LSU State of the Program: Breaking down the wide receiver room
We still have a long way to go before toe touches leather in September.
With signing day and most of the transfer action in the rearview mirror, this is usually one of the quieter times of the college football calendar. That will soon change with spring practice fast approaching at LSU.
Brian Kelly is set to begin his second year in Baton Rouge after a 10-win season in Year 1. Leading up to spring practice, we’re taking a look at the state of the program.
Position by position, present and future.
Now, it’s the wide receivers. Here’s a breakdown of how LSU shapes up at pass catcher entering 2023 and beyond.
(Check out our previous position breakdowns where we look at quarterbacks and running backs.)
The immediate future
(Photo by Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images)
Currently, LSU’s wide receiver group is led by [autotag]Malik Nabers[/autotag]. I should note that the rising junior was arrested in New Orleans earlier this week for the illegal possession of a weapon, but the charges have since been dropped.
At this moment, we don’t know if Kelly or LSU will take any disciplinary action, and if they do, whether it will be public. Things can always change, but as of now, Nabers is an LSU Tiger and projects to be out there come fall.
Out of the 507 FBS receivers with at least 25 targets, Nabers sat 88th percentile in yards per route run and 82nd percentile in yards per target. He added volume to his production with 72 catches on the year. He did that in an offense that struggled to consistently push the ball downfield through the air.
Nabers will be joined by a couple of veteran returnees in [autotag]Brian Thomas Jr.[/autotag] and [autotag]Kyren Lacy[/autotag].
Thomas is a large presence who can line up anywhere and win jump-ball situations. He took strides last year and LSU will hope to see more entering 2023. Lacy, a transfer from Louisiana, proved to be an effective route runner but had drop issues at times.
From the transfer portal, LSU brings in [autotag]Aaron Anderson[/autotag], a speedster out of New Orleans who spent his freshman year at Alabama.
Anderson dealt with injuries in 2022. How much, and at what level he can contribute are unknown. Anderson could be a legit weapon this fall, or he could take another year to develop.
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LSU signed several receivers in its 2023 class.
[autotag]Shelton Sampson[/autotag], [autotag]Jalen Brown[/autotag] and [autotag]Kyle Parker[/autotag] will bring an influx of young talent to the room.
LSU needed it after not signing much at the position last year. There are veteran options in the room now, but when they leave, the next group will need to be ready to go and LSU these three could do just that.
Sampson is your prototypical receiver at 6-foot-4 that can do a little bit of everything. Coaches and analysts have raved about Brown’s track speed and Parker’s route-running.
These three might not add much this year, though it shouldn’t be ruled out. Expectations are high for all three as they begin their careers in Baton Rouge.
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Wide receiver is a position that requires depth, and LSU will need it.
Nabers, Thomas and Lacy form a solid trio of vets, and the aforementioned freshmen are promising too. But things never go exactly to plan. Players get hurt, some take longer to develop, etc.
Should any issues arise, LSU could turn to the likes of [autotag]Chris Hilton Jr.[/autotag] and [autotag]Landon Ibieta[/autotag].
Hilton has size and speed and was in the rotation before an early-season ACL tear ended his season. His big play ability is a skill set LSU could use and he’ll have an opportunity to earn playing time.
Ibieta was a three-star and top 500 prospect in the 2022 class. He’s another speed guy who could carve out a niche for himself.
The Columbus Dispatch
LSU already has a receiver committed in its 2024 class with Georgia native [autotag]Joseph Stone[/autotag]. Stone’s a four-star and a top 150 recruit per the 247 Composite Rankings.
LSU’s shown interest in [autotag]Koby Young[/autotag], a three-star from New Orleans. [autotag]Ryan Wingo[/autotag], one of the top players in the class has visited LSU, but the Tigers have some ground to make up there.
LSU’s after [autotag]Noreel White[/autotag], one of the best players in the state of Mississippi, but he looks Ole Miss bound at this point. Another early name to watch is [autotag]Jelani Watkins[/autotag] out of Houston.
Its still early, and other names will emerge as the 2024 cycle heats up.
LSU doesn’t need to strike gold at receiver next year after a strong class this year, and guys like Anderson and Ibieta have several years of eligibility remaining.
The bottom line
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It’s hard not to like where LSU sits at wide receiver right now. But the group had high expectations the last couple of years and circumstances haven’t always panned out the way LSU would like.
Early in 2021, the outlook was bright as could be. [autotag]Kayson Boutte[/autotag] was returning. Nabers, [autotag]Jack Bech[/autotag], Thomas, [autotag]Deion Smith[/autotag] and Hilton formed an elite freshmen class, and guys like [autotag]Trey Palmer[/autotag] and [autotag]Jaray Jenkins[/autotag] could contribute too.
Boutte got hurt in 2021, and his last year and change at LSU didn’t go to plan. Bech, Smith and Palmer have hit the transfer portal, and Hilton tore his ACL after showing some flashes.
LSU will hope Nabers can follow up his 1,000-yard season with another this fall. And if Thomas continues to progress, LSU has one of the better one-two punches in the SEC.
Fans should feel good about this group, but keep that optimism at a cautious level.
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