The news that BJ Ojulari wouldn’t return for a senior season didn’t take many by surprise over the weekend.
Indeed, LSU is in a position where it must rebuild in many areas. Still, one particularly thin spot is that edge rusher, JACK linebacker role that Ojulari fit so well over the last few seasons. There hasn’t been much movement for the Tigers in the portal outside of a handful of offers.
Brian Kelly and his staff spent most of last week on the road in recruits’ houses, trying to make their final pitches to stay committed to the program or to hop on board. The key from the very start for Kelly has been to build this program up from freshmen up, and that’s what took priority even though the transfer portal window officially opened. Since the beginning of last week, the Tigers have officially lost players to the portal and several more, like Ojulari, Jay Ward, and Mekhi Garner, to the NFL draft. None of the moves have been necessarily surprising, considering the numbers game at each position. There figures to be another wave of players who elect to enter the portal sometime in the next several weeks.
But getting back to Ojulari’s JACK position that is now vacant, the loss of senior Desmond Little, who also had some experience in that role, has reverted to the Tigers needing to make some upgrades at that position. Sai’vion Jones is a returning name who could make that shift to JACK linebacker, though someone will also need to replace veteran Ali Gaye on the other edge rushing side.
That’s where the bulk of the Tigers’ offers in the portal comes into play. While there are certainly many more to come, the one position that’s been given a lot of focus has been along the defensive line, particularly the JACK linebacker spot. LSU offered Coastal Carolina transfer Josiah Stewart and Oregon transfer Bradyn Swinson during the first week the portal was opened.
Both players have years of experience under their belts and two years of eligibility remaining. Swinson is an exciting name due to his relationship with defensive line coach Jamar Cain dating back to his high school recruitment. At the same time, Stewart picked up freshman All-American honors in 2021 by 247Sports, ESPN, and the FWAA after a 12.5 sack year.
That JACK linebacker role is so important for defense because the player is asked to not only be an elite pass rusher but also to drop in coverage on zone defenses and be light on his feet. Getting a veteran player who can bridge the gap or provide quality depth in the hopes of internal development from guys like Jones, Zavier Carter, or freshman Quency Wiggins is an optimal scenario.
The Tigers have also dished out offers to Western Michigan defensive tackle transfer Braden Fiske, who has one year of eligibility remaining, Arizona three-year starter Kyon Barrs, and Shorter University tight end Kyle Morlock, who has two years left of college ball. Whether LSU lands either of those players is currently unknown, but it shines a light on positions the Tigers feel there needs to be added depth.
The loss of Kole Taylor to the transfer portal heightens the depth needs at tight end as the purple and gold just got finished hosting two 2023 recruits in Ka’Morreun Pimpton and Jackson McGowan to go along with commit Mac Markway potentially.
“I loved it,” Pimpton told Geaux247. “It was a dream come true to be there, and it was great to meet coach Kelly and his staff. LSU has a great setup with their academics. They definitely know how to graduate their student-athletes.”
Whatever happens over the next few weeks in particular, it’s clear that there’s a plan of attack for LSU, and it’s now about pressing the right buttons to fill out the best 2023 roster possible.