Updated: May 24
LSU's 2020 OFFENSIVE PREVIEW PT. II:
THE RECEIVERS / TEs': PICK OF THE LITTER
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Since the mid 2000s, LSU has become a talent factory, rolling in the hot names and recruits like every signing day was a hybrid holiday of Xmas and the frontal lobe of Kimbo Slice.
Because of our brilliant recruiting, we now have more weapons than a David Koresh swap meet; Coach Orgeron could even convert Charles Manson to the Mormon church, so to have Ed and his staff on the recruiting trail in a hotbed of skill position talent (they call home) is a factor which continues to pay massive dividends for LSU.
While our last writings tracked the trajectory of LSU's personnel history, including our lack of historic QBs, we forge on in our path to announce the 2020 LSU receiving corps.
Last year, we demoralized the entirety of college football with our G.O.A.T passing attack, led of course by NFL-bound backfield tandem Joe Burrow and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
With Joe Burrow at quarterback and Edwards-Helaire as our fever dream freak-of-all-trades, we took no prisoners and consumed every opposition 5 star recruit in our path (many mourning their collapsing NFL draft stock after an afternoon in Baton Rouge).
Despite the departure of those two intrepid leaders, our receiving nucleus remains intact:
In 2020, Steve Ensminger and our offensive staff are salivating to send a sobering message to the entirety of the doubting college football world: this 2019 team was no fluke, they were only the beginning.
From last year's squad, two of our three leading receivers will return: Terrace Marshall and phenom Ja'Marr Chase, a two-headed monster for Myles Brennan to look for on nearly every play.
It was ridiculous what these two accomplished last year: the performances, the numbers, the attitude...it was all straight up historic, biblical filth...and there will be more blood in 2020 from this duo:
As the pair hauled in over 2,500 combined yards and 33 touchdowns, 267 and 3 TDs coming in the 2020 title game alone, Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall made sure they couldn't be stopped by any defensive back in the country.
Nearly every time they were targeted, Marshall's perseverance or Chase's strength to fight through tight coverages, each receiver's long stride in the first / second step, and their perfect hands finished play after play with a positive gain thanks to their world class attributes.
We understand Chase's dominance and unparalleled big play threat, yet few realize just how crucial Terrace Marshall was last year.
📷 He caught the title-sealing touchdown, he grabbed the epic Burrow scramble and chuck vs Oklahoma and the big touchdown to take massive leads in the Peach Bowl, the Bama game, and the SEC title.
Although he fractured his foot and missed three games, while contending for targets with Chase and Jefferson, Burrow went to Marshall when we had to have it.
Who knows how much further the duo will improve from 2019 to 2020, although if last year is any indication we should see these two become more mature route runners, and Terrace will grow stronger with the ball in the air.
Furthermore, Ja'Marr Chase will continue to polish his NFL-ready size, strength and speed, hoping to end his career as the greatest LSU receiver of all time...and he's not far away at all in the eyes of the record books.
So...it's quite obvious the unstoppable exploits of Marshall & Chase's 2019 rampage will only get crazier, more brazen, and statistically ludicrous during our upcoming conquest.
If the list stopped after these two guys, our wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph, OC Steve Ensminger, and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan would still have a lot to work with as far as play design and route running capabilities...
But the depth and talent at receiver only grows for LSU with each name garnering excitement and suspense as we go down the list:
Although he injured his leg in the 2018 Louisiana state title game, sophomore Tigers WR Trey Palmer pushed through the pain barrier and led Kentwood High School to the championship, the wide out catching (and throwing) a touchdown himself in the biggest game of his life.
At 6 feet, 179 pounds, Palmer's best assets are his blistering first step, his slippery ability for YAC, and his versatility...though I can't quite put my finger on what he does best.
📷 As an analyst, what really jumps out to me when I watch Trey is how competitive he is:
The fight and intensity he displays on each play potentially positions Palmer as the biggest dawg outside of Chase and Marshall in this class...he wants to firmly embarrass the DB on every play.
Much like Justin Jefferson, he has this "it factor" he needs to rediscover in a Tigers uniform, and it's Palmer's unquenchable hunger on every down that'll do him a world of good in the uber-competition of the LSU receiver room.
Now that Jefferson and Thaddeus Moss have departed to the NFL, the returning Trey Palmer should see a lot more time on the field, definitely improving upon his 1 reception for 6 yards over the course of 2019.
Though he played extremely little during LSU's 2019 title run, he showed his frenetic agility in space when he took a punt return to the house vs Northwestern State.
Still, Palmer was part of the receiving corps that damaged the reputation of every DB in the SEC, many in the Big 12 and the few in the ACC who know what an interception is...
No, this was a group of receivers who stripped opposition DBs of their manhood....and Palmer can lay claim to being a member of that class.
The burning question is:
Can the sophomore inject himself as a third option in this powerhouse LSU passing game?
Both returning wide outs were valued pieces of the wide receiving group in 2019, though McMath made the most of his touches and opportunities:
While featuring in 13 games without making a start, McMath hauled in 3 touchdown grabs, a few 70+ yard games, and averaged 17 yards a catch.
His fellow senior, the charismatic Jontre Kirklin, a young man any coach would love to bless their locker room, looks to finally make his mark on the field.
After Jontre was initially recruited as a corner, Kirklin's transition to receiver turned awkward from 2018-19, however the intimidating presence of the bonafide superstars in front of him kept the Lutcher native from reaching his optimum.
Though he saw wildcat action vs Rice on the second play from scrimmage, this was an experiment hardly used.
2020 is a new year and I expect great things from both seniors, setting the example of how LSU's most selfless players contributed to the team before: think Christian LaCoutoure, Stephen Sullivan, Foster Moreau:
Despite the lack of sexy seniors, LSU need these upperclassmen to lead by example on offense, and their roles could be massive.
Speed speed speed.
Kayshon Boutte has such pace and throttle-busting drive our speedometer broke from the sound of his feet alone....
Possessing hands like a young Jarvis Landry and the afterburners of Trindon Holliday, the only sight defenders will consistently see is his bootay as he high-steps into the end zone.
With Boutte proving faster and more complete than Alabama's Jalen Waddle, it was absolutely imperative for Coach Orgeron and Mickey Joseph to sign the 2nd overall receiver in the 2020 class.
📷 LSU's blistering receiving corps are already blessed with major speed, talent, and an offensive system so aggressive you'd think Ensminger gave up chew for meth (we kid...chill!)....
...So for Coach E, Mickey Joseph, Scott Linehan and their offensive staff to be able to expand Myles Brennan's target zone with a pure speedster who won't just take the top off defenses, Boutte will offer Marshall and Chase a yard (or a mile) of extra space on every play he's on the field...these guys turn DBs into AB's brain while being interfered...just imagine...
If Boutte turns out to be even half the player he should be, then things could really get out of hand for the job stability of every SEC defensive coordinator.
If every defense on our schedule isn't already starting rigorous preparations on how to combat the New Iberia freshman, they'll be in for a full force wake up call.
Since we'll see opposing defenses blanket Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, our new(er) guys in the slot will be tasked with shouldering some of the chain-moving damage, however there may be only one other mis-match as dangerous as Boutte:
📷 2018-2019 became the first years in which LSU's growing trend of pass-catching tight ends and fullbacks reared its head: over the past season and a half, fullback Foster Moreau and TE Thaddeus Moss routinely ended opposition too concerned with Burrow's receivers.
As Moss posted a 20+ yard grab in 6 different games (breaking a few for 40+) and the year before fullback Moreau averaged nearly 13 yards on each one of his 24 catches, this new emphasis on tight-end play (as well as motioning our TEs or backs out wide) definitely edged the competition for Arik Gilbert's signature.
Arik had to be aware of the best tight end in the game's high profile development over three injury-plagued years in Baton Rouge:
Within Coach Ensminger's scheme, Thaddeus Moss didn't drop a single pass all last year, became a consistently annoying mismatch for every opponent (hey Nick Saban! How's it geauxin?), expanding the Tigers offensive template until the unpredictability of it all was too much for defenses.
Our question is:
If Thaddeus caught 2 TDs in the national title game, scalped Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, and ruined Bama's 5 star corner Treyvon Diggs (as Randy's boy executed the most stunning combined display of footwork and hands in years), just imagine what Arik Gilbert could do...
"The best tight end talent I've seen in 15 years or more, at least," Coach Orgeron dubbed Marrietta Georgia's Arik Gilbert, the unassailable talent possessing all the tools in the box to be an elite, LSU legend.
At 6'5, Gilbert's mountainous stature is only bolstered by his thick 253 lb weight, his receiver-esque pace adding to the already hopeless prospects of tackling the guy.
With everything our new offense utilizes, such as motioning guys like the towering Arik Gilbert out of the stance and into the slot, this simple realignment poses numerous mismatches all over the field for us to take advantage of...
Look for Gilbert to make Myles Brennan's acclamation a lot smoother, though as he comes off a recent shoulder surgery to clean out a previous wound, Arik may take until the Texas game to catch fire.
But once he does, LSU's offense could eclipse 2019's unfathomable dissection of every college football luminary...with Gilbert being the additional, unstoppable weapon.
Like taking candy from a baby, when the ball is up in the air, it belongs to Gilbert...
DEVONTA LEE (NOW AT LB)
Putting to the side all of his freakish size and ability, we have to talk about the main core of Devonta Lee:
Lee has significant character, the kind that's an intangible part of a human being: born from fire, shaved by time, and molded by experience.
He's a successful kid who would've been great at just about anything he might try, but it just so happens he grew up in Louisiana as a die hard LSU fan, watching the best receivers in college sports only miles away, here in BR.
📷 The kid is a wrecking ball, possessing a wingspan that would make the Jeepers Creepers guy look like Spongebob; Lee sports a dizzying / hulking turn of pace, the "reachability" of a young Megatron, and a nasty first step that's untouchable once he's level with you.
Simply put, if opposition SEC corners aren't prepared to keep Lee in front of them at all times, they'll get repeatedly burnt and "turnt" by the Amite High School product.
Though we've discovered, analyzed and debated as much talent as possible right now, it won't compare to the solidified new world order receiving corps we'll have thanks to inner-squad competition.
Competition breeds greatness:
You don't need to be a New York Post-writing, Adam Smith-obsessed economics major to understand how competition for spots enhances the commitment, energy, and production of those in contention.
For example, with Myles Brennan hungrily nipping at his heels, Joe Burrow knew he had to be as good as he could possibly be or....there was someone advancing upon him to take his spot....because of these two QBs refusing to give in, and Joe knowing
he had to earn the starting spot, we saw legendary performances on a level we've never seen before in college football.
Now, the depth of our receiving corps will be put to the ultimate test as these guys battle for the number 3,4 and 5 spots out wide, looking up to Chase and Marshall's stunning examples and yesteryear's blood-born experience.
As for the newbs, they'll also mature into tougher, smarter, less anxious players after this most intense season in BR, with LSU being the ultimate benefactor.
2020 will be the season in which LSU's unstoppable, over-the-top aggressive offense becomes fixed tradition:
Accordingly, look for Orgeron to roll the dice and create a scenario in which Myles Brennan and this receiving group must separate themselves from 2019, once and for all....it may not be 3rd and 17 in Austin, but watch as this
2020 team builds a vibe and harvests its winning atmosphere quickly.
2019 was no fluke...it was just the beginning.
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