As one of the NFL’s biggest talent producers, LSU has tended to give many minutes to young players over the last few decades. There has been an overreliance on older players this season, though. This is mainly because much of the Tigers’ depth during this transitional period comes from transfers, some of which are graduates.
While the current LSU team seems older than those of years past, it’s also younger in a sense as well. The Bayou Bengals are just three games into the season, and we’ve already seen many fresh faces—notably freshmen—on the field. It’s a refreshing sight for fans to see, given the expectations placed on the program this year.
Kelly giving minutes to underclassmen sets the Tigers up to succeed long term.
A handful of freshmen are making an impact each game, and every one of these individuals will look to be an impactful player going forward. Some are already establishing themselves as key individuals in Kelly’s game plan.
Will Campbell and Emery Jones Jr. are chief amongst them. The two freshman tackles have played exceptionally well this season (Campbell in all three games; Jones Jr. against the Bulldogs). Another freshman generating some buzz around Baton Rouge is Harold Perkins Jr. The Cypress, Texas native, has been essential in the Tigers’ defensive plans over the last two contests.
These three—plus starting tight end Mason Taylor and kicker Damian Ramos—are getting some severe minutes under their belts throughout their first full seasons in college. Kelly voiced his confidence for the youngsters in the New Mexico match-up, which can only be good news for LSU going forward.
If nobody within the program can displace these individuals during their freshman seasons, they will only continue to get better with experience at the top level. Nothing is more valuable than the in-game reps that the aforementioned young phenoms are getting now. This will be a huge benefit to Kelly throughout the next few years when he’s got sophomores and juniors with many games under their belts for the Bayou Bengals.
Elsewhere, keep an eye on the play of Chris Hilton Jr., Walker Howard, and Garrett Nussmeier. The offensive trio may not get to start, or even play, in every game this season. They will come into non-conference blowouts, though, as we saw against Southern in Week 2. This will only prepare them for the future when the coaches turn to them after others depart.
It’s easy to downplay the roles of these players because of potential mistakes they might make now and again. Regardless, one needs to gaze at the bigger picture. Kelly looking to a handful of freshmen in important roles will only better the program later.