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LSU 2023 SPRING PREVIEW


by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


With one eye cast ahead to Spring football, only just a month away, the Tigers' new 2023 roster is beginning to settle, including 11 transfer additions and 13 early enrollee freshmen.

2023 LSU will no doubt follow in the footsteps of Brian Kelly's first season in charge: supplying a mix of key returning veterans, double digit transfer portal arrivals at positions of necessity, backed by abnormally gifted freshmen who should challenge for starting spots.....but there are a few key differences:

First of all, every coach on the main staff & nearly every support assistant return for a second consecutive season:

After going through a rotation of 3 different offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, and D-line coaches (among other position groups) during 2020, 2021 and 2022, LSU's coaching staff continuity will play a major role this fall.


This will be the first time LSU football were able to retain most, if not all of their coaching staff since 2019, specifically at the coordinator position......(Bo Pelini or Jake Peetz, anyone?).

Any LSU fan will happily welcome the return of high caliber performing assistants such as DBU tandem Robert Steeples & Kerry Cooks, defensive line guru Jamar Cain, offensive line boss Brad Davis, and of course, standout defensive coordinator Matt House.

Then, LSU's staff also contain secret weapons sprinkled all over their supporting staff (sideline, booth and recruiting) with guys like linebackers specialist John Jancek, QB whisperer Dean Petzing (the connection from offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock to QB Jayden Daniels) or recruiting kingpins Sherman Wilson & JR Belton.

But at the end of the day, players win football games, regardless of coaching continuity; and in that department, Brian Kelly's 2023 Tigers feel positive about their chances due to their returning players, especially at the quarterback position:


Not only is potential awards season candidate Jayden Daniels shaking back for one more go around (after his wild, at times inconsistent, at times historic first year wearing purple and gold), Mike Denbrock's offense also has elite second string quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, an excellent plan A or B for LSU's offense, and freshman Rickie Collins, a much beloved local slinger out of Woodlawn High.

During his second half SEC title game showing, Nussmeier displayed every facet of the passing acumen Daniels must develop in order to beat the best teams on LSU's schedule. If JD5 continues to struggle passing the ball over the spring & into summer, would Brian Kelly continue to keep Garrett Nussmeier off the field?

There doesn't appear to be anything resembling a quarterback controversy at LSU, Kelly has made no secret about Daniels starting for LSU this fall. However, if Kelly and Denbrock wanted to rotate both quarterbacks, it could benefit this team's wild offensive versatility, potentially maximizing both Daniels' athleticism and Garrett Nussmeier's passing velocity at the same time.

Beyond quarterback, LSU's squad is replete with proven big game players at varying ages and on both sides of the ball:

Malik Nabers is without question the Tigers' #1 wide out heading into 2023, showcasing everything needed to be a legitimate 1st round NFL wide receiver. Named as an All-SEC Freshman following his debut season, Nabers eclipsed 1,000 yards in year two, frequently making catches on critical downs or in tight windows.

After historic debut campaigns, incoming sophomores Harold Perkins, Emery Jones, Will Campbell and Mason Taylor will all head into their second year at LSU with plenty of momentum & stone cold proof of their capabilities already etched in stone.

Can they build on their heavyweight start?


2022 transfer arrivals Mekhi Wingo and Greg Brooks Jr played over 800 snaps each on defense, displaying their pivotal value for LSU's defense immediately upon enrollment.

After dealing with significant injuries during 2022, current starters / starting caliber Tigers such as Major Burns (3.5 TFLs, 3 PBUs in 9 games), Jacobian Guillory, Sevyn Banks, Armoni Goodwin (267 yards and 5 rushing TDs in 7 appearances), Garrett Dellinger (highest graded pass protector in 2022 while dealing with 3 different injuries) and of course, expected All-American Maason Smith, all return holding plenty of promise and pedigree.


Former Louisiana high school 5 stars Sage Ryan, Saivion Jones, and Quency Wiggins are chomping at the bit for playing time this fall, each possessing enough stunning athletic abilities to become game changers, Ryan as a return specialist and DB playmaker, Jones as yet another dynamic, grade A Tiger pass rusher, and Wiggins as the complete athletic D-line Adonis uber-alles.

Across the roster, LSU are littered with prime players, from incoming junior linebacker Greg Penn III (2nd leading tackler at 78 overall stops), 3rd year Louisiana-born receiver Brian Thomas Jr (361 Yards, 31 Catches & 5 receiving TDs in a year where Boutte, Bech, Hilton, Lacy & Nabers all combined for just 6 total scores), to Frank Wilson's workhorse running back stable: John Emery Jr (6 rushing TDs and 2 receiving scores), Noah Cain's 409 yards on the ground punching in 10 TDs, fronted by main starter Josh Williams' 664 yards & 6 end zone trips.

Then there is LSU's most maligned (yet important) phase: special teams.

Brian Polian's unit became LSU's biggest worry & catastrophe throughout 2022, Saturday after Saturday featuring back-breaking, game-changing errors (often early in proceedings).

Luckily, the Tigers return their three most dependable special teams members, kicker Damian Ramos (10/14, 2/3 from 40-49 yards), punter Jay Bramblett (49 punts: 19 landing inside the 20 without return, 17 fair catches, 4 touchbacks, 0 blocked punts, 39.1 net yards, and 9 boots over 50 yards), plus, kicker Nathan Dibert began to boot the ball into the back of the end zone on many kickoffs (60 kickoff attempts, 38 touchbacks, 24.7 yards per return).

Now, these existing Tigers will be joined by 24 new signees, featuring 11 transfer portal additions:

Headlined by two five stars with strong LSU ties at both WR & CB (Aaron Anderson & Denver Harris), a slew of experienced D-linemen (led by Jordan Jefferson), and the arrival of senior linebacker Omar Speights (80+ tackles in 2021 & 2022, 60+ during 2020 at Oregon State).

For the second year in a row, LSU were able to solve a host of roster issues through transfers; Each move designed to solve gaping roster holes, add key depth at positions of need, or fill glaring necessities with higher quality upgrades.

Those 11 transfers won't be LSU's only new Tigers:

LSU boast a top 5 freshman class, with 13 freshmen early enrollees already on campus for Spring ball:


The list contains starter-caliber WRs Kyle Parker and Jalen Brown (local 5 star WR Shelton Sampson will arrive in June), ready-made DBU representatives like the versatile Ryan Yaites, hungry Michael Daugherty, local legend Ashton Stamps, and Bishop Gorman's underrated Jeremiah Hughes, all led by five star shutdown cornerback Javien Toviano (a possible starter in 2023), QB Rickie Collins, TEs Mac Markway, Jackson McGohan, incredible Louisiana running back duo Trey Holly & Kaleb Jackson, while Brad Davis & Jamar Cain continued to build in the trenches (OL Zalance Heard, Tyree Adams, DJ Chester & DL Dashawn Womack and Jaxon Howard).

LSU has the roster, the quarterback, the coaching staff, and now, a benchmark.....an establishment after last fall:

The bulk of 2023's squad will have learned plenty about their teammates, coaches as well as themselves throughout their topsy turvy, adversity-laden 2022 adventure.

Although there were times it felt as if Brian Kelly's 2022 Tigers felt more comfortable down double digits early, or screwing up consistently on special teams, those 2022 Tigers also learned how to pull off unthinkable comebacks & big wins, taking down Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Purdue all in the same campaign on their way to an SEC title game appearance.

Though LSU will be without veteran leadership and Tiger-forged athleticism from BJ Ojulari, Micah Baskerville, Jay Ward, Jaquelin Roy, Ali Gaye & Anthony Bradford, as well as expert coverage by Jarrick Bernard-Converse or Mekhi Garner, Kelly's Year 2 squad have a combination that could take them back to Atlanta for a second straight season:

Brian Kelly's Year 2 squad possesses a pair of elite quarterbacks, strong star power sophomores and juniors, returning powerhouse contributors in key areas, high grade transfers, a top 5 freshman class, and a solid crop of walk-on talent (LB Seth Scott, WR Javen Nicholas and DE Prince Malbrue to name a few) among their ranks.......on paper, Atlanta is a definite possibility.

Still, there are a few road blocks that could potentially halt LSU's path to College Football Playoff destiny in 2023:

Injuries, specifically at quarterback, in the trenches and at skill positions.

Depth at a variety of key areas will definitely be tested: linebacker, cornerback, offensive line, and safety stick out the most....though if injuries, transfers or both occur, quarterback & defensive line could be burning under the microscope, too.

Offensive conservatism is something that hurt LSU throughout last fall, and for the most part, ground our offense to a halt (43 drive killing sacks allowed on the year due to predictable play calling as much as an inability to block or Jayden Daniels' discomfort within a collapsing pocket).


Avoiding transfers in May at all costs is another major factor that could help or harm the Tigers' SEC & CFP chances; Once again, we're talking about quarterback, wide receiver or running back, among other congested positions.

But for right now, those big picture questions can be saved for another day, as kickoff in Orlando for a rematch vs Florida State lingers months ahead; Right now is the time for Kelly's Tigers to start figuring out the identity of their 2023 squad.....rep by rep, drill by drill, day by day....and for the second straight year, LSU Odyssey will be in Baton Rouge this Spring to provide you with details & facts every step of the way.


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc


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3 comentarios


I am extremely encouraged by the DB transfers and freshman. We lost a boatload of talent back there.

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Add Sevyn Banks and Michael Daugherty

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