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BK'S SLEEPING GIANT?: LSU 2024 SPRING GAME POSTGAME REVIEW, NOTES, NEXT LEVEL STATS + MORE

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ESPN & SEC Network were inside Death Valley and on LSU campus for kickoff of the Spring Game, immediately greeted by another high point in LSU's epic swagger department:

LSU DL Coach Bo Davis w/ LSU DL Legend Marlon Favorite

The end zones sported an immaculate custom paint job featuring the beautiful, intimidating architecture of Death Valley silhouetted in gray against the gold paint.....all to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Tiger Stadium.

Head Coach Brian Kelly undertook his usual interviews with the cream of the ESPN & SEC Network crop, before orchestrating the entire scrimmage, set up with a bizarre point system we're not even going to delve into. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker even gave an eyebrow-raising interview as well, displaying a confident, calm but edgy energy.

After some position drills, a few kicks and returns from special teams, these were the Tigers on the field to start the 2024 edition of the L Club Spring Game, as well as their 2nd string backups:


1ST STRING


DEFENSE

PJ WOODLAND CB

MAJOR BURNS STAR

SAGE RYAN FREE SAFETY

JARDIN GILBERT STRONG SAFETY

ASHTON STAMPS CB

HAROLD PERKINS LB

GREG PENN III LB

SAIVION JONES DE

JACOBIAN GUILLORY DT

JALEN LEE DT

BRADYN SWINSON DE


OFFENSE

WILL CAMPBELL LT

GARRETT DELLINGER LG

DJ CHESTER CENTER

MILES FRAZIER RG

EMERY JONES JR RT

MASON TAYLOR TE

KYREN LACY WR

CHRIS HILTON JR WR

AARON ANDERSON WR

JOSH WILLIAMS RB

GARRETT NUSSMEIER QB


2ND STRING


OFFENSE

TYREE ADAMS LT

PAUL MUBENGA LG

COEN ECHOLS CENTER

JO CRYER RG

BO BORDELON RT

RICKIE COLLINS QB

MALACHI LANE RB

KA'MORREUN PIMPTON TE

KYLE PARKER WR

JAVEN NICHOLAS WR

SHELTON SAMPSON WR


DEFENSE

PARIS SHAND DE

DEMYRION JOHNSON DT

KIMO MAKANEOLE DT

DASHAWN WOMACK DE

WHIT WEEKS LB

WEST WEEKS LB

RYAN YAITES STAR

KYLIN JACKSON S

DASHAWN MCBRYDE S

JORDAN ALLEN CB

JK JOHNSON CB


The third string offense was led by QB AJ Swann, then true freshman 16 year old Colin Hurley rotated into the game later on, as the only live QB willing to take hits.

Hurley's LSU Spring Game debut turned into a blistering cameo showcase when the teenager released a picture perfect downfield ball for Khai Prean, who waltzed in for a 64 yard touchdown.

While #1 ranked 2025 QB Bryce Underwood watched from the sidelines for his 3rd LSU visit since January, the Hurley display was a major statement of intent and pure quarterbacking ability from the freshman signal caller, announcing himself loud and clear.

It's all extremely promising for LSU's QBU future, but right now, the 2024 squad are led by a shot-caller who silenced any doubts, supplied big time plays, and remained locked in wire to wire:

Despite not appearing as much as we expected, red shirt junior QB Garrett Nussmeier finished a perfect 7/7 for 187 yards and 2 TDs....0 turnovers despite a spirited debut appearance by Blake Baker's defensive unit.

Joe Sloan & Cortez Hankton's offense took control early through heavy doses of sophomore Kaleb Jackson (59 yards, 14 carries and 1 TD) backed by a few brilliant snaps via the violent running & churning legs of super senior RB Josh Williams; Each QB then completed massive chunk plays to both tight ends & receivers, with Collins outshining Swann.

Highlighting his day, Nuss threw a 45 yard TD bomb down the field to transfer WR Zavion Thomas, separating from Jardin Gilbert at the line & scoring on the deep shot before free safety Sage Ryan could react over the top, then followed it up by hurling a 59 yard TD to Kyren Lacy, the expected #1 wideout hauling in his only reception & just his second target on the day.


4th year Tiger WR Chris Hilton Jr was given 3 clear cut opportunities to cap his best Spring Camp with a dynamic showing, though once again, some questions abound regarding his output when the bright lights shine.

Letting a touchdown at the back of the end zone slip away (when he stepped out of bounds accidentally, his lack of body control & the defender's good coverage made a toe tap impossible), Hilton also dropped a 40+ yard bomb down the sidelines, the slightly inaccurate but catchable pass hit him on the outside shoulder as he out-raced his coverage perfectly...unable to possess the stamina to pull it in.

Both were surprising lapses from Hilton Jr, the first really big wasted opportunities charged to #17 since his last second drop vs Ole Miss or profligate play against Army.

Second year slot WR Aaron Anderson was an improved player throughout Spring, but in today's all eyes, all access environment, Co-OCs Joe Sloan and Cortez Hankton were never showing their opponents any of their special formations and packages....many of which feature Anderson's versatility....making today difficult for anyone to properly judge Anderson.

Newly minted transfer WRs CJ Daniels and Zavion Thomas both enjoyed solid moments, led by Zavion Thomas' 45 yard TD catch. CJ Daniels also cobbled together a few nice plays, fighting off tackles and using his strength to devastating effect on one 13 yard reception (33 yards, 2 catches, 3 targets).

Offense's bizarre duck duck goose celebration after Zavion Thomas' TD

These moments shined a little light on transfer duo Daniels & Thomas' potential strengths: Daniels is a well-built battering ram after the catch and Thomas is a "take it to the limit" blur of infinite pace....we just haven't seen either fully grasp a lead role or unleash their powers yet.

Rushing-wise, LSU surprisingly struggled to generate sustained momentum on the ground, however in just a few plays (before being "wrapped in cotton wool" on the sidelines), Josh Williams made safety Jardin Gilbert miss with a clean hesitation move in the open field on his way towards the end zone.

Making sure we all realized this was no fluke, Williams executed a filthy spin move later on, throwing starter Greg Penn III inside the wash for a spin cycle.

Complimenting Williams, second year RB Kaleb Jackson was empirical on Saturday during the scrimmage.

Jackson was patient in the backfield, his footwork was dynamic, and because of his speed, power, aggression, and ever-approaching athletic synchronicity, Jackson is definitely a Tiger primed to breakout this fall.

As well as they played, the eyes of the college football world weren't really on Sloan / Hankton's offense....the fanbase were carefully critiquing and watching every move of Blake Baker's defense with high intrigue.

It was not a shocker that Baker's defense played with more intensity and aggression in one Spring game than we witnessed during all of last season.
It was not a major revelation when LSU's 1st string offensive unit ran our 1st string defense ragged or even our best DBs made a handful of costly mistakes in coverage against Hankton's elite receivers.
It was not surprising to see Corey Raymond's cornerbacks physically engaging receivers up at the line of scrimmage, deployed in man coverage....it was beautiful...
It was fantastic to watch Harold Perkins peel off on a string of blistering sideline to sideline / mano e mano stops, demonstrating his extravagant pace.

Most surprisingly, the expected "worst unit" on defense, Bo Davis' depleted interior D-line, offered plenty of feverish physicality, clogging the running lanes up front, assisted ravenous pressures from their edge men (plus a variety of blitzers), and helped LSU's front seven issue 13 tackles for loss and 7 sacks, limiting Frank Wilson's rushing attack to 69 yards from 34 carries (2.0 per attempt).


The enhanced pressure, aggressive mindset & creatively designed blitzing was a sight to behold for LSU fans who were / are still reeling over last year's defensive atrocities, yet even the most optimistic Tiger fans had to be a bit stunned by how disruptive Bo Davis' D-line became after the first few drives.

Although big Jalen Lee and longtime LSU veteran Jacobian Guillory started at DT, JUCO transfer Shone Washington and Preston Hickey became the strongest interior performers (former O-lineman Kimo Maka'neole receives an honorable mention), each DT plugging, disrupting and beating up Brad Davis' second string offensive line and winning their battles more often than not.

Likely inspired by the incoming arrival of new defensive linemen through the portal, there was a higher caliber performance from Bo Davis' defensive line than initially anticipated.

There is still a ton of work to do up front, but there are some increasingly positive signs at the end of Spring Camp regarding LSU's current D-line situation.

Other elite defensive performers on the day: linebacker Whit Weeks (3 tackles, 1.5 TFLs), Gabe Reliford (4 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2 sacks & 1 QB hit), Kylin Jackson (2 PBUs, 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), PJ Woodland (1 PBU on an end zone target vs Lacy & calm, collected blanket coverage throughout the day), Dylan Carpenter (2 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 1 sack), Harold Perkins (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL), while freshman Kolaj Cobbins also collected a touch-sack.

But young #19....bulldozing around the edge, deserves a definite headline for his brutal shakedown display:

Gabe Reliford pictured here last fall

At times on Saturday, Gabe Reliford took over the scrimmage, sacking quarterbacks twice, racking up 3.5 TFLs, 5 pressures, 1 QB hit, becoming a world class edge-rushing menace before our very eyes, demonstrating all the attributes of a potential All-American.

On a day where I was keenly watching another young edge rusher, Dashawn Womack (2 tackles, 1 batted pass), it was Gabriel Reliford who stole the show.

I won't get too caught up in a Spring Game showing, but it's also Reliford's voluminous production, practice habits & work ethic that won me over long before LSU finally flipped him from A&M. Gabriel may not merely be a prospect for the future, Reliford could very well be ready for primetime this fall.

Red shirt freshman safety Kylin Jackson stuffed the stat sheet amid his breakout performance on Saturday, breaking up 2 passes, posting 1 TFL, recording a sack on an expertly timed blitz, playing with the brand of aggression Tiger fans want to see, and utilizing his range & hard-nosed tackling abilities to impact the game.

Alongside true freshman safety Dashawn McBryde (2 tackles, 1 INT), red shirt freshmen duo Ashton Stamps & Javien Toviano were solid for the most part, Toviano nearly picking off a batted pass at one point.

Red shirt freshman DB Ryan Yaites was under the radar as the backup Star, contributing 4 tackles and coming close to a few plays in the backfield on blitzes. He also was pancaked by tight end Ka'Morreun Pimpton on one snap, too, tending to be more hesitant in his play.

Both Yaites & Jordan Allen were mostly quiet and held serve on Saturday, possibly fearful of making high profile mistakes with talented debutants on roster; I can't escape the feeling that Yaites & Allen would've been best served to pin their ears back and let it rip.

Regardless of their mostly improved play on defense, Blake Baker's unit still surrendered 329 yards through the air and countless big plays, could only force a single turnover (Dashawn McBryde intercepting AJ Swann's end zone-bound pass), and were manhandled up front by the Tigers' starting offensive line........that said, as this group evolved amid Spring Camp, it's clear LSU's 2024 defense are much improved from a mentality, energy & fundamentals standpoint.
That fact alone, combined with their prodigious talent, should position Baker's defense far ahead of Matt House's infamous 107th ranked deathstar from last year, at the very least;
Featuring a bevy of young talents, pass-rushing powerhouses, veterans who need elite campaigns to bolster their football futures, an improving young secondary replete with Tigers sporting the proper DBU profile, and one of the SEC's deepest linebacker corps, defensive coordinator Blake Baker is turning his first year unit into a multi-faceted, multi-scheme hellball of fury......

Overall, it's tough to say exactly what kind of team the 2024 LSU Tigers are at this juncture, but Spring Games aren't the place for precise team dissections & forecasts of the fall ahead...they're better served as a "vibe tester".

Copyright LSU Athletics 2024

Well, the vibes around LSU's current squad continue to rise in confident, almost under the radar optimism, even as Head Coach Brian Kelly's staff search for a few answers to their burning roster questions, LSU fans have to feel good vibes after Saturday.

From a view of 10,000 feet:

The coaching staff is elite, specifically on offense as well as the new defensive hires Kelly made in January.

If you're a Tiger fan, faith must be placed in what Coach Kelly is building in Year 3, even if this 2024 campaign doesn't produce the fabled Year 3 National Championship that LSU's last three head coaches were able to pull off.

The quarterback situation is settled, even after the departure of a Heisman-winner & definite top 5 pick (Jayden Daniels)....now led by a swaggering veteran leader (Nussmeier) backed by 2 young yet capable options (Hurley & Collins) and a steady SEC veteran (Swann).

Brad Davis' O-line army look as experienced as they are imperious....all but bound for Joe Moore Award recognition;

Cortez Hankton's WRs room lost a pair of 1st round picks / record-breakers and still they remain loaded to the brim with athletic aerial brilliance;

Running backs Josh Williams and Kaleb Jackson are a ruthless "veteran + young gun" one-two punch (plus second year RB Trey Holly is approaching his return, and superstar Duncanville RB Caden Durham is close to his summer enrollment).

Slade Nagle's TEs Room may very well be the most versatile, highly rated and abundantly stacked collection of tight ends LSU has ever had on campus at one time (Mason Taylor, Mac Markway, Ka'Morreun Pimpton)...and with 6'5 tall, 255 pound generational prospect Trey'dez Green set to arrive in late May, they're about to get even better;

The defense is coached by proven assistants who've scaled the mountaintops of college football....teaching & leading a unit full of cutting edge difference-makers, impact Tigers, long-time veterans aching for vengeance after last year's historic humiliation....& a chance to leave a lasting tribute for their missing teammate, safety Greg Brooks Jr.


Following today's Spring Game, I think we've discovered at least one bonafide facet of this team's identity:

Head Coach Brian Kelly and his staff have established a solid, rising program over 2 seasons in Baton Rouge, yet in Year 3, he's clearly built a sleeping giant.


by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

Copyright 2024 Uninterrupted Writings Inc


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