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Texas Bowl Preview: Players to Watch For

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Transfers, injuries, and opt-outs oh my!

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

LSU released its depth chart for the Texas Bowl, and as Poseur pointed out, it’s not so much list of who is starting as it is a list of who is left.

No matter the position, nearly every player who was considered a starter earlier in the season is unavailable, be it because they are injured, opted out of the bowl game to go pro, or entered the transfer portal. The biggest ones are obviously Max Johnson, Kayshon Boutte, Derek Stingley, and Eli Ricks, but the absence of Ty Davis-Price, Damone Clark, Micah Baskerville, and Dwight McGlothern will be big obstacles for LSU to overcome.

Due to all that turnover, Kansas State is now favored by five points over LSU over at DraftKings, up from being a one point spread when the game was announced.

But there’s no use in crying over spilled milk, and the players that are available will have to step up in a big way for LSU to have a shot at beating a fundamentally sound Kansas State team. We’ve highlighted a few key players who will be getting the opportunity to not only start but lead the charge for the Tigers in the Texas Bowl.

QB Garrett Nussmeier

Obviously, the quarterback will be a big factor in the game, but what’s interesting here is that we’re still unsure about what exactly this could mean for Nussmeier’s classification status and if he’s even going to play. For now, he is listed at the top of the depth chart, which as of publication means he will lose his redshirt status for the season. An appeal to the NCAA for a waiver has been filed, but no decision about that one way or another has come down. With the transfer of Max Johnson and the injury to Myles Brennan (and his comeback from the transfer portal), Nussmeier is the only scholarship quarterback on roster. Walk-on Tavion Faulk is the only other quarterback listed on the depth chart.

It’s unfortunate that Nussmeier is in danger of losing his redshirt status, but they are fortunate that he has experience playing in four games this year, completing 29 of 57 passes for 329 yards, largely in mop-up duty.

RB Corey Kiner

Whether or not Nussmeier starts, LSU will likely be calling the game to both protect the quarterback and limit the amount of influence they need to have in the game. Normally you’d do that by leaning heavily into the run game, but with Kiner being the only scholarship running back on the depth chart, he also has to be somewhat protected.

I don’t expect LSU to do a lot of downhill running with Kiner because of the physical toll, and a lot of his involvement will be high percentage plays via screens or routes into the flats. Kiner was LSU’s second leading rusher behind Davis-Price with 283 yards on 65 attempts with two touchdowns. Heading into the Texas Bowl, Kiner only has two receptions for 10 yards.

WR Jaray Jenkins

While the status of Nussmeier is still a little hazy, an... interesting proposal to the quarterback situation was starting Jenkins as a wildcat quarterback. I doubt we’ll see that in any capacity more than a wrinkle, but Jenkins will need to factor into the game if the Tigers want to have any offensive success.

Freshman tight end Jack Bech has been a big factor in the Tigers’ passing game and holds a 10-yard advantage over Jenkins in the season passing totals heading into the game, but whoever plays quarterback will need to find someone to win on the corners, and Jenkin’s speed and athleticism can foot the bill. There are a lot of creative ways to get Jenkins involved and I suspect he will get the ball in a variety of ways, both to make the quarterback’s job easier and lighten the load for Kiner.

CB Darren Evans, Lloyd Cole, and Damarius McGhee

As mentioned before, LSU is without Stingley, Ricks, McGlothern as well as Cordale Flott, Cameron Lewis, and Raydarious Jones.

Which leaves a starting secondary of Evans, Cole, McGhee, Todd Harris and Jay Ward. Nickel and safety players Harris and Ward thankfully have plenty of experience and should be fine, but the corners are lacking that experience. I think we’ll see Cole and Evans, the two seniors, get the lion’s share of the coverage duties as a thank you for their service in what is ultimately a meaningless game, but that’s just a guess. Kansas State doesn’t necessarily have a passing attack that stays on the gas, but they’re good enough to take full advantage of any weakness in the secondary.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.