LSU is WRU these days.
Ja’Marr Chase won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award last season and was the first receiver to win OROY since Odell Beckham—who helped the Rams win the Super Bowl—did it in 2014. Justin Jefferson probably should have won Rookie of the Year in 2020 but had an even better sophomore season in 2021. And I still haven’t mentioned proven vets like Jarvis Landry, DJ Chark, and Russell Gage all of whom got paid handsomely this offseason by the Saints, Lions, and Bucs respectively.
Simply put Brian Kelly’s never had talent at receiver like he has now. Kelly’s got future pros on the roster, and most of these guys will likely go early in whatever NFL Drafts they enter. Even more impressive is they’re all from the state of Louisiana.
2022 LSU Wide Receivers
|2 Kyren Lacy (Jr.)*||6'2"/215||22||304||6||13.8|
|7 Kayshon Boutte (Jr.)||6'0"/205||38||509||9||14.8|
|8 Malik Nabers (Soph.)||6'0"/190||28||417||4||14.9|
|10 Jaray Jenkins (Sr.)||6'2"/205||34||502||6||14.7|
|11 Brian Thomas Jr. (Soph.)||6'4"/201||28||359||2||12.8|
|17 Chris Hilton Jr. (Rs. Fresh)||6'1"/185||2||81||1||40.5|
|24 Landon Ibieta (Fresh)||5'11"/188||Three-star recruit|
|80 Jack Bech (Soph.)||6'2"/215||43||489||3||11.4|
Let’s take a glass half empty approach to the receiver room: while it’s stupid talented there’s not really a whole lot of depth here. Remember LSU lost Koy Moore, Deion Smith, Alex Adams, and Trey Palmer to the transfer portal. Sure I wouldn’t take any of those four over guys over the returning players, but what happens to LSU’s passing game if Jaray Jenkins tweaks a hammy or Jack Bech rolls an ankle? What I’m saying is LSU’s top heavy at receivers...
...but man oh man is this a good group.
It all starts with this year’s No. 7 Kayshon Boutte. If he’s totally healed up from his ankle injury that ended his 2021 season, he’s maybe the best receiver in the country, a lock to go in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and should be at the very least a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
LSU will need Boutte to be healthy because he’s the best player on the team and the offense cratered after he went down. If you take away the Florida game where Ty Davis-Price ran for nearly 300 yards LSU’s points went like this over its final five games: 17, 14, 13, 27, and 27. That’s 19.6 points a game and remember that includes a game against ULM.
They say the biggest jump a player makes is between their first and second year, and if that’s the case the receiving room is in good hands with a trio of true sophomores: Brian Thomas Jr., Malik Nabers, and Jack Bech.
The trio all impressed in their own way. Thomas, the absolute physical freak that he is, started nine times last season, the most among all freshmen on the team. He caught 28 passes and found the end zone twice, with one coming on LSU’s opening drive against Alabama.
Bech wound up leading LSU in catches. He split time playing a receiver/tight end role in Jake Peetz’s offense but will play receiver full time under Mike Denbrock. Bech also represented LSU in Atlanta at SEC Media Days and if that isn’t a testament to what Brian Kelly thinks of him, I don’t know what is.
Nabers was, in a word, electric with the ball in his hands. Especially when you consider he didn’t play any football at all his senior year of high school because of a transfer rule. Surprisingly it was Nabers, not Bech or Thomas, who wound up on the SEC’s All-Freshman team last season but you can absolutely see the talent there. When he gets in the open field it’s over. But I think my most favorite thing about Nabers specifically is he really seems to give a damn out there and might be the most fierce competitor on the roster. As the kids say “he’s got that dawg in him.”
Speaking of second year players, Chris Hilton took a redshirt in 2021 but showed he can absolutely take the top off a defense if given the chance.
Hilton only caught two passes in 2021 but the kid can absolutely fly. Hopefully we’ll see more chunk plays in 2022 courtesy of 17.
While the kids are alright LSU’s got some veteran leadership in the wide receiver room, too. Jaray Jenkins is back for a fifth and final season and the hero of LSU’s upset win over Texas A&M has gotten better every season he’s been a Tiger. Jenkins is likely a future pro but I’d love to see a strong senior season earn him a draft day selection next spring.
LSU’s got two new faces that are worth keeping an eye on: junior transfer Kyren Lacy from UL-Lafayette, and incoming true freshman Landon Ibieta. Lacy’s been a pretty productive receiver for the Cajuns, leading the teams in touchdown grabs a year ago with six. He’s got a knack for finding the endzone with 10 TDs through two seasons—for comparison Jaray Jenkins has eight through four seasons—and he’ll be battling to earn playing time this season. True freshman Landon Ibieta will go down as the first high schooler to commit to Brian Kelly as he flipped from Miami to LSU upon receiving an offer the previous regime had not extended. I wouldn’t expect to see Ibieta make much of an impact out wide in 2022 but perhaps he’ll find a way on to the field on special teams via returning punts/kicks or covering kicks like Racey McMath and Jontre Kirklin used to do.
While the wide receiver depth chart is littered with future pros, the tight end position leaves a lot to be desired. I’d argue it’s LSU’s weakest position group on the team.
2022 LSU Tight Ends
|46 MJ Frazier (Grad Student)*||6'5"/235||No stats|
|82 Jack Mashburn (Jr.)||6'3"/235||4||53||0||13.3|
|85 Nick Storz (Grad Student)||6'6"/260||No stats|
|86 Mason Taylor (Fresh.)||6'5"/240||Three-star recruit|
|87 Kole Taylor (Jr.)||6'7"/247||6||68||1||11.3|
*At North Carolina A&T
I’m not sure how much of a detriment that will be for LSU’s hopes in 2022—I’ll defer to Max on that one—but it feels like a position group LSU can hide. I don’t think LSU’s chances of beating someone like, I don’t know let’s say Arkansas are worsened if the tight end position gives you little production, you know what I mean? Maybe Mike Denbrock uses Brian Thomas Jr.’s 6’4” frame as a pseudo tight end; maybe the season dictates Jack Bech returning to his tight end/receiver hybrid role; or maybe Kole Taylor has a career year or Mason Taylor surprises us all and has an impressive freshman season. Either way, to me at least, LSU’s got bigger questions in 2022 like: “who will be quarterback?” “can the offensive line improve?” and “can the secondary hold up?” That will determine how much success LSU has this season, not the amount of catches the tight ends combine for.