When Ja’Marr Chase was introduced as a starter on NBC’s Super Bowl LVI broadcast, he didn’t say that he went to college at LSU. Instead, he went in a slightly different direction.
“Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver U.”
Somewhere, an Alabama fan rolled their eyes.
In Chase’s defense, he just had one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a rookie receiver in the NFL. Fellow first-round picks Justin Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. both have multiple All-Pro nods, as well, while Jarvis Landry is a 5-time Pro Bowl wideout. LSU didn’t have 4 receivers drafted in the first round in a 2-year stretch like Alabama, but making the claim that it’s “Wide Receiver U” certainly has more legs now than it ever did.
And if you look at the Bayou Bengals’ group of wideouts for 2022, you might not scoff at any “Wide Receiver U” claims. In fact, the Tigers somehow have the best group of receivers returning in the SEC.
That’s with Chase, Jefferson and Terrance Marshall all catching passes on Sundays. That’s with a new coaching staff. That’s with having 5 receivers enter the transfer portal since the start of the 2021 season.
But yes, the SEC’s best collection of 2022 receivers is in Baton Rouge.
It helps when you have the best returning wideout in the league. That’s what Kayshon Boutte is. If not for Jaxson Smith-Njigba going full video game mode in the Rose Bowl, we’d probably see Boutte all over the way-too-early All-America teams alongside 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison.
Wait, really? Boutte hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season like Cedric Tillman, who will return to catch passes from Hendon Hooker. If you just glanced at Boutte’s season-by-season numbers, you’d think he was a good, not great player who probably is benefitting from the great LSU receivers who came before him.
There’s no denying what the strength of LSU’s roster is. There’s really not much of an argument against LSU having the best group of returning receivers in the SEC, either. Here’s how many top-5 receivers return from each SEC team (based on 2021 receiving yards):
- LSU, 5
- Texas A&M, 4
- Georgia, 3
- Mizzou, 3
- MSU, 3
- South Carolina, 3
- Tennessee, 3
- Auburn, 2
- Florida, 2
- Ole Miss, 2
- Vanderbilt, 2
- Alabama, 1
- Arkansas, 1
- Kentucky, 1
And for what it’s worth, A&M lost leading receiver Jalen Wydermyer and its 4 top returning receivers had a combined 103 catches for 1,260 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s essentially half the production of those 5 leading returning receivers for LSU.
Consider that just another reason why this argument belongs to LSU. Of course, the new LSU standard is Jefferson and Chase, even though it shouldn’t be. There’s a chance that the Tigers will never have a duo like that ever again.
But what’s clear is this 2022 group is loaded with depth that it hasn’t had since that 2019 squad. Perhaps that’ll be what allows LSU to avoid a setback year to kick off the Kelly era.
If nothing else, those wideouts should give Kelly plenty of reasons to keep dancing.