by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Returning 2,276 Yards, 171 Catches and 24 TDs at the receiver position, LSU's fascinating WRs Room may have received an upgrade in culture & coaching over the Orgeron-Kelly transition.
Despite losing Trey Palmer, Alex Adams, Koy Moore and, at first, Deion Smith to the transfer portal, right as Mickey Joseph, our long time WRs Coach leaves, to some LSU fans, it seemed as if the sky were falling.
Then, Brian Kelly swiftly responded by hiring Cortez Hankton, a story Odyssey subscribers knew first, pulling in former Napier WR Kyren Lacy via the portal, moving 2021 freshman powerhouse Jack Bech to receiver full time, NILSU made sure Kayshon Boutte stayed in Louisiana, veteran Jaray Jenkins opted to stay one final season, and Kelly seems to have found an offensive coordinator with the right brand of play-calling abilities to unleash LSU's blistering sophomore receivers.
Led by sure-fire Biletnikoff frontrunner Kayshon Boutte, the program pillar in his third year who caught an NCAA-leading 9 TDs through 6 games before season ending injury, Cortez Hankton's receiving corps is the strongest room on Mike Denbrock's offense and quite possibly the conference.
When #1 WR Kayshon Boutte went down halfway through 2021, LSU's highly anticipated "Freshman Five" were cast into starting spots, and each Tiger presented scintillating previews of their future explosion:
Jack Bech led the team in receptions, placed third in yards, scored 3 TDs (including a huge score late @ #1 Alabama) and became the team's best receiving option through the final 7 games, easily #2 behind Boutte for the first 6 contests.
Though the honor was thoroughly deserved, Malik Nabers stunned many analysts or fans when his name was listed among the All-SEC Freshman squad:
Earning his plaudits the hard way, Malik was injured for the first few games of the season after breaking out during summer practices / scrimmages, torching LSU's best DBs on a few occasions & rising among Mickey Joseph's depth chart.
Once healthy, the former Comeaux superstar blazed a fury over LSU's final 8 games.
Posting 417 yards from 28 grabs resulting in 4 TDs, each TD arriving from appearances with 4 catches or less, Nabers is a YAC-Machine, averaging over 20 yards per catch twice on the year, yielding a filthy 35.8 standard following his 143 yards and 4 catches vs ULM.
Brian Thomas Jr found his opportunities limited under Jake Peetz's offense; Regardless, the former Walker High legend's Terrace Marshall-esque profile helped him catch the same number of passes as Nabers (28) while gaining 359 yards from scrimmage.
Thomas Jr added 2 TDs of his own, headlined by a score-opening red zone dump off underneath against Alabama.
Brian never enjoyed that big breakout game in 2021, although many factors contributed: poor playcalling, his lack of reps, and some bad passes as well as a few crucial drops from Thomas himself.
I believe in his abilities, in fact, when he is in mid flight, Thomas Jr possesses rare attributes and a thoroughbred profile, potentially a "DB dominator" if he can put it all together.
The battle between Thomas and Nabers for game time will be potent, especially if our next name decides to stay and join the WRU fray after all:
Deion Smith's status on roster is still under a cloud of uncertainty, however no one can doubt his extraterrestrial abilities after his 135 yards & 3 TD outburst vs CMU, all 3 TDs grabbed in a single quarter.
If Deion stays on roster, LSU gain back an engrossing freak of nature while keeping him away from lighting up Lane Kiffin's Ole Miss offense; Right now, his complete return to the team isn't finite....May 1st is the deadline.
Until then, it's hard to assess his place on this team; I'm rooting for Deion to succeed, regardless of where he ends his college career.
One Tiger with a future as certain as it is bright?
The former Zachary star endured his entire freshman season being shut down after he underwent knee surgery last September, although he finished the year with an explosive statement of intent: Chris' walk-off 81 yard TD vs Kansas State to end LSU's miserable Texas Bowl beatdown with some swagger.
Zachary High's 2020/2021 track champion also wrapped up a solo tackle alongside his debut LSU touchdown, arriving on a long flea flicker bomb thrown by WR-turned QB Jontre Kirklin.
Once Hilton Jr beat his man and had the ball in his hands, everyone in the building knew he was gone....
An absolutely dynamic, mazy, speedy weapon for Mike Denbrock's offense next fall, Hilton should be an unstoppable juggernaut if properly unleashed.
Louisiana Rajun Cajuns' transfer wide out Kyren Lacy is already making his time at LSU count, joining Gordon McKernan's NILSU project, bonding with LSU Legend & Super Bowl champion Leonard Fournette, and appears to fit in amongst the group.
Joining the team with 668 yards, 62 Catches and 10 touchdowns across his first two college campaigns, Lacy is already second on the roster in career receiving TDs, third in yards, and could be a strong transfer pull from Kelly and Jordan Arcement when all is said and done.
Veteran super senior Jaray Jenkins is a National Championship winner, he caught the game-winning walk-off score vs A&M, hauled in 4 career touchdowns vs Florida (3 last season), and finished off his best year as a Tiger by way of 502 yards, 34 catches and 6 total trips to the end zone.....what hasn't he done??
Win a title as a starter, lead a receiving corps as a figurehead akin to Jarvis Landry or Justin Jefferson, not just Robin to Batman...they were captain material...Jenkins could step into that brand of role...
Jena, Louisiana's pride and joy hasn't recorded 1,000 yards in a season yet, either....
But I feel like Jaray is a man on a mission, coming back with unfinished business....and one more chance to push his Draft stock beyond our comprehension as of this writing.
Could he become one of those memorable, transformative, transcendental players for LSU?
He already is in a way, if you know his story.....now, if you add increased production on the field, Jenkins could hop over all sophomores and form a power trio with Boutte & Bech to start Week 1 inside the Superdome vs Florida State.
SPRING WR DEPTH CHART
BRIAN THOMAS JR
CHRIS HILTON JR
WRs 3-8 all close.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
THANK YOU: My Dad, Rivers, Auri, Jess, Don and A.D!!
LSU ODYSSEY DOESN'T BELIEVE IN WAR