Article courtesy of: SB Nation
By: Zach Junda
This time last year LSU was stacked at the wide receiver and tight end position. The Tigers were blessed with Ja’Marr Chase, the reigning Bilentikoff award winner and arguably best receiver in program history, Terrace Marshall, who may very well be a first round pick, and mega-recruit Arik Gilbert, the highest rated tight end in the history of 247 sports.
None of those three finished the 2020 season in purple and gold. Chase opted out prior to the season; Gilbert opted out after the Alabama game and has since transferred (twice now after leaving Florida); and Terrace Marshall called it a career after the Texas A&M game, though fittingly the last ball he caught as a Tiger was a touchdown.
While LSU has finally caught up to the rest of the world in terms of quarterback play, the program has never had issues getting receivers to come to Death Valley. As one group of excellent receivers departed for the NFL, the next wave made instant impacts and looks to take strides in their second year.
LSU’s number one option out wide is, well, No. 1. Kayshon Boutte shouldered the load after Marshall opted out catching 27 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss. His coming out party came in the season finale against Ole Miss, where he caught an SEC-record 308 yards and three scores against the Rebels.
Boutte was Louisiana’s highest rated recruit in the 2020 circuit and a consensus five-star prospect. He very much looked the part and seems poised to be the next great receiver to don the purple and gold.
After Boutte the jockeying for spots on the depth chart begins. Jaray Jenkins was a pleasant surprise in 2020 and is LSU’s second-leading returning receiver. Jontre Kirklin, long the special teams ace, finally got to get involved in the offense and took advantage of the NCAA’s blanket waiver granting all fall athletes an extra year of eligibility. It feels like it’s now or never for rising junior receiver Trey Palmer. Palmer has shown he can be dynamic with the ball in his hands, returning a punt for a touchdown in 2019 and a kickoff for a score last season, but hasn’t gotten involved enough in the offense for my liking. Palmer’s only caught 11 balls through two years, can he earn a bigger workload?
Then there’s LSU’s underclassmen. Koy Moore had a respectable freshman campaign, catching 22 balls. If Moore can stretch the field he didn’t show it in consistently in 2020. On the one hand Moore’s longest reception last season was 26 yards, but on the other he’s the only returning receiver to average less than 10 yards a reception. I’m not sure if there’s any conclusions you can draw from Alex Adams’s first year in Baton Rouge when he only had one ball thrown his way.
LSU signed a really strong group of receivers in its 2021 class and Deion Smith, the highest rated of the bunch, is already on campus and ought to have a leg up on the likes of Chris Hilton and Brian Thomas Jr. Smith was Mississippi’s No. 1 prospect and a top-10 consensus receiver, checking in at No. 69 overall (nice) and No. 9 at his position.
As far as the tight ends are concerned there’s not a whole lot of production here and the group doesn’t have a ton of depth. Kole Taylor will forever be an LSU legend after having his shoe thrown in the Florida game and caught five passes the last two weeks of the season, but what can he do heading into year two? Is he a true No. 1 tight end option or is he a complimentary piece?
Behind Taylor are even more question marks. Former Tiger pitcher Nick Storz is back as is Devonta Lee who is still trying to find a home. Lee came to LSU as a receiver, tried his hand at linebacker in 2020 but has now settled in at tight end. Neither Jack Bech nor Jalen Shead enrolled early so it will be on these three to try and establish roles within Jake Peetz’s offense