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Is Anyone Left to Finish This Season?

Roster attrition is getting ridiculous

Mississippi State vs LSU
That is literally the whole team.
Photo by Chris Parent/Collegiate Images/ Getty Images

The hits just keep on coming. According to Oregon’s most recent press conference with the media, there is a new COVID outbreak on the team, and he would not comment on the health of TJ Finley or Max Johnson, but Myles Brennan is almost certainly out for Bama, and likely for the season.

So… yeah.

It is probably for the best Myles sits out the rest of the year and gets healthy, while he avoids getting any of the stink from this season on him. It would be good for LSU, in this lost season, to play the kids anyway to see what they got and give them some valuable experience, but it also helps Brennan in that he gets almost none of the blame for things going sideways.

And then...

By SEC rule, teams need 53 scholarship players to play a game, and LSU is getting dangerously close to that number. By my unofficial count, LSU is down to 63 scholarship players (which includes redshirts) before losing anyone to COVID. If LSU loses a dozen players, they cannot play by rule.

But even if you get down to the mid-50s, you have to consider cancelling just out of sheer sanity. Alabama is going to destroy LSU in all likelihood, and the more you have to leave in tired players in a blowout, the more you’re risking guys just going out there to get hurt.

What is the actual point of going out there to lose by 40 and risk the few healthy players you have left to injury? It’s not like fans are likely being robbed of a likely classic football game.

How did LSU get to this point? How does it barely have enough players to fill out the bare minimum for a roster? How did this season get this cattywampus?

This is as good of a time as any to talk about attrition.

OK, LSU lost 19 starters off of last year’s team, including a whopping NINE early entrants. That’s the starting point. There’s also the 2018 class, the lowest ranked LSU class in roughly a decade, which should be forming the backbone of this year’s team. Over half of the class is no longer on the roster, and the ones still here… Terrace Marshall and Chasen Hines are the only starters. That’s bad.

Yes, LSU recruits at a high level, but it’s also where they recruit. Let’s go position by position group so you can see the problem with upperclassmen depth. The number in parentheses is the number of upperclassmen currently in the two deep.

Quarterback (0). With the injury to Brennan, LSU is down to two scholarship quarterbacks, both freshmen. Finley is a 3-star and Johnson is a 4-star. I do think both were pretty sought after players, but you have two freshmen in your two deep, and neither is a truly elite 5-star.

Running back (0). Despite a complete lack of upperclassmen, LSU is still doing good in the RB department. LSU has three sophomores sharing the job, all of whom were at least a 4-star, and Emery was a 5-star.

Receivers (4). Combining the three WR starting slots with the TE, having 4 upperclassmen in the two deep gets LSU all the way up to half upperclassmen at one position group. Yay! Terrace Marshall is a 5-star stud and there are two 5-star freshmen in Kayshon Boutte and Arik Gilbert, so longterm looks good as well. But fully four of the eight slots are currently occupied by 3-star recruits, showing a sort of boom or bust approach to recruiting the receiver position.

Offensive line (4). That is simply criminal mismanagement of the position. LSU only has four upperclassmen offensive linemen and one, Liam Shanahan is an unrated grad transfer. Even without regard to class, LSU starts three 4-stars and has two more 4-stars as primary backups. One more 4-star is a freshman not in the two-deep yet. And that’s it. Six total 4-stars in the entire position group, and only four total upperclassmen. It’s a thin unit with only 13 scholarship players on the roster, EIGHT of whom are freshmen. Almost every issue LSU has on offense stems from a line that is simply overmatched.

Defensive end (3). The healthiest position group on the team. LSU has four upperclassmen on scholarship, and that’s after the late transfers of Moore and McLendon. They also have four freshmen, three of whom who rate as 4-stars. BJ Ojulari has already pushed his way into the starting lineup, one of the few places on the team LSU is playing a freshman due to him seizing the job, not necessity.

Defensive tackle (2). The shift to a 4-3 left this group struggling. Tyler Shelvin announced his transfer before the season, costing LSU its only 4-star upperclassman on the roster. Glen Logan moving over to the DE group helps, as the strength of that unit covers for the transition, but Ika’s transfer meant the only 4-star sophomore transferred out as well, leaving LSU with two 4-star freshmen to help cover the position as well as a converted center in freshman Joseph Evans. It’s a scramble, and with all the transfer, LSU only has two 4-stars at the position, making it as thin as the offensive line.

Linebacker (4). On the one hand, LSU had three 4-star upperclassmen to man the starting positions, and then added Jabril Cox. Throw in two 4-star sophomores and three 4-star freshmen, it felt like this group should be, well, a lot better than it is. This is an outstanding group on paper which just hasn’t translated into results. That’s the way it goes, but I won’t blame this position on mismanagement of scholarships.

Corners (0). LSU only has one upperclassmen corner on the roster, Darren Evans, and he’s an FCS transfer. The six other corners on scholarship are all underclassmen. The freshman class is loaded with two 4 stars and 5-star Eli Ricks already forcing his way into the starting lineup, but above him a year are the sophomores: Derek Stingley and two 3-stars, Ward and Flott, who haven’t stepped up. It’s gonna get better, but it’s an obvious down year for the roster here.

Safeties (3). The two-deep is covered primarily by upperclassmen, including former 5-star JaCoby Stevens, who isn’t playing like it this year. There’s one freshman and one sophomore on the roster, both 4-star recruits.

Putting this all together, LSU has just 8 upperclassmen in the two deep on offense. It’s a tad better on defense, with 12 upperclassmen on the two deep. Still, over half of the two-deep is populated by freshmen and sophomores.

And let’s be honest, it’s mainly freshmen. Ten sophomores are in the two-deep right now, meaning 14 freshmen are on the two-deep, including nine on offense. That bodes well for the future, but it also means growing pains for now.

It also means LSU can ill afford any personnel losses of any kind. LSU is already playing the kids because there’s no one left to play. If more people are sick or have to quarantine, there’s simply no one left but walk-ons. And wouldn’t that make for a delightful Alabama game?