Sophomore wide receiver Malik Nabers quickly asserted himself as the top option for Brian Kelly and his LSU Tigers in 2022. An offense that lacked explosiveness early in the season, Nabers became the No. 1 guy when called upon.
Leading the team in receptions, yards and yards per catch, the physical wideout developed a connection with Jayden Daniels that looked unstoppable at times. There were times where Nabers could have benefitted off of the long ball, but getting the shifty playmaker the ball in space gave him immediate success.
What makes the youngster so special? What did he do right in 2022? What’s next for the Tigers’ WR1?
A dive into what made Nabers so special this season:
The Nabers-Daniels Connection
Head Coach Brian Kelly has spoken highly of the Daniels-Nabers connection, but their game against Mississippi State saw the two of them reach new heights, leading to success down the line.
Nabers erupted in the fourth quarter of the matchup. The young wideout caught four passes for 51 yards on one drive, but the most important play came as a result of his 27-yard reception to get the Tigers within scoring range, eventually catapulting the Bayou Bengals to an SEC victory.
“[Daniels] does feel comfortable getting the ball to him,” Kelly said after the matchup. “We’ll get it to Kayshon [Boutte] too. He gets a little bit more coverage and help over the top, so Malik’s the beneficiary of it. It’s much more about Kayshon sometimes getting the double coverage which leaves Malik in a really good situation and Jayden sees that.”
Explosiveness, physicality and versatility can all best describe Nabers’ game. Once he gets the ball in open space, it’s game over. A combination of speed and twitchiness makes him such a force to be reckoned with where it was shown on numerous occasions this season.
Explosiveness and Physicality: Just get the ball to Nabers in open space and he can make something out of nothing. The ability to pair his strong hands with such athleticism makes him a force to be reckoned with on a game-by-game basis.
Versatility: Whether it’s the Tigers in need of a deep ball down the field or a third and short, Nabers is the go-to-guy in any situation. He proved that in 2022. A mixed bag of tricks quickly made him a top priority on scouting reports after surpassing Kayshon Boutte as WR1.
Nabers totaled 72 receptions for 1,017 yards and three touchdowns on the season all while leading the Tigers in yards per catch. It was a complete takeover for the second-year Tiger who became the first LSU receiver to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since both Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase did in the 2019 season.
When in space, Nabers is a threat. Need a big play down the field? Just chuck it up to the physical wide receiver who can go up and get it in the blink of an eye.
There are few holes in Nabers’ game, and as he enters his third season in Baton Rouge, there are high expectations for the player who has all the makings of being the next great out of Death Valley,
A second season under wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton will also go a long way. The two compliment each other well, making it a match made in heaven going forward. With Nabers looking to put it all together this offseason, 2023 has the chance to be special for LSU’s WR1.