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Let’s project what the LSU offense might look like This Season

This is the primary force for optimism, the cause for College Football Playoff hopes, and a preseason top-five ranking by many publications. LSU essentially returns the entire core of its offense — 11 players who started multiple games — as it prepares for its first real offseason under coach Brian Kelly.

This is usually how great teams are formed. It comes from a quarterback having time to build proper connections. It comes from talented offensive linemen who return experience. And it comes from dynamic playmakers who can change games.

This LSU team has all that, and that will be its primary hope this offseason. But because LSU has so many players back, it has difficult decisions to make about how to field a lineup. Does it choose upside over stability? Does it choose athleticism over football IQ?


Starter: Jayden Daniels (fifth-year senior)

Backups: Garrett Nussmeier (sophomore), Rickie Collins (freshman)

Overview: Coming off a transfer with very little time to work with receivers and the new offense, Daniels led LSU to an SEC West title and a win over Alabama while often keeping a flawed offense afloat. As much as it’s accurate rising star Nussmeier is gaining steam, Daniels will be the starter for that very reason. There’s optimism that with his first full offseason of familiarity and with time to work with those receivers, he could take a large leap this fall to build on his 2,913 passing yards and 885 rushing yards.

Still, Nussmeier proved in both the SEC championship game against Georgia and the Citrus Bowl against Purdue that he is a special talent who can make rare plays with his arm and legs. LSU showed in the Citrus Bowl it can find success rotating Daniels and Nussmeier, and it shouldn’t be ignored that Nussmeier stayed this offseason while five-star freshman Walker Howard transferred to Ole Miss. Is it reasonable to wonder if Howard knew Nussmeier would be taking on a larger role?

Josh Williams (27) had 535 yards rushing in 2022. (Nelson Chenault / USA Today)

Running back

Starter: Josh Williams (fifth-year senior)

Backups: John Emery (fifth-year senior), Armoni Goodwin (junior), Noah Cain (senior)

Other candidates: Trey Holly (freshman), Kaleb Jackson (freshman)

LSU is in ideal shape at running back, like most offensive positions. Last season was stressful in the backfield because seemingly every week another key back went down, but in the grand scheme of things, LSU got by because it had four trustworthy backs. All should be healthy for 2023, and LSU added two top-250 recruits, meaning LSU should be loaded with six quality backs.

The numbers are a little misleading with LSU’s rushing numbers as the leading non-Daniels rusher was Williams with 535 yards. But LSU shared the ball by committee and dealt with injuries, so nobody had more than 98 carries. Williams proved to be an invaluable and complete back who can pass protect, rush and receive. Emery and Goodwin are dynamic playmakers who make defenders miss, and Cain is a true power back. LSU is in great shape here, but Williams has earned the most trust.


Starters: Malik Nabers (junior), Brian Thomas Jr. (junior), Aaron Anderson (redshirt freshman)

Backups: Kyren Lacy (senior), Jalen Brown (freshman), Shelton Sampson Jr. (freshman), Chris Hilton Jr. (sophomore)

Other candidates: Landon Ibieta (redshirt freshman), Kyle Parker (freshman), Khai Prean (freshman)

Overview: Stability mixed with upside is always the sweet spot with a position group, and LSU returns its best and most reliable receiver in Nabers while also adding a few exciting and dynamic pieces who won’t be under too much pressure. Nabers is a budding star, clearly becoming Daniels’ most trusted target and ending the year with dominant showings against Georgia and Purdue. He’s now one of the top receivers in the SEC.

Thomas surely will join him as a starter, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound wideout who wins jump balls and can make plays after the catch. He’s a great complement to Nabers, and LSU adding Anderson, an exciting Alabama transfer, adds a dynamic, shifty playmaker to give LSU a diverse group to start. Anderson hasn’t played much college ball yet, so fans should be patient. Still, he’s a special talent.

After those three, Lacy is another to keep in the mix as a potential starter. He caught 24 passes last fall and is a trustworthy character for the staff. Then, LSU has a loaded group of freshmen who will all have a chance to get in the mix. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Brown, a top-100 wideout, cracks the rotation with his rare speed. The same goes for Sampson, a top-100 Baton Rouge product.

That’s the good position LSU is in. It can start with reliable veterans, but maybe during the season, it can turn more to some of its high-upside new pieces as they develop.

Tight end

Starter: Mason Taylor (sophomore)

Backups: Ka’Morreun Pimpton (freshman), Mac Markway (freshman), Jackson McGohan (freshman)

Overview: This might not be a strength for LSU, but comparing the tight end situation now compared to what it looked like a year ago makes this group look fantastic. The surprising rise of Taylor as a true freshman starter in 2022 changed the entire outlook at tight end. He’s an athletic tight end who caught 38 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns, including the biggest play of the season on the two-point conversion to beat Alabama.

Now LSU has Taylor as a returning starter and added three solid freshmen who can give LSU more options and more development. Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock love two- and sometimes even three-tight end sets, and it didn’t really have the personnel to do so last year. Pimpton brings a 6-6, 220-pound frame to experiment with, but all three freshmen can be eased in because of Taylor’s success.

Still, watch out for this as an area where LSU could add a transfer after the spring.

Offensive line

Starters: Will Campbell (sophomore), Garrett Dellinger (junior), Charles Turner (fifth-year senior), Miles Frazier (junior), Emery Jones (sophomore)

Backups: Zalance Heard (freshman), Marlon Martinez (senior), Bo Bordelon (redshirt freshman), DJ Chester (freshman)

Other candidates: Tyree Adams (freshman), Kimo Makane’ole (sophomore), Paul Mubenga (freshman)

Overview: LSU has the luxury of returning five of its six primary starters up front, losing only guard Anthony Bradford. Yet Heard has the talent to possibly make LSU adjust that front if he’s ready. LSU just had two true freshmen become clear, successful starters at tackle in Campbell and Emery Jones, and Heard was an elite five-star prospect. LSU has the option to stick with the same five it knows it can trust or maybe experiment with moving Jones to guard if it thinks Heard is one of the five best.

Dellinger is a really solid player who dealt with injuries last fall, so expect a bounce-back year from him. And while Frazier had ups and downs starting at guard last year, keep in mind he was only a second-year player adjusting to transferring from Conference USA to the SEC. He also can improve. Martinez also can be thrown in as a good backup who is talented enough to start games when needed, and he can play center or guard. That’s great depth, and it added two more four-star freshmen in Adams and Chester.

But don’t expect LSU to be done. It already has offered two centers this transfer portal cycle who picked other schools, but we know LSU is looking for a potential upgrade if it finds one at center. Turner held his own as the starter last year. Can he hold off competitors?