With fall camp in the rearview mirror and game week vastly approaching, the Tigers on locked in on Sept. 4th’s season opener against UCLA.
As the Tigers return nearly every starter from last year’s season finale, the question is, who fills in for those missing pieces?
Here’s who we think takes the field as the Tigers offensive starters in the Rose Bowl Stadium Saturday night:
Quarterback: Max Johnson
With one of the most highly anticipated quarterback battles in the country between Max Johnson and Myles Brennan coming to a close after Brennan suffered a freak arm injury, Johnson is the Tigers QB1.
Entering his second season in Death Valley, Johnson went 2-0 as a true freshman in his two starts, leading the Tigers to an upset win over Florida and ultimately a thrilling victory over another SEC foe in Ole Miss. With new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz calling the shots for the offense, it’s likely we see Johnson take that next step this season and put the country on notice.
"I think we've got ourselves a great quarterback, a great championship quarterback," Orgeron said. "We've got to keep Max healthy, that's going to be the key."
Running Back: Tyrion Davis Price/John Emery
Even after an inconsistent fall camp, the two veteran backs have the chance to be a one-two punch for the Tigers this season. The versatility of Davis-Price along with Emery’s sheer athleticism could give LSU one of the most dynamic back fields in the country.
If the two can stay healthy this season, this tandem has the opportunity to be special, but true freshmen Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin are sure to keep the savvy veterans on their toes all season long as they push for playing time along with sophomore Josh Williams.
Both Emery and Davis-Price look to take the next step this season under Jake Peetz’ offensive scheme after spotty showings their first few years at LSU.
Wide Receivers: Kayshon Boutte, Jaray Jenkins, Jontre Kirklin
After an electrifying season finale against Ole Miss where the true freshman broke the SEC’s single-game record for receiving yards, Boutte is poised to pick up where he left off heading into this season. Becoming one of the leaders in this Tiger locker room, Boutte is prepared to take the next step and bolster his name into the All-America conversation.
After an up and down start to his LSU career, Jaray Jenkins looks to take the next step in his junior campaign for the Tigers. Jenkins was second in receiving yards for this wide receiver’s unit a year ago, only behind Boutte and Terrance Marshall Jr,, and has the chance to be a consistent WR2 this season. His sheer athleticism and ability to reach the ball at its highest point has this LSU coaching staff ready to watch him take off this year.
At WR3, there are a few names to keep an eye out for, but Jontre Kirklin looks to be the safe bet here. Kirklin grabbed 13 catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns during the 2020 season, outpacing Trey Palmer, who could also step into the role of WR3. The chance for Kirklin to step in and make a statement in week one could solidify him as the starter this season.
Names to keep tabs on as the third and final Tigers wide receiver are Trey Palmer, who is an exceptional special team’s player as well, Brian Thomas Jr., and Koy Moore. In his first fall camp as a Tiger, true freshman Thomas Jr. had an incredible fall camp where he opened the eyes of all his peers after two phenomenal scrimmages. The young buck has the chance to be special for the Tigers over the course of the next few years. Finally, Koy Moore, the New Orleans product, has the chance to step in and take WR3 snaps as well this season. As a true freshman a season ago, Moore grabbed 22 passes for 177 yards, looking to translate his year one success to his sophomore campaign.
Tight End: Kole Taylor
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound menace has the size and strength to provide as both a blocking and passing tight end. A season ago, Taylor reeled in just six catches for 36 yards as a true freshman, looking to take the next step in his sophomore run.
Logging snaps behind the athletically gifted Arik Gilbert in 2020, Taylor now takes charge as TE1 for the Tigers. His sheer force as a blocker provides the Tigers with someone who can both expand the run game along with giving Max Johnson time in the pocket.
Another name to keep an eye on at tight end is true freshman Jack Bech. The young stud has sole possession of TE2 and is an immediate pass-catching threat. Putting on a significant amount of size in his short time in Death Valley to this point, expect Bech to see the field on numerous occasions this season.
Offensive Line: LT Cam Wire, LG Ed Ingram, C Liam Shanahan, RG Chasen Hines, RT Austin Deculus
Losing Dare Rosenthal to the transfer portal is the only major hiccup in this offensive line from a season ago. The experience of this unit will give them the edge against young defensive lines as they look to continue building chemistry after being banged up for a majority of this year’s fall camp.
Ultimately how well this unit gels in 2021 will dictate how much success this offense can have. The offensive line struggled keeping the quarterbacks up right and opening up holes for running backs, but the return of Ingram, Shanahan and Deculus, three veteran players on this line, will do wonders for the chemistry up front.
"We didn't have the best season that we had in the past,” Deculus said “But having everybody come back from all aspects, from the offensive line to the running backs, it's going to build on the depth, build on the experience of the group, and you're going to see something different.”
As Max Johnson shifts his focus to being the leader in the locker room, there’s a lot to love about his supporting cast of running backs and wide receivers. This freshman class has the chance to be special and are sure to keep the veterans on their toes as they itch for playing time, namely Kiner and Goodwin at the running back position.
The depth of the wide receivers has been the main takeaway from the offensive over the course of fall camp. Having two savvy veterans in Boutte and Jenkins taking over as WR1 and WR2, there are numerous options to go with at the third and final receiver slot. With true freshman Brian Thomas Jr. pushing for playing time in his first year in Death Valley, there’s a lot to like about this wide receiver unit that could have up to 10 scholarship players see the field.
Though this offensive line has been banged up through fall camp and looks to gain chemistry heading into game week, their experience and grit will be what makes them so successful this season. As Chasen Hines fills the void of Dare Rosenthal, this unit has the chance to be one of the best in the SEC.
All in all, this team has a completely different demeanor from a season ago. The newfound energy of this roster led by a fully revamped coaching staff has the making to be special this year. Coach Orgeron looks to have learned from his mistakes as he pushes to bring this Tigers squad back to the LSU standard.