by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Can you feel it in the air?
Can you taste it on the bounce of your next step?
We are nearly there.
LSU Football begin their spring time preparations this week, starting on Thursday March 24th, Brian Kelly holding an introductory press conference on Tuesday March 22nd.
With plane tickets in hand, hotel room reserved, LSU Odyssey will have boots on the ground to cover the first week of practices in the flesh, which, if everything goes to plan, will feature extensive coverage of practices, press conferences, interviews with players, coaches and more.......it is about to be the biggest week in LSU Odyssey's history, right at the start of an exhilarating new era of LSU Football and I am overwhelmed with excitement and joyous energy to provide our readers & viewers with the best Tigers content we can possibly supply.
Talking to those in and around LSU's program over the past few days, I must say there is an energy of inclusion, and after years of covering our program as an outsider, I am looking forward to getting a Tiger's eye view of Brian Kelly's LSU in action.
With Spring Ball here, there are many personnel questions up in the air, roster decisions which will be taken before or on May 1st regarding transfers.......what I can tell you with 100% certainty?
Every Tiger on roster is doing everything to be chosen by Brian Kelly...they want to be a part of LSU's dynamic future, regardless of transfer anxiety.
From what I can tell, LSU's big time work signing transfers has not only plugged holes at positions of desperate need, these new Tigers are supplying nearly the exact amount of competition, experience and depth we needed once Kelly took over.
Now, LSU don't have to worry too much about transfers, although during his first few moments of transition, Kelly did everything in his power to ensure a few players remained in Baton Rouge (Boutte, Gaye, Jenkins, Micah, Myles), but from this point forward, competition will decide LSU's roster.
It will be intriguing to see Brad Davis' jigsaw puzzle OL, and who will start at center....
Frank Wilson's running backs unit is destined to be a fun competition between John Emery Jr, Corey Kiner, Noah Cain, Armoni Goodwin, while Tre Bradford and Josh Williams relentlessly push.
Running back could just be LSU's secret strength in 2022, especially if Wilson & Denbrock can find a proper rotation to fit every back's skill set.
How quick will Robert Steeples and Kerry Cooks steer DBU into next level orbit?
Watching LSU's receivers battle it out against Steeples' corners should supply our program's brand of endlessly epic 1 on 1 showdowns, iron sharpening iron.
Once again, after Boutte and Bech's "Batman & Robin" tandem, Cortez Hankton's receiving corps could head in many different directions with Jaray Jenkins' rising production, Brian Thomas Jr's length & YAC grandiosity, Chris Hilton Jr's outrageous pace alongside stunning home run hitting ability (81 yard TD vs K-State), transfer Kyren Lacy's renegade hardnosed profile, or Deion Smith's elite promise....if he stays with the team (he attempted to transfer to Ole Miss back in December, a story broken by this author...only for Smith's academics to keep him in Baton Rouge, tying him to LSU through spring semester).
Then, at quarterback LSU are deciding between some strong options:
About to touch down in Baton Rouge, QB Jayden Daniels transferred from Arizona State, possessing all the right tools and eye-widening potential you can possibly find from the portal, especially his dual threat abilities....a facet to his game that could prove to be an unassailable edge for his main competitor, Myles Brennan.
On the surface for some, Brennan was tagged as LSU's obvious 2022 starter once he pulled his name out of the portal, but to our eyes, I never felt comfortable waving around a "Myles Era 2022" banner, regardless of our lack of experienced options pre-Daniels.
His arm is unquestioned, however Brennan's decision-making on 3rd down or inside the red zone hurts his evaluation; same with Myles' lack of mobility, and of course....the injuries.
Meanwhile, slinger Garrett Nussmeier is standing there pissed off, about to fight for LSU's starting job with everything that he's made of: a cannon right arm, an NFL background as a student of the game, and a wild, raw bite of energy.
Walker Howard may be using his own red shirt in 2022, yet those decisions aren't finalized as he heads into Spring ball, eager to battle for LSU's starting job in year one.
Many will point to his recently fractured leg or thumb surgery and say "let him sit a year and just get used to it all", but I don't think Howard is one to sit back and twiddle his thumbs.
No doubt many eyes will be cast upon LSU's quarterbacks, specifically this "Myles vs Jayden" narrative beginning to take hold.
Our linebackers should be another entertaining position to watch take shape, as a couple veteran leaders (Baskerville, Small, Jones Jr) compete with a wide range of younger defenders (Fields, Weeks, Penn III, Perkins, Tolan etc).
At safety, there are bountiful options, but finding the best position for some of our more versatile DBs is paramount, as well as finding the right tandem / trio.
For example, is Sage Ryan more of a safety or a cornerback? Or is he purely a nickel?
Is Quinton "Pig" Cage purely a nickel? Or a corner?
Could LSU move Jay Ward from safety back to corner, his original position?
So many questions which will be answered on the practice field, not just where these players are lining up, but how....and why.
This team has a new, less sentimental standard: dominate with a purpose.
While previous Head Coach Ed Orgeron created a G.O.A.T benchmark which haunted his final two seasons in charge, Brian Kelly arrives sharing a hunger, a focus, and a chip on his shoulder....and his team aren't just buying in, they're emulating their new coach.
Whether it takes a season or two, even three to reach College Football Playoff glory, I believe our program is heading in the right direction under the Irish Tiger....and we cannot wait to see LSU's evolution unfold.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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