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LSU 2023 WIDE RECEIVERS PREVIEW

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @LonnPhillips


Despite the appropriate and well earned moniker of "WRU", in the years since LSU's fabled 2019 season concluded in a rain of confetti & 1st Round picks, the Tigers' receiving corps has failed to come close to the heights of that monolithic season; In fact, no single Tiger receiver could come near producing 1,000 yards during both 2020 or 2021.

There were other outstanding performances, such as 2019 returnee Terrace Marshall's 10 touchdowns in 2020 & monstrous 235 yards vs Missouri, Kayshon Boutte's SEC single game record 308 yards (as a freshman) to finish off the pandemic season, or his 9 TDs in 6 games before injury curtailed his incredible sophomore year, Jaray Jenkins' stunningly clutch consistency over 3 seasons, Malik Nabers' 2021 All-SEC Freshman honors, Jack Bech's brilliant debut campaign.....but regardless of WRU's depth or recruiting muscle in that 2019 afterglow, LSU WRs Coach Mickey Joseph's room were hitting a remarkable low point in production:

Thanks to Boutte's season-ending 308 yards, LSU's leading receiver gained 735 in 2020 to save little face; however, during 2021, the WR room was exposed: LSU's leading receiver piled up just 509 yards total (Boutte again, after being injured the final 7 games!). Forget 1,000 yards in a season...Joseph's 2021 group hauled in just over 2,000 as an entire room....

Though Joseph's ousting was the first shockwave in a string of firings and departures once Head Coach Brian Kelly took charge, looking at the dipping production, without the safety net of superstars Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, it should've been no surprise.

What was a surprise?

The hiring of New Orleans native & Georgia WRs Coach Cortez Hankton, newly crowned as a National Champion in January 2022 when his Bulldog receivers left Alabama's secondary more torn and frayed than Pete Golding's mugshot hair.

While Hankton & offensive analyst Carter Sheridan's first season leading WRU had its ups and downs, specifically regarding the lack of receptions or scoring opportunities for LSU's at times non-existent passing game, the Tigers' gradual, but steady rise in receiving production is an exciting trend when coupled alongside QB Jayden Daniels' projected growth as a passer & Coach Kelly's roster of endless receiving firepower.....

2023 WRU is a unit full of various profiles or age groups, ranging from experienced veterans, young upstarts, freshman prodigies, some boasting towering height, others plying their trade as YAC merchants, but a recurring theme tends to be the existence of blistering speed from top to bottom:


MALIK NABERS

Junior

6'0 / 199 lbs

(#8)


First off, the nearly 3 year streak was snapped once Malik Nabers finished his sophomore season over the millennium mark, the first LSU wideout to hit the 1,000 yard mark since Jefferson & Chase, even while scoring just 3 TDs;

Throughout a tough 2022, which started off in nightmarish fashion for Malik in week 1, Nabers performed like a true #1 receiver and a potential great at the NFL level, consistently pulling off brutal, clutch catches against intensive coverage time and time again.

Nabers is no doubt the top dog, #1 target, and unquestioned leader of Hankton's room, poised for Biletnikoff candidacy and beyond......

...Even still, Malik's established pedigree is just the tip of the iceberg amid 2023's endlessly stacked receiving room.


BRIAN THOMAS JR

Junior

6'4 / 201 lbs

(#11)


Also heading into his third season like Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr is pushing to follow up his 5 touchdowns with a far more involved role in Mike Denbrock's offense, receiving just 31 passes as a sophomore (3 more than his freshman year).

A constant matchup migraine, scoring against Alabama, Florida and Purdue (among others) thus far, Thomas Jr is a towering, 50/50 dominant, aerial assassin who needs to be fed up high; receiving rare 50/50 or red zone targets his way in 2022, this lack of specific targets fails to maximize the former Walker High 4 star.

There's a reason BTJ was one of the most hotly pursued wide outs of the entire 2021 class: give him the ball.

As his 7 career Tiger touchdowns attests, amid limited opportunities, Brian Thomas Jr understands how to finish under the bright lights.


KYREN LACY

Senior

6'2 / 212 lbs

(#2)

Showcasing all of his gutty, shifty, hungry attributes during LSU's Spring Game this past April, Kyren Lacy responded to a disappointing 2022 with a fiery rise this offseason....lighting up Death Valley when he created a jaw-dropping touchdown from out of nowhere.

Reaching above and behind to pull the ball out of the air with one hand, Lacy then made a diving safety miss, flying past him as he spun away, before stiff-arming and dragging defenders the length of the field for a magical touchdown, Spring Game or not.

Underlining his potential as the talk of Spring, Lacy appears to be on a mission of redemption and salvation as he embarks on his final year of eligibility.

Dropping key 3rd down passes and proving to be unreliable last fall, Lacy's stock crashed hard after a listless, lost first season as a Tiger.

But after a hard working winter, forging an ever-sharpening steely mentality, the 2022 Rajun Cajun transfer is hunting for the top carrying full ambitions and boundless potential this fall.


AARON ANDERSON

Redshirt Freshman

5'8 / 180 lbs

(#1)


A Tiger we haven't witnessed in purple and gold, former Alabama transfer and Edna Karr standout Aaron Anderson has been battling back from injury just in time for summer conditioning....and his emergence among a talented receiving corps could ignite competitive fireworks.

Also successful as a returner, Anderson is a speed merchant and loose cannon with the ball in his hands, eating up large chunks of yardage after the catch....qualities which made him a 5 star talent of the 2022 class.

Reminding me of Tiger legend Early Doucet, crossed with specific traits from any number of latter day LSU skill position playmakers, Anderson's shorter stature is actually one of the biggest keys to his successful career at melting defenders.

Spending his first collegiate year at Alabama fielding 0 targets and only 3 snaps during 1 appearance, the Louisiana native had enough, returning home thanks to a blockbuster transfer move this past winter.

Just how good is he?

If fully healthy, it wouldn't shock me if Aaron Anderson started Week 1 vs Florida State as the #2 or #3 receiver for the Tigers.


CHRIS HILTON JR

Redshirt Sophomore

6'0 / 183 lbs

(#17)


Yet another member of the stacked 2021 class, red shirt junior Chris Hilton Jr always had blinding track champion speed, clutch moments (state title winning TD at Zachary & 81 yard score to end 2022 Texas Bowl), although due to injuries, he hasn't been able to put it all together.

But 2023 could be Hilton Jr's year if he hasn't lost a step of that searing pace, if he can build on the added muscle and strength he's gained this offseason, and if he can win the roster battles against Thomas Jr, Anderson, Lacy etc.

Even as the 4th or 5th receiver on the depth chart, it'll be a tall order for Hilton Jr to snag a starting or key rotational spot within LSU's 12 personnel based offensive setup.

As fall camp nears, Chris understands every moment of preparation, every practice rep, and every upcoming snap will count towards achieving his goals.


GREGORY CLAYTON JR

Senior

5'11 / 190 lbs

(#80)

Gregory Clayton (right) w/ author

Mostly utilized as a sure-handed returner, Gregory Clayton Jr showed off some nice plays over the course of Spring when playing his natural position.

Credited as the man who stopped LSU's return game bleeding last fall, Clayton Jr will most likely see most of his snaps on special teams.

A proven asset to Coach Kelly's squad, Clayton Jr could very well find himself playing on both offense & special teams.


NOAH NASH

Red Shirt Sophomore

5'11 / 182 lbs

(#87)

Redshirt sophomore walk-on Noah Nash also returns to the lineup, adding key depth, underrated capabilities & locker room camaraderie.

Rocking #87 this year, The Hometown Kid out of Catholic High produced some stunning catches during both spring and fall camps in 2022, personally witnessed by this author on multiple occasions.


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Yes, the Tigers are blessed with upperclass receiving experience as you've seen, but Hankton & Sheridan also welcomed the arrival of four different freshmen wide outs, Shelton Sampson Jr, Jalen Brown, Kyle Parker, and Khai Prean.

Throughout Spring, both early enrollee debutants Jalen Brown and Kyle Parker stood out during camp.

At first, Brown was the more talked about prospect until a hamstring injury curtailed his chance to make an impact during the Spring Game; but as time went on, Kyle Parker became more discussed as a truly singular talent in his own right.


JALEN BROWN

True Freshman

6'1 / 173 lbs

(#14)



Out of the Miami area, Jalen Brown's greatest asset is of course his secondary-erasing speed, taking the top off of any defense he faced while playing at Gulliver Prep (averaging 21.5 yards per grab over his high school career), but he has so far proven to also be a dangerous red zone target for any defensive back to deal with, thanks to his solid hands & deceptive route selling.

At Gulliver Prep, Brown cashed in 25 total scores, 111 catches and 2,396 receiving yards during his illustrious 5 star high school career.

Despite appearing to be more of a year two project player, Brown could contribute in game-changing ways right out of the gates if he can seize any opportunity that arrives.


KYLE PARKER

Freshman

5'11 / 190 lbs

(#12)

Meanwhile, under the Friday night lights in Texas last fall, following his high-profile LSU commitment and subsequent domination as a senior Kyle Parker became a household name among recruiting experts across America.

Why?

How?

Overall, Parker reeled in 1,091 yards, 13 touchdowns (19 total) from 72 receptions, yet it was his outrageous explosion against hopeless Argyle High which displayed the WRU freshman's truest intentions:

Flirting with history as he snapped 23 passes out of the air for 341 yards & 3 TDs, Parker appeared to commit pure sorcery after the catch against the Argyle defenders, effortlessly gliding through, around, and even over would-be tacklers.

Showing his progress during a few revealing pieces of film this spring, culminating in his solid public showing at the Spring Game itself, LSU fans can now see flashes of Parker's renegade brand of next level attributes beginning to develop...right before our eyes.


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Arriving late May, newly minted freshman Tigers Shelton Sampson Jr and Khai Prean join the festivities right on cue for a grueling moulding period (already underway) in their first summer conditioning / workouts under Head Trainer Jake Flint.


SHELTON SAMPSON JR

Freshman

6'3 / 187 lbs

(#6)


One of the most athletically gifted players of his class, Sampson Jr was highly touted throughout his recruitment process; The Tigers faced overwhelming opposition from Alabama, specifically.

In the end, the Catholic High prospect shut his recruitment down faster than most analysts expected, committing last August after an epic state title-winning junior season (932 yards, 40 catches, 8 TDs).

At 6'3, the Baton Rouge native may be raw, but he's a potential room #1, blessed with an athletic profile that could be something to behold due to his nasty combination of length, power and pace.

Sampson Jr may take a season to really stamp out a spot among the rotation, although his present & future remain very exciting for any Tigers fan to consider.


KHAI PREAN

Freshman

6'0 / 193

(#82)

Don't forget, St. James' former #1 wideout Khai Prean could also be a prodigious Tiger within Coach Kelly's foreseeable QBU / WRU offensive axis....we're talking about the 18th ranked overall receiver from the 2023 class.

Bullish in a shorter frame, Prean makes up for it with excellent elevation, smart timing, and utilizes his lower center of gravity to devastating effect after the grab; Demonstrating strength alongside his pure sickening speed (10.94 in the 100 meter dash), Prean is still a well-rounded overall wideout.

Sure hands, a confident release, some stellar upper body control, as well as a strong baseline for further development, Prean is definitely a Tiger to watch as his career progresses.


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WHAT DO YOU THINK OF LSU'S 2023 WRs ROOM?

HOW PRODUCTIVE WILL THEY BE THIS FALL?

WHICH WR WILL BREAK OUT?

WHICH FRESHMAN IS THE MOST GAME READY?

TELL US BELOW!


by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER HERE @LonnPhillips

Copyright 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc


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With all this talent, it would be Criminal and a major failing if our passing game isn’t dynamic. There are simply too many terrific options not to succeed.

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Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Jun 13, 2023
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And if we don't, someone really does need to either change or their rigid philosophy or we may need to make changes. Cannot destroy the brand of WRU that we've built.

Wide receivers make the game. I don't care how much BK and MD love tight ends 🤣.

I think they'll even use TEs in place of WRs, guys like Pimpton, so it won't look way different, but at the same time, receivers make the game almost as much as QBs nowadays.

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