When we talk about schedule difficulty, we usually talk about the opposing teams as a whole.
One element that can fly under the radar is the individual players that LSU will have to face this fall. Not all of these guys are on good teams, but they’re stars in their own right.
Some players are so good that they can carry their team to victory on any given day. These are the guys that coaches spend hours focusing on in the film room in hopes of coming up with a game plan that can contain them.
Remember what Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons did to LSU in 2017? Dak Prescott’s performance in 2014 is another one, or even Arkansas wide receiver Cobi Hamilton’s entire career.
For the purposes of this article, I am not going to include Bryce Young or Will Anderson, the two Alabama stars that have a chance to be the top two picks in next year’s draft. To most, they are no secret and the clear-cut best players LSU will face in 2022.
From hard-hitting safeties to dynamic quarterbacks, LSU’s schedule is full of other guys that could give Brian Kelly and the Tigers some fits.
This list will be in the order of LSU’s schedule, starting with a Florida State defensive back.
Florida State DB Akeem Dent
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To really impact a game in the secondary, you have to be really good at what you do. Florida State’s Akeem Dent is one of the best.
Among safeties with at least 200 coverage snaps, Dent led the ACC in passer rating when targeted and was top five in opponent completion percentage.
He has the ability to play the traditional free safety spot, drop down in the box, cover in the slot, and even bump out to the wide corner spot. Dent arrived in Tallahassee in 2019 as the seventh-best corner in his class according to the 247Sports Composite.
LSU’s offense will just be settling in when that opener rolls around. Whoever the starting quarterback is will need time to get comfortable with the receivers and offensive line. The presence of Dent could create some problems if the LSU offense comes out shaky.
Auburn RB Tank Bigsby
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LSU is probably the only team in the SEC happy to see Bo Nix go. There were some rumors that Auburn would be losing star running back Tank Bigsby too, but in the end, Bigsby elected to remain at Auburn.
Since 2020, Isaiah Spiller and Chris Rodriguez are the only two SEC running backs with more yards to their name than Bigsby. On paper, LSU could end up being a better team than Auburn, but Bigsby is the type of player that can carry his team to victory if the Tigers can’t stop the run.
Florida QB Anthony Richardson
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Florida has a few talented players capable of posing threats this fall, but Anthony Richardson seems like the best fit here.
Richardson generates mixed feelings around the sport. He’s shown up on some 2023 draft boards with some analysts projecting a breakout year. Others still want to see a lot more from the talented junior.
When Richardson was on last year, he was a playmaker. In limited snaps against South Florida, he looked like a cheat code, ripping off multiple big plays on the ground and through the air.
Against LSU, he racked up four total touchdowns, including a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass. Richardson ended up making some costly mistakes against the Tigers, though, representing the inconsistency he showed throughout the year.
If Richardson puts it together, he’s going to be scary, and the defense tasked with stopping him will have a problem on their hands.
Ole Miss LT Jeremy James
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Out of all the returning tackles in the SEC, nobody had a higher PFF pass blocking grade than James last year.
James allowed just one sack all year as he anchored the right tackle position for the Rebels. In 2020 as a redshirt freshman, he looked like one of the best guards in the SEC.
He’ll now take over left tackle as Nick Broeker, who’s a really solid player in his own right, slides inside to show off his guard skills to NFL scouts.
LSU looks good as the pass rusher spot, it may even be the strength of the team this fall. James looms large for an Ole Miss offense that ranks just 114th in returning production. A good offensive line can elevate an otherwise middling offense and James might have that capability for Ole Miss.
Texas A&M DB Antonio Johnson
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There were a few Texas A&M players that could have gone here, even some other defensive backs, but Johnson could be one of the best defenders in the country.
He excels as a slot defender, where he was arguably the best in the SEC in 2021. He proved himself as a tackler too, as Tennessee’s Theo Johnson was the only SEC corner with more tackles than Johnson last fall.
Johnson led the conference in allowing just 5.6 yards per reception, coming in over two yards better than Ole Miss’ Tylan Knight, who was second with 7.8 allowed per catch.
Johnson was a top-five safety in the 2020 signing class and is already showing up on 2023 big boards with an opportunity to go in the first round.
LSU won’t face Johnson until the final game of the regular season, so the young wide receivers may have settled in by then. The Tigers’ talented wide receiving core against Texas A&M’s secondary will be a fun battle to watch.