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The Texas Bowl between the LSU Tigers and Kansas State Wildcats is less than a week away. At this point, it is unclear who exactly will be available for either team given opt-outs, injuries, and the dreaded COVID-19. Despite all of that interim head coach Brad Davis is looking forward to the opportunity of leading his team out onto the field at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
We are still awaiting any confirmation on whether or not Garrett Nussmeier will be able to start this game and maintain his redshirt status. If the waiver is denied there are a couple of contingencies on the table for Davis and the Tigers.
Will it be one of the walk-on quarterbacks in Matt O’Dowd or Savion Faulk? Will it be a wildcat quarterback in Jontre Kirklin? The veteran wide receiver hasn’t played quarterback since high school but he might be the best option for the team given who is available.
As we look towards the bowl game, we are highlighting five players who are keys to the game.
QB Jontre Kirklin
(The Tennessean/USA TODAY Sports)
Heading into this game, LSU’s quarterback situation is messy. Max Johnson is no longer with the team, Myles Brennan won’t be back on the field until next year, and Garrett Nussmeier doesn’t want to burn his redshirt.
This leaves LSU with no scholarship quarterbacks left. It means they either must start a walk-on or get creative. If the rumor mill is right, wide receiver Jontre Kirklin might be QB1 for this game.
Kirklin is known for his wheels and if he’s in there, LSU might run something closer to the triple option than what we’ve seen from them all season.
Nobody knows how well this would work out, but it’d at least be fun to see.
LB Micah Baskerville
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LSU will not have linebacker Damone Clark in this game. Clark, regarded as one of the best linebackers in CFB, was a force all year for the LSU defense. He’ll be missed against a run-heavy team such as Kansas State.
Playing next to Clark for most of the year was Micah Baskerville. While Clark got most of the praise, Baskerville had some big moments himself. He’ll need to have a big game here in Clark’s absence.
After the Arkansas game, PFF named Baskerville their defensive player of the week. He’s more than capable of filling Clark’s shoes. LSU can’t afford a bad game from Baskerville if they want to win this game.
WR Jack Bech
AP Photo/Matthew Hinton
There are a few pass catchers that could have been named here, but given the circumstances at QB, Jack Bech seemed like the best choice.
Bech has impressed since day one. He’s not the biggest guy, but his quickness makes him jump out when you turn on the tape.
As stated before, nobody knows what LSU is going to do at quarterback, but there aren’t really any good options. Whoever plays will need all the help he can get.
Bech is the type of pass-catcher that’s a quarterback’s best friend. He’s got good hands and knows how to work the middle of the field. He might not be the guy who can take the top off a defense, but he’s able to turn quick throws into big plays with his running ability.
Whoever starts at tackle
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
This should really just say the entire offensive line. Again, LSU will need to put their quarterback in the best possible scenario. Part of that involves the offensive line having one of their best games of the year.
Six different players took snaps at left tackle for LSU this year with Cam Wire and Garrett Dellinger seeing the most action. Wire struggled to stay healthy all year, which left Dellinger as the starter for the final two games of the regular season.
Dellinger looked fine, especially considering his freshman status. Wire was decent when he played as well. It’s not clear who will get the start in the bowl game but even if Wire is healthy, expect to see Dellinger get some snaps there too. Whoever is in there will need to hold that side down given LSU’s inefficiency at other spots on the line.
DE BJ Ojulari
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Coming into the season, some expected Ojulari to blossom into one of the best pass rushers in the country. While he may not have been in the elite of the elite, he had a really good year.
Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye both went down with season-ending injuries. That left Ojulari carrying the load for the pass rush. He’ll have to do that again here.
Kansas State will not throw the ball a lot. It’s no secret they want to hand it off and establish their run game. There will still be third downs where they have no choice and that’s when Ojulari needs to shine.
LSU is thin all over their defense. A good pass rush can help mitigate that by keeping Kansas State on their toes. Ojulari needs to be a constant presence in the backfield.