Five standouts from LSU’s spring game on Saturday

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After what has felt like a long first few months of the offseason, the LSU Tigers finally took the field on Saturday for the first time under Brian Kelly for the annual National L Club Spring Game in Death Valley.

There were some key players unavailable — including star receiver Kayshon Boutte — and are several intriguing additions that haven’t arrived on campus yet, such as five-star true freshman linebacker Harold Perkins and Penn State running back transfer Noah Cain.

Still, we were able to answer several pressing questions in our first look at this new Tigers team, and we have a clearer picture on where several position battles stand, including at quarterback.

With that in mind, here were five players who impressed in Saturday’s exhibition, which was ultimately called midway through the fourth quarter as the offense defeated the defense 59-31.

QB Garrett Nussmeier

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All the eyes were on the quarterback position on Saturday, and many expected it to be a dual between [autotag]Myles Brennan[/autotag] and Arizona State transfer [autotag]Jayden Daniels[/autotag]. However, the real standout from the group proved to be redshirt freshman [autotag]Garrett Nussmeier[/autotag].

The coaching staff has continued to reiterate that Nussmeier is part of this battle, and we saw why on Saturday. He was the only Tigers passer to cross the century mark, finishing 9 of 16 with 136 yards and a touchdown pass. He also led several other touchdown drives.

Each quarterback found the end zone once through the air, but none of them looked as impressive as Nussmeier. Brennan was 11 of 17 but finished with just 99 yards, while Daniels was disappointing. He finished just 3 of 9 through the air with 68 yards, though he also added a score with his legs.

True freshman Walker Howard had a nice touchdown at the end, but he doesn’t seem to be a real player in the battle. As things stand, it seems to be a race between Nussmeier and Brennan at the moment, and Nussmeier may have a better chance than anyone thought.

A lot could change between now and September, though.

WR Jack Bech

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With Boutte still recovering from injury, we got the chance to see the rest of the receiver group take center stage on Saturday. The Tigers have a group of talented sophomores at the position, and while all made some plays — including [autotag]Malik Nabers[/autotag], who made a juggling touchdown grab — there was one clear standout.

[autotag]Jack Bech[/autotag] led the team in both receptions (six) and yards (56) while also finding the end zone a team-high two times. He was all over the place on offense, and he should play a sizable role in the passing game even upon Boutte’s return.

The entire receiver group looked solid, though, and it should it be a strength of the team, especially when it gets a potential first-round pick in Boutte back.

The entire running back group

AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

Is this a bit of a cop out? Maybe.

But it’s legitimately hard to single out anyone from the running back group. They all played very well on Saturday.

This is a position group that enters the season with a lot of questions. The run game was horrendous last season, and the two leading rushers from that campaign in [autotag]Ty Davis-Price[/autotag] (NFL draft) and [autotag]Corey Kiner[/autotag] (transfer portal) are gone.

The cupboard may not be completely bare, though. Each of LSU’s top-four backs averaged more than five yards a carry with [autotag]Tre Bradford[/autotag] (86 yards on nine carries) leading the way.

[autotag]Armoni Goodwin[/autotag] had 71 yards on nine carries and scored the offense’s first touchdown, while [autotag]Josh Williams[/autotag], a former walk-on, led the team with 10 carries, which he took for 53 yards and a team-high two touchdowns.

The biggest disappointment was [autotag]John Emery Jr.[/autotag], who is returning from academic ineligibility. He only saw four carries in the spring game, but he looked good on those opportunities, taking them for 24 yards. It’s hard to gauge what the carry distribution will look like here, but LSU certainly has options.

OT Will Campbell

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While the quarterback competition has been the focus this offseason, perhaps the biggest questions this team faces on either side of the ball come on the offensive line, where the Tigers have the herculean task of replacing four of five starters from a year ago.

Doing so may have just gotten quite a bit easier thanks to [autotag]Will Campbell[/autotag], though. The five-star true freshman has made quite an impression so far as an early enrollee. It was reported during camp that he was seeing time at left tackle, and indeed, he saw the bulk of the first-team reps there during the spring game.

It’s hard to put into words how impressive it is for a true freshman to start on the offensive line at a program like LSU, let alone as the blindside protector. He could quickly develop into one of the conference’s best linemen and seems to be the player to beat at left tackle right now.

DL Maason Smith

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

[autotag]Maason Smith[/autotag] arrived on campus last spring with a lot of hype as a five-star recruit. He mostly lived up to it as a true freshman, appearing in nine games and starting four with four sacks on the year.

Naturally, expectations are high for him heading into his second year, and he got off to a great start on Saturday. Though he finished the game with just three tackles, two of them were sacks, and he also netted a pass breakup.

It can be hard to gauge defensive line play in a scrimmage where hitting the quarterbacks is forbidden, but it really seems to be a strength for this LSU team. Smith was a major part of that success, and while there are questions at other parts of the defense, especially in the secondary, the defensive front for the Tigers should be strong this season.

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