Five LSU Football Players to Watch Against Mississippi State
With Mike Leach and company coming to town, LSU has a favorable matchup to test out its new weapons on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Of course when you lose nearly 20 players to the NFL draft and an additional five in the offseason for various reasons, the opportunities open up for others to have success on the field.
That has been the mantra within Ed Orgeron's program after all, "next man up, we don't blink." Saturday provides a great opportunity for some of those players to really start the 2020 all-conference season off on the right note.
Here are a few players we'll be keeping a close eye on in week one.
Myles Brennan (QB)
Brennan himself has said it. It's his time to write his own story and the junior quarterback will get the first start of his career against a youthful, inexperienced Bulldog secondary. In 17 appearances, Brennan has completed 60% of his passes for 600 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
He'll take over an historic offense and an equally historic quarterback but expectations should be tempered. This is an offseason unlike any other and it could take a few weeks before this offense finds its footing.
"The only thing we don't know and I do believe he's going to do very well is how he'll do in the fire. I trust Myles, he's become a leader. The short passing game is a strength, the deep ball is something he's very good at," Orgeron said.
With weapons like Terrace Marshall, Arik Gilbert, Racey McMath and Kayshon Boutte offering diverse skill sets, Brennan should be able to put together a strong performance with the weakness in the Bulldogs defense being the secondary.
Arik Gilbert (TE)
Speaking of weapons, this will be the first chance fans and media alike get to see the incredibly hyped up freshman tight end. Outside of possibly Derek Stingley Jr. and Leonard Fournette there hasn't been this level of expectations dumped on a true freshman.
But that's because everything we've heard out of camp leads us to believe Gilbert will be a dominant threat right from the start. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, his unique frame, speed and size is why he was named a preseason All-SEC caliber talent and Gatorade National Athlete of the Year as a senior in high school.
In recent weeks, linebackers Jabril Cox and Damone Clark have said Gilbert can go down as the greatest tight end in college football history.
"The ceiling for him is so high and if he continues to get better he can be the best tight end to ever play college football," linebacker Jabril Cox said. "It's all up to him and his hard work but Arik Gilbert is gonna be a special one."
Jabril Cox (LB)
Could've gone either way with this one between Cox and Damone Clark as both will be fascinating to watch. Cox is a potential first-round pick and has shown the playmaking ability to be a dominant force in Bo Pelini's 4-3 scheme.
Though he admittedly wants to improve his physicality this season in the SEC, Cox was consistently able to use his lateral quickness and ability to change direction to make plays in space at NDSU.
"I like to play out in the open, cover, use my speed to my advantage and my length," Cox said. "I think I can improve playing in the box more. Showing that I can run through the A gap or the B gap and take on blocks and shed them. Just show that strength and physicality that the SEC brings."
Liam Shanahan (C)
One of the unknowns this entire offseason has been the offensive line. Not just one or two position battles along the o-line but the entire o-line. LSU is in a precarious position of having to replace four starters from last season's championship team and its the transfer out of Harvard who's brought stability to the group.
He'll start at center this season, allowing Chasen Hines to slide over to his more natural position of right guard. Shanahan had only played tackle and guard in college so he's spent the last few months learning the ins and outs of being a starting center.
"For me, transitioning to center, I'm the one responsible for making the offensive line calls and working with Myles [Brennan] on protection checks," Shanahan said.
Elias Ricks (CB)
Again, Cordale Flott is a player that the Tigers will heavily rely on this season and should be a player to watch Saturday. But the freshman Ricks is who we'll be watching in the secondary. Particularly this week with Mike Leach and the air raid offense in town, Ricks will be given a strong first test.
It'll be interesting to see where Ricks lines up, whether it's on the outside opposite Derek Stingley Jr. or in the slot. Flott could line up in either spot as well but with not a ton of depth at cornerback behind those three, it's important that they show to be capable full time starters.
“Elias has shown tremendous improvement, he's up to around 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 right now so he's long, very smart corner," Orgeron said. "Great ball skills, learning the technique and when Corey brags about you that means you're doing really, really well. He's learning the communication, learning the checks and I think throwing him in the fire of the SEC is something he'll be able to do."