This time a year ago, Kayshon Boutte was still in high school, just itching at the time when he could finally get to LSU's campus. Already signed with the program, Boutte had to wait and wait as campus was shut down and the players on the current roster were sent home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He wasn't able to have a traditional first offseason with the program but that didn't stop him from putting up productive numbers in his first season with the Tigers. Boutte recorded 45 receptions for 735 yards and five touchdowns, including an historic 308-yard performance against Ole Miss that broke an SEC record for a single game.
That performance gave him the confidence to enter the 2021 offseason with a different mindset. He's LSU's No. 1 receiver and is learning each and every day what that means.
"It gave me a lot of confidence throughout the season, but knowing the target's going to be on my back next year, a lot of people are gonna remember what I did that game," Boutte said. "Coming into next season, I've got to be better."
Boutte is the unquestioned No. 1 option in this offense from a skills perspective but offensive coordinator Jake Peetz wants to spread the ball around this season. That much is clear.
Getting the five best players on the field, regardless of position is the goal for this offense and Boutte said it's a completely different feel since Peetz has come aboard and started installing the new offense.
"Coach Peetz came in with a good gameplan," Boutte said. "He kinda moved everybody around, getting everybody familiar with the offense, adding new stuff, trying to give everybody the ball, get good looks and make big plays."
Outside of Boutte, the Tigers will have an influx of receiver talent competing for snaps this offseason. In the spring, Jaray Jenkins, Koy Moore, Trey Palmer, Deion Smith and Jontre Kirklin will all be looking to make a strong impression on Mickey Joseph and passing game coordinator DJ Mangas.
At the beginning of the summer, freshmen Chris Hilton, Brian Thomas, Malik Nabers and Jack Bech all arrive on campus. It's one of the deeper positions on the roster which is why it's so important for the veteran players to make an early impact.
"In the receiver room, we motivate each other to catch every ball," Boutte said. "There's this thing after practice or whoever has the most drops has to do a certain amount of pushups because we hold each other to a certain standard. It's going good. It's not too bad. LSU Standard of Performance."
Mangas has brought back the 11,000 catch rule for this spring, a goal that was first implemented by Joe Brady back in 2019 when he was the passing game coordinator. Just a few days into the spring session, Boutte was already on catch No. 5,400 so it's safe to say he's going to go above and beyond to prove he's the leader of this group moving forward.
"The thing we do in the receiver room, we make sure we all know what we've got to do. We handle our business," Boutte said. "We trust each other on the other side of the field to win our 1-on-1s so that if the ball's not coming our way, the man on the other side of the field can handle his business."