There was another wave of news that went official this week as LSU announced the addition of three more transfers to the 2023 roster.
Coach Brian Kelly made the signings of cornerbacks Duce Chestnut and JK Johnson official while also adding Texas transfer edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo to the group as well. That now makes 10 transfers signed and 25 more freshmen who are joining the program as well.
The Tigers are now squarely in that “mid to high 30s range” of new additions that Kelly alluded to way back when the freshman class was announced during the early signing period. But a lot has transpired since then and there are other needs that have cropped up since the end of the Citrus bowl game.
LSU has watched two key young pieces enter the transfer portal in quarterback Walker Howard and linebacker DeMario Tolan. Tolan is off to Auburn and while there’s plenty of speculation around where Howard will wind up, either TCU or a handful of SEC schools seem like the most likely options.
These are the two losses via the transfer portal that are a little harder for the purple and gold to stomach as both figured into the future timeline of both the quarterback and linebacker rooms. Tolan was earning first team reps by the middle of his 2022 true freshman season and seemed the most likely candidate to start alongside Greg Penn and Harold Perkins in 2023.
But now LSU is forced to once again step back and evaluate what’s coming and if there is additional help needed at both quarterback and linebacker. Quarterback seems like a long shot, at least for now, as there’s always that possibility of a doomsday scenario where the program loses not only Howard but also Garrett Nussmeier after the spring.
There are no indications of that happening in light of Howard’s decision and the fact that Nussmeier has been extremely loyal to LSU, publicly stating how much he wants to be in Baton Rouge. It’s still a possibility that Kelly and the coaching staff will need to prepare for either way.
The far bigger question is at the linebacker spot and what happens behind Perkins and Penn. LSU will want to be versatile with how it uses Perkins in year two and not pigeonhole him to an inside linebacker spot. Defensive coordinator Matt House has come out and explained how the Tigers would ideally like to use Perkins going forward.
“The great thing about what Harold is that he is versatile, right? We’re going to put him in situations where he’s going to be in an opportunity to play in space and accentuate his talents,” House said ahead of the bowl game. “As I’ve said earlier, the great thing about him is that the sky’s the limit. He’s just now scratching the surface of learning football and how to play the game.”
LSU has some options on the roster, with West Weeks being the clear and obvious choice to earn reps this spring with the first team. Weeks’ brother and four-star freshman Whit will also be on campus this spring and is a candidate to earn early playing time with a need at inside linebacker. Both are technically sound, hard hitting linebackers who could make an impact at the position this spring.
Incoming freshman Christian Brathwaite is also on the roster but should those options not be quite ready for every down work, an addition via the portal is essential sometime over the next few months. The only problem is the linebacker well in the portal is relatively dry at the moment.
LSU might be in a position where it goes into the spring light on linebackers and reevaluates after the spring to see if any more names hop into the portal. The other option is to add another freshman in the February signing period. However, that neither helps with the spring roster nor the veteran help you’d ideally want as a potential contributor in 2023.
If West and Whit Weeks prove ready this spring then some of that concern is alleviated but the linebacker depth will be a question mark entering the offseason.