or 4 spots. It'll all come down to preparation, work ethic & whether he possesses the charisma to go up and take the football from the best DBs in America, announcing himself on a grand national stage....who knows, he might even finally become comfortable enough to show off a little swagger & take over as a prime red zone or deep ball target.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: Liam Gallagher