LSU hopes ‘next man up’ options are ready at wide receiver, defensive tackle
LSU has been hit with defections, be it COVID-19, transfers out of the program or early departures to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Calls for ‘next man up’ sounds good in theory, but reality is a little different.
LSU losing superstar Ja’Marr Chase is the equivalent of the Saints not having Michael Thomas in their lineup (which we will see for at least a while due to a high ankle sprain).
The jury is out on preseason All-SEC defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, who is rumored to be considering a return after opting out. Junior defensive lineman Justin Thomas transferred to UAB, sophomore defensive tackle Nelson Jenkins opted out and senior end T.K. McClendon entered the transfer portal.
The Tigers will have to replace 222 catches, 3,652 yards and 40 touchdowns at the wide receiver position.
Chase had 84 grabs for 1,780 yards and 20 scores in ’19. The year prior, he recorded just 23 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Shelvin only had nine tackles in 2018. My point? There are always players ready to step into the spotlight.
Increased opportunities for Terrace Marshall, Racey McMath and true freshman tight end Arik Gilbert await in 2020. Chase’s departure will also elevate others on the depth chart.
Senior wideout Jontre Kirklin has only three receptions for 80 yards and 5 special team tackles, but the former Lutcher quarterback is a Jack of all trades type who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He reminds me somewhat of former LSU receiver Russell Gage, now in his third NFL campaign. Kirklin plays with a lot of energy and lays it all out on the field.
However, the biggest beneficiary of added playing time is Kayshon Boutte, the top receiver in Louisiana in the 2020 recruiting class. The true freshman has separated himself from the pack.
To illustrate how dangerous the former Westgate product can be, Boutte scored five touchdowns with 300 all-purpose yards in one contest last season against Teurlings Catholic. Ed Orgeron has raved about the young wideout.
Rummel product Koy Moore has been battling injuries, but he has looked good during preseason drills. He totaled 93 grabs for 1,254 yards during his prep days for a runf-first team,. Exceptional hands, dedicated work ethic and nifty open-field running ability make Moore a weapon who can contribute early.
Sophomore Trey Palmer is explosive and very smooth in the open field. He had a 54 punt return for a touchdown against Northwestern State last season. Palmer is a playmaker but he may need Boutte to falter to play with the first team.
One player who may be overlooked is sophomore Jaray Jenkins. The former Jena High star totaled 111 catches for 1,960 yards and 27 scores during his three prep seasons. The 6-foot-4 Jenkins fractured his tibia the opening game of his senior campaign and had a rod inserted. Following the injury, some gave up on him but LSU stayed with him.
Jenkins has used doubt to fuel his engine. He has great physical tools and remembers what it was like sitting on the sideline with an injury.
On the defensive side, Shelvin’s loss (if he does not return) will create a cavity to fill.
The recent return of senior Neil Farrell, the team’s fourth leading returning tackler last year, is huge for the front line. He immediately becomes the Tigers’ best veteran defensive lineman.
When Farrell originally opted out in August due to COVID-19 family concerns, LSU looked thinner up front. Then came Shelvin’s decision.
Farrell, the 6-4, 319-pound Mobile native, can improve his draft stock. He can play inside or outside. A relentless pass rusher, Farrell uses his size well but is also relentless chasing down plays. Much like two of his former teammates now in the NFL, offensive guard Damien Lewis and offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles, Farrell’s pro future is murky leading into a key season. He can end up as a mid-round draft pick like Lewis and Charles did with a solid campaign.
Sophomore defensive tackle Apu Ika becomes an immediate starter without Shelvin. Joseph Evans, 319-pound sophomore, was moved from offensive line back to defensive tackle, which tells you there is concern with depth. Evans, who prepped at Haynesville, recorded two tackles against Vanderbilt and an additional two stops vs. Northwestern State last season. Perhaps he will flip back again when Farrell re-establishes himself on the depth chart.
There are three true freshmen who will battle for open playing time at defensive tackle as well.
Jaquelin Roy has violent hands and carries 40 less pounds (down to 302) since his sophomore high school season.
Nose tackle Jacobian Guillory is known as “Big Tank,” a 344-pounder who had 76 tackles with 27 for loss and seven sacks at Alexandria Senior High last season. Guillory possesses raw power and the talent to dominate. He was a state powerlifting champion in the super heavyweight division with a 740 lbs. squat, 625 lbs. dead lift and 400 lbs. bench press. He is a bull at the point of attack.
Eric Taylor is another new arrival at defensive tackle who has opened eyes at camp.
Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini will employ a four-man front with a more aggressive and attacking style than what was in place previously. The defensive linemen will be able to get more involved rather than absorb blockers. This style should help the defense as a whole and allow each player’s athleticism to flow.
For young defensive linemen, an attack mentality may make the college transition easier.
For the young LSU players who are being asked to contribute fast, there is nowhere to hide with this year’s all-SEC schedule. Just like the coaches, we won’t know if they’re ready until the games begin.
More on Pellini’s style…
There will be some simulated pressure where every defensive player is open or available, to try and confuse the offense on its assignments. Showing the illusion or bluffing pressure pre-snap will be a method to create mistakes by the offense. Simulated pressure can also allow the defense to focus on a certain player or some aspect of the offense that could give the defense a matchup advantage.
Such deception could also hide a deficiency. Bringing pressure, creating a matchup you want (a LB vs. a RB or a TE vs. a safety) is normally a win for the defense.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…