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With an Evolving Roster, LSU has Multiple Players Who Could 'Surprise' During 2021 Season

Pair of receivers, veteran linebackers have a chance to be real impact threats for purple and gold

For 2021, LSU football needs returning players to step up their play, and also needs incoming freshmen to be ready to make an impact early.

After a long 2020 season that saw incredible highs like the Florida victory in the Swamp and terrible losses like the one to Mississippi State, it’s time for current and new players to make their marks on the LSU football program. There’s a long list of candidates, and two wide receivers stand out immediately to complement the team’s best returning wide receiver.

If there was any question about rising sophomore Kayshon Boutte’s ability, he put all those to rest during three games against Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss. He lit them up for a combined 27 receptions, 527 yards, and four touchdowns. Now that Boutte is a known commodity, another Tiger needs to step up because opposing defenses will likely attempt to double team Boutte. Two players come to mind.

The best bet comes from a big-bodied wide receiver in large part because LSU needs to find some size on the perimeter. Jaray Jenkins provides the size at 6-foot-4, 195-pounds, and he led the Tigers in yards per catch last fall with a 17.3 yard average. For the season, Jenkins accounted for 23 receptions, 397 yards, and two touchdowns.

Jenkins can be the boundary wide receiver or be moved to different areas of the field. He’s a redshirt-junior this fall, so Jenkins knows the offense. Maybe his primary role will include being the long and tall receiver in the red zone that catches jump balls and blocks during wide receiver screens. One cannot teach Jenkins’ size; that size will benefit LSU during the 2021 season.

Another wide receiver to watch is built more closely to Boutte, and he’s also capable of making big plays when it’s a 50-50 ball. Koy Moore came on strong towards the end of the 2020 football season, and he did so against the same three teams that Boutte lit up -- Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss -- that helped him register a grand total of 22 receptions and 177 receiving yards.

He’s 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, but he’s really quick and also physical for his size. Lined up in the same lineup with Boutte and Jenkins is a great option for the Tigers. They will need to step up because a really talented Tiger headed to the NFL.

With LSU needing to replace talented wide receivers like Terrace Marshall, Jr. that went to the NFL Draft, there’s room for Jenkins and Moore to have big years. Even though they compete at the same position, LSU moves its wide receivers around. Both of these young men will be afforded the opportunities to make their mark during the 2021 season. Moving to defense, a linebacker and a cornerback could shine.

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When Mike Jones, Jr. landed in Baton Rouge after playing for Clemson for three seasons, he immediately was a player that understood the regimen of competing for a title. Jones was a part of the 2018 Clemson national championship team, and actually lost to LSU in the 2019 national championship game.

Even more importantly, Jones is a player that can be versatile during an era in college football where offenses attempt to create mismatches in space with a linebacker. That’s what Jones does best -- play in space and be an athlete -- to showcase his talent.

Jones can cover a running back or slot wide receiver with physical skill and technique. He’s done it before, and he’s likely to acclimate well to LSU’s defensive philosophy. Jones was banged up for a good portion of the 2020 season, but he’s ready to roll for his new ‘Tigers’ in Baton Rouge. There’s also a cornerback that could emerge.

Let’s face it. Few teams will throw in the direction of pre-season All-America candidate Derek Stingley, Jr., or for that matter, probably future All-America Elias Ricks either. In short, LSU is about as talented with its one-two punch at cornerback as any program in America. That’s a major reason why a former cornerback turned safety has a chance for a big year.

Jay Ward can be the leader in interceptions this year. That’s right, the leader in interceptions. Teams are going to throw away from the aforementioned cornerbacks, and likely challenge the seams as well as hit the over routes and deep posts. That’s where Ward comes into play.

Ward provides good ball skills and he’s experienced. There will be teams that challenge him for sure, but he’s capable in one-on-one coverage or in zone. As teams attempt to place the football over the top of the defense and away from Stingly and Ricks, there’s ample reason to believe Ward has a breakout 2021 season.

In conclusion, there’s much to learn about the 2021 Tigers. Offensively and defensively this is a talented team, but a few players need to really step up before anyone can project a great season in Baton Rouge.

Despite the uncertainty, there’s also a lot of talent returning for LSU. For that reason, Jenkins, Moore, Jones, and Ward all have a chance to become big-time players for LSU.