Today is the fourth day of Gridiron Heroics’ SEC Team preview ahead of the 2022 season. Each day, we will break down one team from the East Division and West Division. Giving you a position-by-position analysis, and tell you what they need to do to advance to the postseason. Join us as we delve deep into the South’s spectacular obsession, the SEC.
We break down the 14 teams that make up the SEC. Check it out, team by team:
SEC CONF. PREVIEW: Overall SEC Conf. Preview
SEC EAST PREVIEWS: Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | Mizzou | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt
SEC WEST PREVIEWS: Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Mississippi State | Ole Miss | Texas A&M
LSU will begin a new era in Baton Rouge with first-year head coach, Brian Kelly, after parting ways with Ed Orgeron. As much as people want to poke fun at Kelly’s attempt at a southern accent or his Tik Tok dances, he is one of the best coaches in college football. The Tigers are looking to turn things around after back-to-back disappointing seasons in 2020 and 2021.
There is reason for optimism for LSU heading into the 2022 season as the Tigers were able to add 14 new additions from the transfer portal. The roster after the 2021 season looked bleak with players deciding to put their name in the transfer portal. Shoes will need to be filled on the offensive and defensive front.
THE TEAM: LSU Tigers
THE MENTOR: Brian Kelly (1st year, 0-0 record)
THE 2021 RECORD (SEC RECORD): 6-7 (3-5)
THE AFTER LIFE: LOST Texas Bowl (lost to Kansas State 42-20)
THE FIVE STUDS (STATS): Kayshon Boutte, WR (missed half of the 2021 season–509 receiving yards and nine touchdowns); Ali Gaye, DE (missed a lot of the 2021 season–19 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks); B. J. Ojulari, DE (55 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, nine QB hurries and a pass breakup); Jack Bech, WR (43 receptions, 489 receiving yards and three touchdowns); Jay Ward, S (71 tackles, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and blocked a kick).
Related Story: SEC Media Day Voters Pick LSU to Finish Fifth in SEC West
THE GOOD: Mike Denbrock, will step into an LSU offense that features a passing game with a whole lot of talent. The starting quarterback is still yet to be settled as fall camp is underway. Myles Brennan, Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier are the three quarterbacks dueling it out for QB1 on LSU’s roster.
The wide receiver core has some top targets. The main attraction of the LSU passing game is Kayshon Boutte. Boutte is coming off an ankle injury that he suffered against the game against Kentucky. As long as he can stay healthy he is looked at one of the best wide receivers in college football.
Jack Bech’s stellar freshman campaign gives the offense a boost. Guys like Jaray Jenkins and Malik Nabers also caught stride in 2021 giving the wide receiver room some explosive weapons.
Also on the offensive side, the running back core is filled with depth. John Emery Jr. will be the star of the running back committee after being ineligible for the 2021 season. Other running backs that will be in the mix include Noah Cain (Penn State) and Armoni Goodwin.
Veterans Ali Gaye announced his return to the Tigers. B.J. Ojulari and Maason Smith had successful 2021 seasons for the Tiger defense. The linebacker core will be led by veterans, Micah Baskerville and Mike Jones Jr. Incoming freshman linebacker, Harold Perkins, has made an early impression in fall camp and veteran Jay Ward will be the focal point of a revamped LSU secondary.
LSU added Greg Brooks (Arkansas) and Joe Foucha (Arkansas). The Tigers also added three corners in Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State), Mekhi Garner (Louisiana) and Sevyn Banks (Ohio State).
Related Story: Brian Kelly Recaps Day One of LSU’s Fall Camp
THE BAD: LSU did lose key pieces on their roster by playing leaving for the NFL Draft or putting their name in the transfer portal. 10 Tigers were selected in the 2021 draft leaving some position groups lacking depth.
The loss of Damone Clark is a big one for the LSU defense as someone in the linebacker room will have to fill the shoes of a key playmaker for the Tigers. Guys like Micah Baskerville and Mike Jones Jr. will have to step into a leadership role and be the bellcow of the LSU defense. LSU also lost defensive tackles, Neil Farrell, Glenn Logan and cornerbacks, Eli Ricks, Dwight McGlothern and Derek Stingley Jr.
On the offensive side, LSU lost their leading rusher Ty Davis-Price and quarterback Max Johnson decided to transfer to Texas A&M. The Tigers lost four offensive starters to the draft that include tackle Austin Deculus, guards Ed Ingram, Chasen Hines and center Liam Shanahan.
LSU will have to replace a bunch of key playmakers as they enter the 2022 season. Tigers fans will have to wait and see how the transfers that Brian Kelly brought into the program pan out.
Related Story: LSU Linebacker Named to Butkus Award Watch List
THE UGLY: There should always be uncertainty with how the roster will adjust with a new head coach and a revamped coaching staff. Players will have to adjust to Mike Denbrock (offensive coordinator) and Matt House’s (defensive coordinator) schemes.
Outside of the new coaching staff, the main area of weakness on the LSU offense is that there is no proven tight ends on the roster. Jack Bech did see some action at the tight end position, so that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad move to slot Bech into the TE1 role.
Another concern with the Tiger offense is that losing four starters on the offensive line isn’t always a recipe for success heading into a fresh season. LSU will have to rely on freshman Will Campbell having a key role in the Tiger offensive line. LSU could have five new starters in the trenches.There is also depth concerns in LSU’s secondary. Oklahoma State transfer Jarrick Bernard-Converse missed spring practice with a foot fracture. LSU does have veteran cornerbacks at the top of the depth chart. If any of them get hurt the Tigers will be forced with three true freshman cornerbacks.
Related Story: LSU Starting WR Named to Maxwell Award Watch List
BIGGEST NON-CONF GAME OF THE YEAR (AND WHY): The non conference games for the 2022 season for LSU includes Florida State, Southern, New Mexico and UAB. The most important out of the bunch is the season opener on September 4th in New Orleans against Florida State.
Florida State will have a game under their belt before they face the Tigers in the ‘Big Easy’. The Seminoles take on Duquesne in their home opener to begin their 2022 slate. It will be critical for LSU to get out of the gates for the 2022 slate on the right note as their SEC schedule will be difficult to navigate.
Winning your season opener will be the tell tale on if you have a successful season or not. Losing to UCLA in the season opener in 2021 set up a domino effect. It led to a 6-7 finish for the purple and gold.
Related Story: A Three Man Race: LSU’s Quarterback Battle
BIGGEST CONF. GAME OF THE YEAR (AND WHY): This was difficult to choose as their is an argument for every SEC game being important for the way LSU season is perceived. The month of October should be circled for Tiger fans as LSU has a four-game slate of @Auburn, vs. Tennessee, @ Florida and vs. Ole Miss.
The biggest conference game of the year will be the game on the road against Auburn. The Tigers need to get off to a good start to start this daunting four-game stretch that could make or break LSU’s season. Auburn beat LSU in the past two seasons. In 2020, Auburn took it to LSU with a 48-11 win in Jordan Hare. In 2021, Auburn pulled out a 24-19 win in Baton Rouge.
LSU will be looking to break their two-game skid against Auburn with their first road test of the season. The Tigers will need to be taking some momentum with a tough home game coming up in the next week against a Tennessee team with a high-scoring passing attack.
Related Story: The Most Important Stretch on LSU’s Schedule
DARKHORSE THREAT ON THE SKED (AND WHY): There are multiple teams that can be distinguished as being a ‘darkhorse’ threat on LSU’s schedule. The first SEC game on LSU’s schedule is the darkhorse threat on the schedule and that is Mississippi State.
LSU got the best of Mississippi State in 2021 in Starkville with a 28-25 win. Mississippi State is returning one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and Will Rogers. LSU’s defense was able to adjust with Mike Leach’s air raid offense in their second meeting with going with rushing two or three defensive lineman.
The Bulldogs will be one of SEC’s most veteran teams (17 returning starters). Mississippi State was able to add transfer portal additions. Their defensive line will be able to create havoc to opposing offenses. The Bulldogs will be one of the dark horses that will have the potential to compete in the SEC West even with a loaded SEC schedule.
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THE HAPPY HISTORY NUGGET: The LSU Tigers claim three national championships (1958, 2007 and 2019). LSU has won 14 conference championships with 11 being Southeastern Conference championships. The Tigers have 787 official wins ranking them twelfth all-time for Division I FBS teams.
WHICH TEAMS WILL THEY BEAT?: Florida State, Southern, Mississippi State, New Mexico, Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss and UAB
WHICH TEAMS WILL THEY LOSE TO?: Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M
FINAL RECORD, POSTSEASON PREDICTION?: 8-4 in the regular season (Music City Bowl in Nashville vs. Penn State)
PRESEASON ALL-SEC PLAYERS:: First-Team Offense–Kayshon Boutte, WR (509 receiving yards and nine touchdowns); First-Team Defense–B.J. Ojulari, DE (55 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, nine QB hurries and a pass breakup); Second-Team Defense–Ali Gaye, DE (19 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks); Third-Team Defense–Maason Smith (19 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks)
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