By Grant Chachere and Lee Brecheen
All Photos Courtesy of Louisiana State University Athletics
Lee’s Take: I think that LSU will go 11-1 and there are several reasons why: The O-Line and D-Line are the best since 2019, the quarterback room is much more experienced than it has in years past and the running back room has more depth and is a lot better than people think. After talking to some sources that are close to the program, everyone inside LSU’s locker room is extremely close from the coaches to the players.
Grant’s Take: After going to most of the practices that were open to the media throughout fall camp, this is a completely different team than it was almost a year ago. There is more depth and experience in the offensive line, the defensive line and the running back position. This line is extremely talented as it returns two future first-round picks at both tackle spots and the rest of the O-Line has played no less than 20 games each. Also, the guys right behind some of the first-team guys are just as good as the starters, especially Zalance Heard.
I agree with Lee as I think that LSU will be 11-1. I expect them to beat Florida State and Alabama, however, I expect them to lose to either Ole Miss or Auburn. I also think that LSU will win the SEC and make the Playoffs this season.
Jayden Daniels (6-4, 210, Sr.) is going to be the starter there is no question about that. Daniels looked great in both spring and fall. Daniels is looking a lot more comfortable with the offense due to having a better relationship with the receivers and a more stable offensive line. He also has taken shots down the field when needed. The offensive play calling this year will involve more deep passing routes, so I expect Daniels to take shots down the field.
The heir apparent to take the reins of the offense, Garrett Nussmeier (6-2, 205, R-So.) has also looked good. Although he needs to cut down on the turnovers and keep his composure in check some more, he is a great option to have off the bench if Daniels goes down with an injury.
Although Logan Diggs (6-1, 215, Jr.) and Josh Williams (5-9, 203, Sr.) were limited for some portions of fall camp due to injury, I expect them to take the bulk of the carries
While he was at Notre Dame last year, Diggs was second on the team in rushing yards and touchdowns while leading the team in carries (165 carries, 820 yards, four touchdowns). He is also very familiar with the culture at LSU as he is from the New Orleans area and played for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame during his freshman year in 2020. He also played at Archbishop Rummel High School, the same high school that LSU greats Ja’Marr Chase, Craig Steltz and Kristian Fulton.
Williams was LSU’s best running back last season as he led all running backs with 532 yards on 97 carries (5.5 yards per carry) with six touchdowns. Williams was an extremely clutch back as he was often used on big-time downs and got the extra yardage needed almost every single time. He also threw the crucial block that allowed Jayden Daniels to score that 25-yard touchdown run that eventually led to the game-winning two-point conversion against Alabama in overtime last season. Williams’ season was cut short after he suffered an injury that caused him to miss the last three games of the year.
Another running back to look for is true freshman running back Kaleb Jackson (6-1, 220). Although he is extremely raw due to his youth, Jackson has a lot of potential and could even share carries with Diggs and Williams later in the season. Jackson ran for a 19-yard touchdown and took a 75-yard screen pass for a touchdown as well in LSU’s scrimmage this past Saturday.
I think Tre Bradford (6-0, 208, So.), John Emery (6-0, 224, Sr.) and Noah Cain (5-11, 220, Sr.) should see some time against Florida State due to their experience, but with Jackson’s emergence in the scrimmage, they may eventually be left out.
The starting receivers during fall camp have been Malik Nabers, Kyren Lacy and Chris Hilton. Nabers has been unstoppable throughout fall camp while Lacy continues his strong performances from the spring. Hilton got first-team reps after Brian Thomas suffered a minor injury, but he has performed well in Thomas’ absence so it looks like he may get the first-team nod.
Aaron Anderson will see lots of playing time due to the versatility he brings to LSU’s offense. Anderson has been impressive throughout fall camp due to his speed, athleticism and elusiveness and has left LSU’s secondary on skates.
The freshman trio of Shelton Sampson, Jalen Brown and Kyle Parker will give LSU plenty of depth. They have been very impressive throughout the fall as I have hardly seen them drop passes. Out of the three freshmen, Sampson looks the most ready and 6-4 frame will make him hard to defend. However, Parker and Brown will give LSU’s receiving corps some depth.
It isn’t much of a prediction, but Mason Taylor will be the first-team tight end. Taylor returns after a strong freshman campaign which saw him tally 38 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns. He has gotten bigger since last season and it will be interesting to see how his role in this offense expands.
Mac Markway and Connor Gilbreath have been used as incline blockers, but Markway has a more versatile role in LSU’s offense than Gilbreath does.
The tight end who caught everyone’s eye during fall camp was true freshman Ka’ Marroeun Pimpton. Pimpton is a legit 6-6, 245 pounds and is one of the most athletic members of LSU’s squad. Due to his length, Pimpton also has a large catch radius. Pimpton will be used for passing situations because of his athleticism and large catch radius, inside or out.
The offensive line is arguably LSU’s strongest unit, which is a full reversal from last season. LSU’s first-team offensive line has been Will Campbell (left tackle), Garrett Dellinger (left guard), Charles Turner (center), Miles Frazier (right guard) and Emery Jones (right tackle).
Maryland transfer Mason Lunsford and true freshman Zalance Heard have also been getting reps with the first team as well. True freshman DJ Chester has been taking snaps as the second-team center while Marlon Martinez moved over to the guard position.
From every practice the media was allowed to go to, the defensive line remained the same with Maason Smith, Mekhi Wingo, Sai’vion Jones with Ovie Oghoufo locking down the JACK spot. Based on the consistency with this lineup, I think it’s a lock that you see those four come Sept. 3.
Behind Smith has been Jordan Jefferson, a West Virginia transfer, while Jacobian Guillory has been getting reps with both the first and second-team at nose tackle. Paris Shand, who transferred in from Arizona during the spring, has moved around to multiple spots across the line and has taken second-team reps behind Jones at the defensive end position. Defensive end Quency Wiggins has been the other second-team defensive end during camp and has shown potential. DT Jalen Lee also has been improving and will get some reps as well
Dashawn Womack, who was a five-star prospect in this incoming signing class, has seen time at both defensive end and JACK. Although it is unclear about the size of the role he brings due to the lack of experience and depth of the defensive line, he has lots of potential and we could see as the season goes on.
The linebacker spot has been locked down as Harold Perkins and Oregon State transfer Omar Speights have locked down the two starting spots in LSU’s 4-2-5 base.
Perkins is the biggest defensive game-changer since Tyrann Mathieu and is a first-team All-American in almost every major poll. Speights is an experienced fifth-year player and earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors at Oregon State last season.
Greg Penn is technically a starter as well because he is installed whenever LSU goes to a three-linebacker look and he has gotten a lot of first-team looks in practice as well. Penn is LSU’s leading returning tackler from last year with 78 tackles. Whenever LSU is in a two-linebacker look, he will be the first one coming off the bench.
The Weeks brothers (West and Whit) have been getting a lot of second-team reps as well. LSU coaches have been raving about the younger brother, Whit, who has looked phenomenal during both spring and fall camp and is looking like another great pickup from the 2023 signing class.
Zy Alexander and Duce Chestnutt will be LSU’s first-team cornerbacks. Alexander has been LSU’s best defensive back by far this camp as he has been the only one to slow down Nabers this fall camp. Chestnutt, who transferred from Syracuse, has also been a lock-down corner as well.
Although safety Sage Ryan got a bulk of first-team reps at corner during last Saturday’s scrimmage, I don’t expect him to be the first-team corner but he will get some reps at corner this season.
One of the biggest stories during fall camp was the emergence of true freshman cornerback Ashton Stamps. Stamps is the definition of a competitor as he isn’t afraid of the man in front of him and will be the next big-time player to come from Archbishop Rummel High School in the New Orleans area.
Redshirt freshman Laterrance Welch has greatly improved as well. Welch has been getting a lot of reps at corner as the second-team corner and will be another contributor to this talented defense.
LSU will be bringing a lot of experience at the nickel position as they will have Sage Ryan as the starting nickel. Ryan has greatly improved his coverage as he has been a ball hawk throughout fall camp. Ryan even got some reps as the first-team corner at the scrimmage last Saturday.
I also expect Greg Brooks to rotate with Ryan as the nickel as LSU was at its best when Brooks was at nickel. With Andre Sam transferring in from Marshall, this will give Brooks more opportunities to play at nickel whenever he is needed.
True freshmen Ryan Robinson and Javien Toviano will also get some reps at the nickel position to get their feet wet.
The safety position is in good hands as it will return last year’s starters Major Burns and Greg Brooks with lots of experience. They will be joined by Marshall transfer Andre Sam who had 53 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups and an interception as a member of the Thundering Herd last season.
It’s never a bad thing to have three really good safeties as a defensive coordinator likes to use three safeties (free safety, strong safety, nickel) on the field at the same time so all three will likely be on the field at the same time. In case one of them gets hurt, they have redshirt freshman Jordan Allen and true freshman Javien Toviano.
I expect Damian Ramos to be the starting kicker against Florida State. Ramos was reliable last year for the Tigers, including a clutch 47-yard field goal to seal a 45-35 victory over Florida last October. The kicking battle isn’t over as Nathan Dibert and walk-on Aidan Corbello are going to push Ramos.
Jay Bramblett returns as the punter. Bramblett averaged 44.51 yards per punt, which was the fourth-best average in the SEC and put him in the top 20 nationally. His punting average put him seventh all-time among single-season averages in LSU history.
The return game should be more dynamic with Aaron Anderson handling both kick and punt returns and he will be very exciting to watch. True freshman Kaleb Jackson will join Anderson as the second kickoff returner.
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