Updated: Aug 24, 2021
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
We begin with the offensive side of the ball, a section of LSU's roster which is full of skill position home run hitters at WR, next level quarterbacks, a talented & veteran-led O-line with injury & chemistry problems, an extremely promising set of 4-5 NFL-caliber running backs, and a versatile group of tight ends....
Let's delve into one of the most eagerly anticipated units in college football...can Jake Peetz & D.J Mangas (among others) recreate 2019's G.O.A.T offense???
Or will they make their own name, stake their own place for immortality???
Or....will it be a 2-3 year process until greatness?
Garrett Dellinger (out w/ injury; expected back by Week 1-2)
Garrett Dellinger (out w/ injury)
We go for the expected veteran leadership in our O-line, although we've penciled in Anthony Bradford as LSU's new RG.
Chasen Hines hasn't made a single scrimmage, and seems to be hurt to the point he won't be able to fortify his RG starting spot from 2020. If he can return, he may show the improvement needed to wipe away his lukewarm performances from last year.
Marcus Dumervil is there to be called upon at either left or right tackle....and I wonder how much he'll be needed in 2021. After watching a good plenty of his reps, I can say I feel good about the former St. Thomas Aquinas champion.
Notice how many times we've included Xavier Hill in the list above....underrated, versatile, and can play nearly every position along the offensive line.
Watch out for "Scooter" to play a role reminiscent of Adrian Magee from 2019; hell, even Ed Ingram came in off the bench during the title-winning season and plugged holes at LG.
Xavier "Scooter" Hill has played a ton of different positions this off-season, most recently playing LG, RT and RG.
Still, what is his ultimate ambition?
He wants to play left tackle.
If called upon, Hill could be a stable force at LT, such is his hunger.
With good news about Garrett Dellinger's shoulder injury, the young freshman could be suiting up far earlier than expected. Initial fears over a relapse back to his prior shoulder injuries in high school were calmed after scans. He was on the sidelines watching the scrimmage this past Saturday.
I have fallen in love with Dellinger as a Tiger OL force.
Liam Shanahan should hold it down as a confident center, as we have predicted here.
We also discussed the intriguing case of Anthony Bradford, one of LSU's most hyped and talked about O-linemen, and we're all wondering if 2021 is the year he'll pop.
Our wild card is Kardell Thomas; after a year of fighting injury, plus another fighting to get on the field, Thomas is another supremely talented trenchman who just hasn't hit that level yet...mostly due to circumstances beyond his control.
But if he can grab an opportunity at RG, he may not let go. Freshman Kimo Makaneole really impresses me through camp, possessing empirical size, strength and measureables, but how quickly can he adapt to the stresses of life in the SEC?
That, along with the progress of Garrett Dellinger's injury, will decide whether Kimo can play in 2021; if Dellinger remains healthy and LSU don't suffer an injury debacle along the OL, Kimo may be forced to watch this year.
OUR OL PIECES:
LSU have two high quality quarterbacks who will be drafted in the NFL in a few years' time:
Max is the leader of the team & undisputed starter, though the only thing that's fallen his way has been Myles' injury....everything else he's had to earn.
We charted his cameo appearances throughout his freshman season, as well as his two starts, and what stuck out most from watching his film from 2020 compared to his scrimmage film in 2021?
#14 is an underrated passer who continues to progress rapidly, he immediately seemed to energize LSU's offense whenever he came into the game, Maximus spread the ball around, he anticipates the rush, the blitz and possesses a fantastic spacial awareness within or outside of the pocket, and maaaan is he a gamer.
Watch the way he celebrated the opening touchdown vs Florida, a teardrop toss to the back of the end zone, giving the pass the perfect touch, before celebrating like a wild man.
Watch how he headbutts Ali Gaye WITHOUT a helmet on....
Sure, maybe some opposing coordinators or fans aren't afraid of #14's abilities as a dual threat quarterback, but they will be after only a few minutes of playing him....
After seeing his sub-200 yard numbers during scrimmages, even some of LSU's fanbase are beginning to doubt Max....and I'm glad.....it will only make him better for Week 1 vs UCLA @ The Rose Bowl.
Garrett Nussmeier is a fascinating quarterback: harboring the same instincts, play extension and confidence level of a Mini-Manziel.....fitting in tight window throws on the run like he's messing around on Playstation, juking away from Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory and B.J Ojulari during this fall camp.
Still, he's a true freshman.....plus, he's thrown multiple interceptions during all but one preseason scrimmage against the 2nd team defense....
Last Saturday, finishing with 300+ yards and 3 TDs for the second straight scrimmage, this time only tossing a single pick, Nuss has shown sterling improvement.
The young man is only a play away....he must be ready, and it appears he's gone to severe lengths to make sure he will be.
3rd string QB Matt O'Dowd is a good running quarterback who'll be forced to improve his passing abilities, namely his power and accuracy.
Tavion Faulk, legendary Kevin's nephew, looks to be a run-first QB with an arm in need of polishing; can't see him reaching the field except for a few experimental wild cat plays, but even that seems unlikely. Then again, who the hell knows....he's a Faulk.
John Emery Jr
Yes, the running back position remains up for grabs...but don't be mistaken, there's still a pecking order:
TDP is #1: not only has he worked himself into top status, he's also proven capable of keeping the job. Jacob Hester loved the way Ty ran the ball in fall camp, detailing a 65 yard burst he took off on during practice.
While many would love to see #2 guy John Emery Jr take the reins, the former UGA commit only had at most a 77 yard day in all of August.
We simply haven't seen enough from "Johnny B. daaaaamn Good" to warrant the #1 spot; when we do, let that boy run and keep the pedal down. He's a formidable talent, but there are concerns with catching out of the backfield as well (we've seen the drops). Additionally, it doesn't help that he's now out with a new injury Coach Orgeron called "worrying".
Walk-on Josh Williams rode a tough injury through the first part of camp, sending his chances down the rabbit hole; but every time Williams receives the bulk of carries, he's produced tough yards: rattling off 66 yards on Saturday.
The headline grabbers are the freshmen duo:
We've seen Kiner stiff arm Todd Harris into mincemeat, then the next day Ohio's Mr Football scaled over an LSU Tiger defender, hurdling the DB as if he was nothing but a shrub in the front yard.
Oh yeah, he jumped over nearly two people in the same leap on Saturday again....ya know....no big deal...
Armoni Goodwin arrives already possessing an SEC back's body, robust legs, agility and lateral quickness, an ability to hit the edge with ferocity and an unselfishness to his game, all which recalls Marcus Lattimore at his best.
I feel Ty will run the show (his injury isn't serious, he is "feeling fine now") and with the training staff wasting no time holding him out, you have to feel there's supreme confidence in Ty's 2021 evolution.
If healthy, John will produce and challenge for the #1 role, however I feel like his deep friendship with TDP affects his competitive drive when vying for the job.
At the peak of their powers, within a great new offensive structure from offensive coordinator Jake Peetz, I expect both Ty and John to hit at least 700....though we could be seeing only one of the two remain healthy enough to reach loftier goals.
But don't be mistaken: LSU's offensive staff won't be scared if they are forced to rely on the freshmen....that duo are scary good.
Hauling in his third big touchdown of fall camp on Saturday, Jack Bech stands as the team's #1 TE for our passing game and nickel blocking schemes.
Only a freshman out of Lafayette's St Thomas More, Bech has what it takes to jettison his game to even greater heights than his 35 combined touchdowns from his final two seasons at St Thomas More (20 in 2019, 14 in 2020 + 1 return TD), and judging by our 2021 profile, we expect him to breakthrough as a debutant.
Colorado-native sophomore Kole Taylor is more a typical tight end and therefore will be used as such, blocking edge rushers with his rocky mountain high stature; but offensive coordinator Jake Peetz won't be content with defenses figuring out their tendencies: Bech for passing plays only and Kole just for rushing snaps could handcuff the offense.
Accordingly, Taylor has worked on his route running since his 2020 debut, but he'll still only be at most an intermediary threat.
Where things get intriguing?
6'2 Jack Mashburn, capable of blocking or receiving with equal panache.
While not as dominant or as aerially skilled as Bech, nor as huge and intimidating as Kole Taylor, Mashburn splits the difference and offers the Tigers' offense an unexpected additional threat....that is unless you're LSU Odyssey....we always kneaux with LSU, expect the unexpected, baby.
Brian Thomas Jr
Chris Hilton Jr
Without need for hyperbole or exaggeration, LSU's receiving corps are the deepest and most talented in the country.
Figuring out who should start among Mickey Joseph's outrageous group is as difficult as me trying to dunk on Dennis Rodman....somehow, without playing favorites and using talent, aggression, pure ball skills, high character, as well as play-making ability, we've come up with the above list.
I feel Jaray Jenkins and Koy Moore are interchangeable at #2 or #3, both harnessing strong big play prowess but mostly positioned as starters for their veteran status:
Jaray is a deep ball threat (17 yards per catch in 2020) & Moore has the athletic potential to become a superb aerial threat and a solid intermediary target, with strong yards after catch potential.
Regardless of Jaray's veteran presence or Koy's rising star, both could see their spots taken later down the road if they can't maximize their potential....such is the overall unit's unmistakable skill. For instance, I feel Malik Nabers, fall camp surprise Trey Palmer, or senior standout Jontre Kirklin would be first in line for reps outside of the first five, ready to assume a starting role.
There are no weak links among this WR squad:
While I believe the above list will be in place for Week 1, I know 98% of our wide outs will grab reps; I also subscribe to the "week to week" theory where each week's performance levels, work rate, injury status and unselfishness will all play factors in deciding Mickey Joseph's rotation.
Brian Thomas Jr skyscraping over the hopeless remnants of many DBs inside the red zone, while showing off some absolute YAC giddy-up; a week ago, LSU Odyssey made bold predictions for Thomas Jr's upcoming season.
Malik Nabers should be among our top five out on the field, especially since he possesses hard nosed, toughened Tiger Blood already coursing through his veins at his tender age. The former superstar at Comeaux High can make every catch in the book, also displaying potent finishing powers.
Deion Smith fought off an injury all Spring, and kept producing, appearing dominant against second year CB Darren Evans when engaged in one on ones. He could be the odd freshman out by the numbers, but "by the mentality" he could also be the first one out of the gate....the reps will decide.
Why is this unit so good?
Despite Jontre Kirklin rattling off a career 200+ yard, 2 TD day during April's spring game, the Tiger senior may not even make the starting five!
Kirklin has the pace and heart to deliver an unforgettable final campaign, although could he be kept from the field due to forces beyond his control?
Even Evan Francioni, a walk-on survivor of the 2019 title-winning team, exploded for a touchdown during fall camp, carrying bodies as he blasted through hits and deflected defenders off his hulking visage. Another returning member of 2019's title-team is Devonta Lee, a giant presence who's moves back and forth from WR to TE to LB and back to WR and back to LB and back to WR, have all been well documented.
Given a chance to finally settle in one position, Lee is thriving.
Devonta made a circus catch this past scrimmage, echoing his Spring exploits and continuing to show out in the best way possible....but I feel it's only just enough to put his name among the starting five receivers, such is LSU's incredible competition for reps.
D-Lee is equipped with a Herculean body, build, as well as a freakish wingspan.
While he will be mostly a "move-the-chains" underneath presence, Lee has the range to run deeper routes and catch longer passes with equal aerial panache; however, his bread and butter will always be exploiting mismatches in tight quarters.....with that said, I could see him catching 4-5 pivotal touchdowns, mostly as a prime red zone target.
Chris Hilton Jr doesn't seem athletically robust enough for major reps as a freshman; he's more of a long-term Heisman-aiming project; Regardless, watch out for him to make a few plays that are frightening in their dynamism....electric previews of his future devastation.
Alex Adams impressed on occasion throughout fall camp, however there are too many top names in front of him. I feel bad for the young stallion, as #12 really just requires an opportunity to become a spectacular talent, in my opinion.
We'll see if he is afforded that chance in 2021.
St Thomas More walk-on Carter Arceneaux has it all to do if he wants to make a name for himself in 2021, facing a stacked upon stacked WRs corps....although that wasn't really his end game to begin with:
First of all, Arceneaux wasn't tapped for LSU's roster, so the fact that he's wearing purple & gold is already a win for the "Wes Welker"-esque receiver.
Second, he wanted to join current Tiger and past STM teammates Joshua Billideaux, Jack Bech and next year's QB Walker Howard, winning the state title over the past two seasons;
Third, the future is high for Carter....and I believe he will play a big role in the Tigers' next few seasons, even amongst a group of high profile receivers.
OUR DEFENSIVE LINEUPS & PROJECTIONS NEXT!
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
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