STATS BY US BABY
by lonn phillips sullivan
Of course, after 2 losses in 5 games, getting outmanned by UCLA and choking at home vs Auburn for the first time since apocalyptic Y2K fears ran rampant across the country, 2021 LSU has many deficiencies, issues, problems, shitstorms, whatever you wanna call it...
2 losses in 2 games where we were favored, obtained early leads and fast offensive starts, only to completely capitulate under the fearful playcalling of Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz.
While LSU's OC is too busy striking poses in front of his office mirror, wondering if he's looking enough like Joe Brady from the booth cameras, there are still players on this team who have excelled...if not in a full 4 quarter performance, due to the offensive structure that surrounds them, then at least statistically.
Among those shining brightly for the team, despite all the struggles on and off the field for the program?
LSU's freshmen WRs, just as this very author and web site predicted endlessly....before many of these young men were even committed to the Tigers, I already started making photo edits or writing articles commemorating Mickey Joseph's incoming freshmen fleet of raging bull talents.
And the Freshmen Five have absolutely backed me up:
BRIAN THOMAS JR
Over their first 5 weeks of collegiate football, including 2 SEC games, all four average over 10+ yards per catch, reeling in a combined 655 yards from 37 receptions and finishing off 3 TDs, all three shared between Deion Smith and Jack Bech.
Jack Bech has become a reliable weapon on any down, specifically during key plays where he's already pulling out all the stops for LSU.
On one play vs Auburn, he snatched a pass over the middle, turning directly into a big hit, one which nearly knocked him over until he reached out an arm to keep his balance:
Going above and beyond for every yard, Bech refused to go down and clattered into three more Auburn defenders in order to push for a first down his OL could never convert.
Bech is one of the few players showing urgency throughout the game; he wants it pedal to the metal 24/7, he wants LSU to go for the jugular...
The Lafayette native's filthy one handed touchdown catch vs CMU showcased his wondrous big play abilities, ultimate powers Jake Peetz has thus far ignored, mainly limited to short / intermediary targets only.
Bech is without a doubt a special Tiger, anyone who understands football knows it....starting nearly every game through the first five weeks of his first season, Jack is ready to deliver for LSU every time he touches the ball, catching 80+ yards twice, alongside three performances of 4+ receptions in five overall games...
For a freshman who has mostly gone neglected by his Offensive Coordinator, Bech has surpassed the hype.
Week 1 he was absent due to a coach's decision, week 2 he had a few nice catches late in the game vs McNeese, and then bam:
Week 3 vs CMU, LSU wearing the purple jerseys, Deion came out of the shadows with an absolute firebreathing performance.
Yet another unforgettable freshman moment in LSU history, Deion Smith's second ever appearance as a Tiger saw him explode for 135 yards, 5 catches and 2 TDs....but it was the way he accomplished the feat which made many Tiger fans rant and rave about his future...
Jumping over the top of a DB on a long bomb, leaping up like a tyrannical totem of towering thiefdom & ripping the ball away through his opponents' outstretched arms;
Outpacing his man for a deep shot down the sideline, burning him with both physicality and fancy feet at the line, then finishing it all off by locking on the ball through coverage with finite grace.
QB Max Johnson found Smith for 2 TDs inside the first quarter alone. The #1 overall freshman out of Mississippi's debut TD was a serious reenactment of Randy Moss....no imitation.....just innovation;
Deion's second score was a sneak peek of his exuberant powers all over the field, especially in man coverage.
His spotlight has faded slightly over the past two games, due to defensive coordinators starting to respect him, LSU's lack of cohesion on offense, as well as his own inexperience:
The former Jackson Academy & Provine High superstar received 5+ targets vs Miss St but made little happen; this past Saturday, while saving LSU's ass with a big 3rd down catch (his only grab of the night), Deion dropped a pass on the Auburn goal line.
These are the typical up and downs of a stunning freshman athlete, the same kind Kayshon Boutte went through....we all know how brilliant he was against Alabama, but we all remember how he pulled a DeSean Jackson during that game, too.
It happens...and we love the process of watching these players figure it out....look where Kayshon was at only a few games later vs Ole Miss in 2020....look at where Kayshon is now....
Deion Smith should be next in line.
Next, former Walker High 'secondary surgeon' ('cause he opens 'em up) Brian Thomas Jr has been used sparingly, however...he's found room to be effective.
143 yards, a mere 11 catches, BTJ is a solid contributing freshman who's real skyscraping abilities aren't even close to being properly unleashed yet.
Also true? Peetz has dialed up a few blistering sideline out patterns for BTJ's length, however where the hell is Brian's 6'5 200 pound megalodon frame inside the red zone, especially when LSU can't run the football on the 1 yard line?
I know Max can throw the fade to Brian with precision, because I've seen him do it in games, scrimmages and practice, and I know Brian can make those catches against top DBs...because I watched him do it against Eli Ricks...
Sure, he dropped consecutive passes vs McNeese with a laziness that was shocking, but he had that mentality destroyed out of him quickly....not only by Mickey Joseph, but a few former Tiger WRs had some choice words for his "effort".
Allow Brian's length to score us TDs...stop removing strong aerial threats like Brian from our red zone packages, let alone also keeping Kayshon Boutte in the damn game.
While Malik Nabers' season debut was delayed due to an injury, the Lafayette renegade returned over the past few weeks, catching everything which came his way and gathering back steam, rep by rep.
He nearly broke a long 20 yard catch and run up the sidelines, barely being shoved out before he took the play to the house....once again, another preview of a current freshman dynamo's palette of skills.
Game by game, Malik will find his feet as his health improves back to full football fitness, and judging by what he displayed vs Auburn, the bursts of pace, power, alongside natural catcher hands, Nabers is nearly there.
Sadly, the 5th member of the Freshmen Five is out for now:
Chris Hilton Jr had an operation to clean out his knee shortly after the UCLA game, as his father revealed on Twitter. A timetable for his return suggests he could come back for the latter parts of the season.
Hilton Jr is without a doubt a must see talent, still LSU fans will need to be patient for the starting debut of Zachary High's former football & track champion.
Broadening our scope in conclusion, LSU boast an incredible array of freshmen as well as sophomore freaks across the board.
If the Tigers' coaching staff don't exile their own fear and egos in order to find these young stunners their deserved playing time, we could see a few key players transfer away from the identity-less dysfunction found currently within LSU's offensive structure.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
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