Daniels completed 22-of-37 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Mississippi State, while also rushing 16 times for 93 yards and another score in the 31-16 win.
Daniels has been dynamic both through the air as well as on the ground through three games, tossing six touchdown passes over that span while also rushing for over 200 yards. A cupcake matchup with New Mexico should only further serve to pad the stat column for Daniels.
After some trial and error, the Tigers seemed to find something that could stick, and it’s a positive sign not just for this team but for the future of this program. On Saturday, under the brightest lights of SEC competition, the purple and gold elected to shake up the line again, going with a pair of true freshmen at tackles, a sophomore, and a redshirt sophomore at guard.
True freshman Emery Jones started at right tackle, the first of his young career, while the Tigers also stuck with fellow freshman Will Campbell at left tackle. Redshirt sophomore Miles Frazier and sophomore Garrett Dellinger were wedged at right and left guard, respectively, with veteran Charles Turner starting at center.
This group was called for multiple false starts throughout the 31-16 win over Mississippi State to get the negative out of the way. But coach Brian Kelly did say most of the false starts that were called are easily fixed.
“It’s really good. Some of the penalties, we thought we had somebody in the neutral zone, we had a tough day with the clock,” Kelly said. “That’ll be a Monday meeting. We had a clock we thought was coming down and moving back up so our guys were a little anxious. We can fix that.”
Now for the positive, the o-line showed some impressive signs, particularly in pass protection. Quarterback Jayden Daniels had time to make decisions and add fuel to the freshmen’ fire; Jones and Campbell combined to allow zero pressure throughout the contest.
According to Pro Football Focus, Campbell and Jones were graded as the No. 1 and No. 4 tackles in the SEC for their performances against the Bulldogs.
When LSU could go up-tempo, make quick reads, and move the sticks, the offensive line was a huge part of that rhythm, continuing throughout most of the second half. For example, after an 0-for-8 start on third down, the Tigers converted on 6-of-7 to close the game, and the push-up front was part of the reason.
“We went faster, we kept seven man protections, simplified it,” Kelly said of the third down success later in the game. “We got the ball out quicker and we got some run after the catch.”
But the true sign to Kelly of how dominant this o-line was came later in the game, where the physical conditioning really stood out as LSU scored on five of its final eight possessions offensively.
“We’re playing two true freshmen at the tackle positions. I think that might be our third lineup change this year so continuity is important on the offensive line,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of calls but I would say physical conditioning was really huge in the second half and we were able to move them off the ball late.”
“All in all, to have two true freshmen, two young guys, the third starting lineup we’ve had, I’m really pleased with what they did tonight.”
This group will now work towards continued continuity up front and cleaning up the penalties is a must. But this is a tremendous sign that the future of the o-line is already here and the program is seeing positive results.