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Four Upperclassmen Returning to LSU in 2022

Baskerville, Gaye, Jenkins, and Ward all returning to LSU

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

While the transfer portal has been kind to Brian Kelly in the early goings of the off season, perhaps the best news coming out of the LSU football program are the players deciding to stay one more season.

Linebacker Micah Baskerville, defensive end Ali Gaye, wide receiver Jaray Jenkins, and safety Jay Ward have all announced they will forgo the 2022 NFL Draft and return to Baton Rouge for one more season. Players had until January 17 to declare for the draft.

All four players returning is good news but I’d say Baskerville returning is the biggest win for Kelly and soon to be LSU defensive coordinator Matt House. Baskerville was second on the team in tackles with 83 last season and if he left LSU would be really lacking a proven in the box type of linebacker next season. Now LSU won’t have to rely on unproven commodities like Josh White, Greg Penn III, or Antoine Sampah to make all the calls or hope transfer linebacker West Week has fully recovered from his broken leg.

If Baskerville isn’t the most impactful returning player then perhaps its Jay Ward because of his versatility. LSU is still dangerously thin at corner and while Ward seems to be a better fit at safety, he could potentially go back to playing corner if the coaching staff doesn’t add more scholarship athletes either through the portal or recruiting.

Jenkins returning is key for a wide receiver room that is talented but a little thin with all the defections. With Jenkins LSU has six scholarship wide receivers: Kayshon Boutte, Jack Bech, Chris Hilton, Malik Nabers, and Brian Thomas Jr. You can call it seven with incoming freshman Landon Ibietta. But remember LSU has lost five receivers to the portal—Trey Palmer, Koy Moore, Deion Smith, Alex Adams, and Devonta Lee—and Jontre Kirklin has exhausted all of his eligibility. LSU needs bodies at just about every position and while the receiving room is exceptionally talented, there’s not a whole lot of depth here. Jenkins coming back helps.

Gaye coming back is massive because he’s probably the most talented player of the four. He and BJ Ojulari could be one of the better end tandems in the SEC and Gaye returning makes the LSU defensive line that much more of a strength heading into the 2022 season.