For a team that has lost four of their last six games overall, the Bayou Bengals are looking forward to their 2022 campaign.
After all, it’s going to be Brian Kelly’s first season on the sidelines and he brings plenty of national credibility to Baton Rouge. It’s no mystery Kelly has been a winner everywhere he’s coached at the collegiate level.
The Massachusetts native won two Division II National Championships at Grand Valley State. He led Central Michigan to a MAC Title in 2006. Kelly even led Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season in 2009. The 60-year old was at Notre Dame for 12 seasons, and left as the program’s all-time winningest coach.
Not only did the Fighting Irish play for the BCS National Championship Game in 2012, but they also made two Playoff appearances under Kelly’s watch. However, it became obvious that Notre Dame had reached its’ ceiling with Kelly. And now he’s ready for a new challenge in the toughest division in all of College football.
Although Kelly hasn’t been welcomed by the rest of the SEC, the LSU community has embraced his presence on campus. He’ll be operating with better overall talent than he ever had in South Bend. Not to mention the program is only three years removed from winning all of the marbles.
Still, it’s going to take Kelly some time to get adjusted to the speed, physicality and style of play in the SEC. Regardless of the matter, Kelly has some weapons in his arsenal that should make the transition smoother.
Wideout Kayshon Boutte is back fully healthy. He’s considered by many as one of the fastest players in the league. The former five-star prospect caught nine touchdown passes through LSU’s first five games last year before he suffered a season-ending leg injury at Kentucky. Now he’s back fully healthy and ready to pick up where he left off.
Kelly has yet to name his starting quarterback between Garrett Nussmeier and Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels. He’s going to wait to make that decision public until kickoff against Florida State Sunday night. Nussmeier had some bright spots last season. He completed seven of his 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown at Ole Miss. Nussmeier also threw for 179 yards and a score against Arkansas, but was picked off twice.
Daniels is considered one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Over the past three seasons at Arizona State, Daniels stockpiled 6,025 yards through the air, 32 touchdown tosses and 13 interceptions. The 21-year old rumbled for 1,288 yards on the ground and 13 rushing scores during that span. All fingers are pointing towards Daniels being the starter though.
Elite running backs seem to grow on trees at LSU, so the backfield should be in good hands despite the uncertainty of John Emery’s eligibility. Penn State transfer Noah Cain will likely receive most of the workload against the Seminoles. Cain rushed for 806 yards and scored 12 touchdowns during his time in Happy Valley.
Regardless, LSU’s offense is only going to go as far as the big boys up front can take the unit. Kelly will be orchestrating an offensive line with a bunch of new faces that’s inexperienced. And in the almighty SEC games are won in the trenches.
Defense will be a question mark heading into Sunday night’s matchup. Only a handful of starters return on to a unit that finished 11th in the league in scoring and passing defense. One of those defenders is linebacker BJ Ojulari, who led the Bayou Bengals in sacks, and finished second in tackles for loss last season. The former four-star prospect is an enforcer and will set the tone for the defense every game.
The measuring stick against Florida State will be a great way for Kelly to find out LSU’s strengths and weaknesses. And he’s a natural at making adjustments, plus it’s going to be played in New Orleans, which is LSU’s backyard.
So regardless of the results in game one, expect the Bayou Bengals to get better as the season progresses.