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LSU Tigers-Ready to Geaux to Work to Win a National Championship


LSU Tiger mascot running with LSU flag on football field.
Image Credit: tammy anthony baker is licensed under CC BY 2.0. via Flickr

The 2022 LSU Tigers exceeded expectations in head coach Brian Kelly’s first season in Baton Rouge, going 10-4 and winning the SEC West title. For an encore this season, the Tigers return 15 starters, including eight on offense. As a result, LSU is ranked #5 in the preseason AP poll.

 

The LSU Tigers Offense-Quarterbacks

The Tigers will be led on the field by QB Jayden Daniels. Daniels (#15 on the ESPN Top 100 CFB Players for 2023) passed for 2913 yards and 17 touchdowns and only three INTs. In addition, he led LSU in rushing with 885 yards and 11 more scores. In fact, Daniels did not throw his first interception until week six. After a tough home loss to Tennessee, the Tigers went on a five-game winning streak.


Against Florida, Daniels accounted for six total touchdowns in a 45-35 win. In the Ole Miss game, Daniels accounted for five total touchdowns. He was 21 of 28 passing (75%) for 248 yards and two TDs, and he added three rushing touchdowns in a 45-20 win.


When the Alabama Crimson Tide rolled into Baton Rouge, Daniels scored the game-tying touchdown on a 25-yard in overtime. Then on a gutsy call by Kelly, the Tigers went for the win on a two-point conversion attempt. Daniels hit TE Mason Taylor on the right side for the game-winning score and a 32-31 victory. In that game, the Tigers’ defense forced a Bryce Young interception. Alabama did not help themselves, or Nick Saban’s blood pressure, by committing nine penalties for a whopping 92 yards.


Daniels is one of the best at the position in the conference. In addition, Daniels has been named to several preseason watchlists: Davey O’Brien Award, Maxwell Award, and the Manning Award.


Daniels’ capable backup is Garrett Nussmeier. Nussmeier played in six games last season and passed for 800 yards, five TDs, and four INTs. He completed 61% of his passes. Against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, he took over for an injured Daniels. Nussmeier passed for 294 yards and two TDs and one INT in a 50-30 loss.


The entire offensive line is back, one year older and one year more experienced. However, they must get better at pass protection. This unit gave up 45 sacks last season, bad enough for #124 in the FBS in sacks allowed. Both Will Campbell and Emery Jones are preseason All-SEC selections and both were named to the Outland Trophy watchlist.


 

The LSU Offense-Running Backs/Wide Receivers

The running back room at LSU is loaded and talented. As many as five players could tote the rock this season. As a group, these players rushed for a combined 2405 yards and scored 31 touchdowns:

  • Josh Williams: 536 yards, six TDs. (Doak Walker Award watchlist).

  • Noah Cain: 405 yards, 10 TDs. (Doak Walker Award watchlist).

  • Armoni Goodwin: 267 yards, five TDs.

  • John Emery: 375 yards, six TDs.

  • Logan Diggs: 822 yards, four TDs (transfer from Notre Dame).


Malik Nabers (#37 on the ESPN Top 100 CFB Players for 2023) is the top returning receiver for LSU and is on the Biletnikoff Award watchlist. Nabers caught 72 of Daniels’ passes for 1017 yards and three TDs. He posted three games of over 100-yards receiving, including nine catches for 163 yards and one TD in a 63-7 beat down of Purdue in the Citrus Bowl. In that game, Nabers also threw a TD pass to Daniels.


Joining Nabers in the wide receiver corps is Brian Thomas, Jr. (31 catches, 361 yards, five TDs) and Kyren Lacy (24 catches, 268 yards). At Tight End, Mason Taylor returns for the Tigers. Taylor caught 38 passes, for 414 yards and 3 TDs. Arguably his greatest catch of last season was the 2-point conversion pass he caught from Daniels to beat Alabama.


 

The LSU Defensive Line/Linebackers

The defensive line welcomes the return of MaasonSmith (#79 on the ESPN Top 100 CFB Players for 2023). Smith returns after suffering a torn ACL in the Florida State game last season. In 2021, Smith recorded 19 tackles, five tackles for loss, and four sacks.


Lined up next to Smith is Mekhi Wingo. Wingo replaced Smith last season and did not disappoint. He recorded 46 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, four pass breakups, and one forced fumble. For his efforts, Wingo was named 3rd All-American. He has been named to the Lombardi Award watch list for 2023.

The linebacker room is a showcase of talent, led by Harold Perkins, Jr. (Ranked #4 on the ESPN Top 100 CFB Players for 2023). Perkins was third on the team with 73 tackles. In addition, Perkins racked up 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, one INT, and four forced fumbles. Perkins has been named to the Butkus Award and Lombardi Award watch lists, as well as the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.


Alongside Perkins is Greg Penn III. Penn was 2nd on the team in tackles with 77 tackles and six tackles for loss.


Rounding out this talented trio of tackling terror is OmarSpeights, a transfer from Oregon State. Speights recorded 83 tackles and eight tackles for loss last season.


 

LSU Defensive Secondary

DBU has one starter returning in the secondary, and plenty of talented contributors and transfers:

  • Greg Brooks, Jr.: 65 tackles, three tackles for loss, two INTs, one sack, one forced fumble, and three pass breakups.

  • Sage Ryan: 23 tackles, one pass breakup, two forced fumbles.

  • Major Burns: 38 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups.

  • Duce Chestnut: Transfer from Syracuse; 40 tackles, one INT, 1.5 tackles for loss, one pass breakup.

  • Zy Alexander: (Transfer from FCS member and Southland Conference Champions Southeastern Louisiana). Three INTs (two pick-sixes), 27 tackles. Alexander was an FCS All-American in 2021.


The Tigers have suffered some losses from this unit in fall camp. J.K. Johnson suffered a lower leg injury and is out. Denver Harris, a promising 5-star transfer from Texas A&M, has been suspended from the team.


 

The LSU Schedule-Prediction

The Tigers play the 13th toughest schedule in the country, according to Phil Steele. With that said, two games stand out as games that could set the tone for the rest of the season. Right out of the gate, LSU faces off against #8 Florida State on the road in Orlando. The other game that stands out is Alabama on the road in Tuscaloosa on the first Saturday in November.


LSU has weapons on offense, they have experience and leadership at the quarterback position, and just as important they have continuity on the coaching staff, retaining both coordinators. Alabama and Georgia do not have that luxury.


The Tigers can run the table at 12-0, or at the very least, finish 11-1 by splitting the two games mentioned above. They are without question national title contenders and are ready to geaux out and prove it to the college football world.


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