Now that the bowl game has come and gone, putting a bow on a successful first season for Brian Kelly at LSU, there are still a few week periods here where there are still decisions to be made about the future of the 2023 roster.
There are a few important dates to take into consideration, Jan. 16, which is the deadline for college football players to enter the 2023 NFL draft, and Jan. 18, the deadline for college football players to enter the transfer portal. In regards to LSU, many of these decisions have already been made.
Players like BJ Ojulari, Ali Gaye, Mekhi Garner, Jay Ward, Jarrick Bernard-Converse, and Mike Jones Jr. are off to the NFL, while many more have already announced their intentions to enter the transfer portal. However, a few positions on the roster could see the further loss of talent via the portal or the draft after the Tigers’ 63-7 Citrus Bowl win over Purdue.
The one group to keep an eye on is running back and what happens with the veteran backfield, including John Emery, Noah Cain, Armoni Goodwin, and Derrick Davis. Josh Williams is also an eligible name to declare for the draft. While he’s currently nursing an injury and wasn’t available for the bowl game, WAFB Jacques Doucet reported it’s more of a precaution so that he’s healthy for the spring.
Williams features to be a significant part of this backfield, possibly in a feature role, with incoming freshmen Kaleb Jackson and Trey Holly also on the depth chart. As it currently stands, six running backs would be in that room for the spring without further attrition.
That’s a crowded room, particularly considering the number of vets who will be hoping for opportunities. Coach Brian Kelly told reporters just before the matchup with Purdue that nothing has been explicitly decided with Emery. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Emery make many decisions about his future.
Davis did announce his intention to enter the transfer portal but did participate in the bowl game for LSU, rushing for 29 yards and a touchdown. Could that be the first step of Kelly and the staff trying to convince a potentially dynamic athlete to stick around?
Should Goodwin stick around, there’s a case to be made that he’ll see significant snaps like he did early in the year but the big caveat with him is health and can he stay on the field? Cain was really solid for LSU down the stretch of the season with other guys banged up, including with his two touchdown runs Monday afternoon. He’s not flashy but is a reliable north south runner when Williams needs a breather.
Running back is by far the most intriguing room to follow in the days and weeks to come but a number of individuals have also not made their decisions public yet. Linebacker Micah Baskerville is one of those players to not officially decide to enter the 2023 draft but did use his fifth year of eligibility this past season.
On Monday afternoon, Baskerville was all over the field against Purdue, recording five tackles and two pass breakups. It was his final game with the Tigers, and he put out some great film for NFL evaluators.
Offensive line has been one of the groups hit hardest by the transfer portal to this point and while there are a few other names out there, many of the guys in that room who weren’t starters did get an opportunity to play in the bowl game. LSU has some great freshmen coming in but would ideally like to hold on to a few players who have been in the room for depth purposes.
The Tigers have also replenished the defensive line with multiple guys moving on to the NFL and portal but again, there are names to monitor at those positions as well who participated this week in the bowl game.
At the same time, LSU will work diligently to finish strong for the 2023 signing class, with another recruiting weekend scheduled this month before the February signing period. So while the season may be winding down and players moving on, there’s plenty of work to do.
In the end, what we do know is that more announcements will be made in the coming days, and LSU will have to re-evaluate when those mid-January deadlines for the draft and portal.