Three weeks ago, I addressed some of knowns and unknowns of the LSU football team at the mark of the quarter mark of the season. Since then, they’ve processed New Mexico, didn’t lose against Auburn, and got embarrassed at home against Tennessee to bring us to the midway point. At this point in the season, players can still improve in the second half but the position sort of is what is and what it will continue to be. So let’s bite the bullet and assess.
Jayden Daniels is simultaneous the reason why LSU has won four games and also why they lost two games.
We’ll get into this later, but Jayden Daniels is kind of thrust into the starting role by virtue of the offensive line requiring a quarterback who can improvise and extend plays with his legs. And that’s Jayden Daniels to a T! He’s probably the best in the country at extending plays into the backfield and turning sacks into five-yard gains.
The problem is that he’s not a good quarterback. His accuracy has somehow not been as bad as we heard it was in the spring, but it’s far from great. But the worst part of the Daniels experience is his downfield vision. It’s probably not great when all the dads in the upper lower bowls can spot a streaking receiver and verbally point it out while Daniels either doesn’t see it or doesn’t throw it.
Jayden Daniels is like the SAW trap of quarterbacks for LSU: he’s the quarterback they need to have a chance, but not the one they need to win.
Running backs: B-
Josh Williams has been fine, but it’s sort of weird how he’s gotten the lion’s share of snaps in Armoni Goodwin’s absence with John Emery and Noah Cain healthy. The only thing that makes sense is that Kelly and Co don’t trust them in pass pro and want to avoid having a tell on the field.
But snap distribution aside, the running backs have been fine. Probably the only reason we beat Mississippi State and Emery played a huge part in the comeback against Auburn with his super Saiyan run. Probably the only position group that have held their end of the bargain.
Wide Receivers: D+
This is a grade in free fall from the past two weeks.
Is Jayden Daniels accurate? No, not really. Does that excuse the drops we’ve seen the past two weeks? Absolutely not. Is it concerning that EVERYONE seems to have trouble catching the ball? 150%.
And man, I’m not sure what’s going on with Kayshon Boutte but he’s just not into the game right now. He’s not the same guy we saw in 2020 and it’s tough. I don’t think Kelly is going to bench him, but you can certainly have the discussion about it.
Offensive Line: D-
Obviously, this is THE issue plaguing the Tigers. Will Campbell and Garrett Dellinger looked like promising answers to the riddle, but we’re without both for the time being and back to square one.
LSU was hopeless against Tennessee, and it all came back to the Vols being able to get pressure by breathing heavily against the line. LSU is on the cusp of bowl eligibility, and it’s more important than ever for the OL because this group DESPERATELY needs the extra reps.
And that’s depressing to say about the LSU football offensive line group, but those are the breaks. Offensive line is the one position on the field where you can’t just plug and play with four and even five stars, these players need time to develop and grow into starters.
Defensive Line: B+
Maason Smith’s presence is missed, but this group has equipped itself well. It helps having BJ Ojulari and Mekhi Wingo. This is probably the one group on the field that has arguably exceeded expectations considering Smith has virtually missed all six games.
Harold Perkins is a certified dude. The rest of the linebacker core probably isn’t much to speak of on an individual level, but as a whole collective they’re a deep group of good starting-level players and they’re playing like it. Solid unit.
Through the first four games they equipped themselves well, namely putting the clamps on the Air Raid against Mississippi State, but the past two weeks have been concerning. Against Auburn it was an inordinate number of busts in coverage that helped Auburn jump out to a 17-point lead and then it against Tennesee...well, they just got whipped. They played like a secondary built out of transfers. It is what it is.
I think this group is good enough to get us bowling, but I worry what Ole Miss and Alabama are going to do to them.
Special Teams: F-
Fire Brian Pollian yesterday.