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What To Watch For: Florida State

Brian Kelly is now LSU’s Head Coach. Still super weird, but exciting.

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

In perhaps one of the stranger examples of our inability to ever truly predict the future, Brian Kelly is now the LSU head coach. I think we’re all fairly accustomed to it now, but if you had asked me two years ago who I thought would be LSU’s head coach going into the 2022 season, Brian Kelly very well may have been the LAST name on that list. It was easy to poke fun at the culture fit, but the fact of the matter is that the bedrock culture of modern LSU football is winning football games, and Brian Kelly does that as well as anybody not named Saban. Beyond the initial surprise at the hire, I think the buzz around Kelly’s program is very warranted. His track record as a winner has been reinforced year after year, and we have no real reason to believe that he won’t continue it at LSU. In a short time, Kelly has used the transfer portal to rebuild a roster that the last regime left empty, and hired a coaching staff that seems to have hit the ground running. It may not be a finished product in year one, but the puzzle pieces are there for LSU to find itself back near the top of college football fairly shortly.

It has to start somewhere, enter: Florida State

When LSU has the ball

Who plays quarterback?

The more things change at LSU, the more they stay the same. LSU fans, as is such a tradition that we ranked LSU QB competitions, find themselves wondering who takes the first snaps of the Kelly era. If we’re being honest, I feel okay about either option. I think Garrett Nussmeier is the only of the two with the real upside as a pure thrower of the football to truly be an elite college or NFL QB, but the offense isn’t exactly tailored in a way that ONLY requires its QB possess such pure arm talent. The QB in this offense will be tasked with handling themselves as a processor. Additionally, the tremendous foot-speed of Jayden Daniels opens up a lot of what new OC Mike Denbrock likes to do in the run game, especially against base 4-down defenses like Florida State. Either way, it’s gotta be the most important roster question that is yet unanswered. I think we’re all looking forward to some answers.

Can Jared Verse emerge at EDGE?

LSU fans may remember the name Jared Verse from portal season, as LSU pursued the massively talented Albany transfer fairly aggressively. Verse decided that FSU, which is replacing star DE Jermaine Johnson, was a better opportunity to play right away. He impressed in week 0 against Duquesne, registering 2 total pressures and a sack on just 12 pass rush snaps. However, he has struggled to cement a spot atop the depth chart, with an “-or-” still next to his name. This is a big test to see how the talented pass rusher will fare against the kind of competition the power 5 will present him with. On LSU’s end, if he’s for real, can their inexperienced offensive line manage him?

Tight End RPOs (Taylor’s Version)

Tight End was, in the spring, arguably LSU’s single weakest position group. With OC and TE coach Mike Denbrock openly (yet professionally) lamenting the lack of versatility and athleticism in the TE room, it seemed that his offense, which relies greatly on tight ends who can threaten in the core and in the route distribution, would be limited by the depth chart. Something may have changed. True freshman Mason Taylor appears to be having a whale of a fall. Brian Kelly, who has some experience with great tight ends, compared him favorably to both Brock Bowers directly, and Michael Mayer by implication. In case you don’t follow the TE position as closely as I do, they are two of the most talented and effective freshman TEs in the history of the sport.

Mason isn’t the only tight end who will be counted on, he isn’t even the only tight end named Taylor who will be counted on. Junior Kole Taylor will be relied on to produce and compete in this offense as well. One of the bedrock elements of Mike Denbrock’s offense is the use of athletic TEs in the RPO game. These concepts are particularly effective against 4-down fronts where they can isolate and read a 5 technique DE. This presents a good schematic matchup, and a good, early opportunity to see if this Taylor hype will bear any immediate fruit.

Stat leader predictions:

Passing: ??????, 18/28, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Noah Cain, 20 carries, 115 yards, 2 TD

Receiving: Kayshon Boutte, 6 receptions, 133 yards, 1 TD

When FSU has the ball

Is this run game legit or was it just Duquesne?

In their week 0 matchup against Duquesne, Florida State ran the hell out of the football. The team totaled over 400 rush yards and had three ball-carriers break triple digits in yardage. None of those rushers included their QB, who himself is a weapon on the ground. The FSU offense, led by OL coach and OC Alex Atkins, did a great job oscillating between zone schemes (like inside zone) and gap schemes (like counter), which allows them to be versatile in the kinds of fronts against which they can successfully run the ball. We will find out pretty quickly if this run game is for real, however. LSU isn’t Duquesne, and a matchup with what is, on paper, one of the best defensive fronts in the sport should tell us a lot about whether or not this run game is the weapon their box score against Duquesne would indicate.

What does Matt House’s defense look like??

Honestly, I really couldn’t tell you yet. I broke down what he did at Kentucky, but that was four years ago and didn’t look much like what he ran in the spring game. They showed next to nothing in the spring game, so it’s far from a representative sample, but we really have very little to go on overall as a result. There are a lot of talented players on this defense and a lot of pieces that will be interesting to fit together. I can’t wait to finally have a real idea of what this defense will look like schematically.

Jordan Travis

Really fun player, really solid QB, enjoy watching him do his thing. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that!

Stat leader predictions:

Passing: Jordan Travis, 21/35, 243 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

Rushing: Treshaun Ward, 25 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Mycah Pittman, 8 rec, 87 yards, 1 TD