Going 11-12 for the last two seasons has not gone down well with the decision makers in Baton Rouge. For that reason, Ed Orgeron was kicked out in favor of Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly. He has shown that he can win anywhere, but the title still eludes him.
Turning the LSU Tigers around won’t be an easy task, but Kelly understood that he couldn’t build this team through the recruiting class alone. He would have to dive into the transfer portal to get instant impact players for this team.
However, they still have a lot of impact players on the roster. Guys like Kayshon Boutte are well known merchandise. He will be the top target on the attacking side of the ball. What about the escape boys?
LSU Tigers Wire lists their list of 10 breakthrough candidates:
Myles Brennan, quarterback
We’ll start with one of the quarterbacks competing for the runway in 2022, Myles Brennan. The sixth-year senior returns for another chance to build his NFL stock. Brennan put his name on the transfer portal but withdrew after speaking with new head coach Brian Kelly.
Brennan was expected to be the next starter after Joe Burrow’s departure after the 2019 season. He only lasted three starts before an injury sidelined him in 2020. The following season, he was sidelined before camp ever started, which gave Max Johnson the nod. Without Johnson and a lot of inexperience behind him, Brennan could be the man. Kelly will probably want an experienced passer to lead the way in his first season.
That’s why we put Brennan at the top of the breakout list.
BJ Ojulari, Edge Defender
The best choice on the defensive side of the ball is edge defender BJ Ojulari. He led the team in sacks and quarterback pressures as a sophomore. His role became huge due to the end of season injuries of Ali Gaye and Andre Anthony.
As Gaye returns, he is expected to be the defensive entry point against Ojulari. Based on his performance last season and how others have performed under Jamar Cain, Ojulari should be a key player for the LSU defense in 2022.
Micah Baskerville, Linebacker
Another senior defenseman returns for the LSU defense with linebacker Micah Baskerville. He will probably be the one to fill the void that Damone Clark left behind. He was just behind Clark in production, but did not play in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State.
Baskerville finished the 2021 campaign with 83 tackles, nine TFLs, two sacks, one interception and three defending passes. Expect him to also take on the leadership void that Clark left behind. He will be needed to help the team cover a relatively new group in secondary.
John Emery Jr, Running Back
Emery has not been seen on the field in a regular season game since 2020. Against the Florida Gators, he carried the ball over seven yards just four times, the worst game of the season. However, in 2022 he should have improved a lot after having a full season off.
Expect Emery to be the protagonist of the attack and a double threat weapon for Brian Kelly. Considering how some running backs performed under Kelly, you’d have to believe Emery will take the yards on the ground and through the air. Emery is a talented full-back and next season he should show his talents.
Mike Jones Jr, Linebacker
In 2021, Micah Baskerville was Robin from Damone Clark’s Batman. Coming season it could be Mike Jones Jr. who takes on the role of Robin in the linebacker room. Jones will return for his second season in Baton Rouge following Clemson’s move in 2021.
Jones played very minimal snaps for LSU in 2021. He appeared in 13 games with 34 total tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack and two quarterback hurries. Now that Jones is stepping into an entry-level role, his impact should be on a much larger scale.
Malik Nabers, wide receiver
Nabers worked his way up the depth chart as a freshman, seeing more action after Kayshon Boutte’s loss in the Kentucky game. Another freshman receiver who saw a lot of action along the trajectory for the offense.
He appeared in 11 games with 28 receptions for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Nabers should have a bigger impact on the team in 2022, especially with the amount of attention Boutte will receive.
Kyren Lacy, wide receiver
Lacy is the newcomer but he has been consistent for ULL over the past two seasons. In 23 career games at Lafayette, Lacy racked up 50 receptions for 668 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In the 2021 campaign, he led the Ragin Cajuns with six touchdowns. With the Tigers, Lacy has the opportunity to make an even bigger impact. The wide receiver corps lacks talent, but he brings a mismatch in size to the position that Mike Denbrock can take advantage of.
Damarius McGhee, Cornerback
If there’s one position group that needs a breakout star, it’s the cornerback position. The next man could be Damarius McGhee, as CBS Sports recently wrote.
The freshman cornerback could very well be that man to step through the transfer portal alongside the slew of newcomers with Greg Brooks Jr and Mekhi Garner. McGhee saw plenty of game time against Kansas State, his work in the spring and fall camps will be crucial to his success in 2022.
Noah Cain, Running Back
No Ty Davis Prize in 2022, we’re looking at Penn State newcomer Noah Cain. The former Nittany Lions rider comes to the LSU Tigers through the transfer portal. He’s been dealing with injuries, but maybe a fresh start in Louisiana will do him some good.
Last season, the Tigers missed a legitimate RB2 behind Ty Davis-Price. Cain can give them what they lack if the RB1 is ineffective in games next season. The former four-star running back just needs to stay healthy enough to do it.
Jay Ward, Security
With a new looking secondary, safety play will be necessary. That’s where Jay Ward comes in. He chose to return to LSU for another season and Ward is the veteran man at the back of the defense.
Ward was a key player on safety and gives this team some flexibility in coverage. As a former cornerback, he provides the team with cover from the safety position, allowing others to play near the line of scrimmage. Ward led last season in interceptions with two.
Ward could be the main cog for a secondary that underperformed last year with a lot of sales.