LSU football: Individual awards for the 2021 season
LSU had its 2nd consecutive disappointing season.
The Tigers were ranked No. 16 in the AP preseason poll, but they followed up their 5-5 record last season with a 6-6 record after Saturday night’s 27-24 victory over No. 15 Texas A&M at Tiger Stadium.
Many of the team’s best players missed significant time because of injury.
Things could have been worse if not for the contributions by the injured players before they were sidelined, and by players with lesser profiles who assumed bigger roles than expected.
Here are individual awards for the 2021 LSU team:
Team MVP: T Austin Deculus
There were other strong candidates for this award whose names appear further down. But this season was fraught with complications from an inordinate number of injuries, the in-season firing of head coach Ed Orgeron and players leaving the program.
Deculus, who has played in more LSU games than any player in school history, was MVP not only because of his steady play on an otherwise inconsistent line but also because of his leadership, work ethic and calming influence on younger teammates.
Offensive MVP: WR Kayshon Boutte
Boutte played in only 6 games before suffering a season-ending injury. But he was the most productive receiver in America and the primary reason for whatever success the Tigers had before he went down.
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Defensive MVP: LB Damone Clark
Clark is a finalist for the Butkus Award and has been by far LSU’s most productive player on defense.
Not only does he have the stats to demonstrate his effectiveness, but his leadership has helped the defense overcome a rough stretch at midseason and play much better during the final third of the season.
True Freshman of the Year: WR Jack Bech
Bech was the top complement to Boutte among the receivers during the 1st half of the season, and he comfortably assumed the role of No. 1 receiver after Boutte’s injury.
Transfer of the Year: Mike Jones Jr.
The Tigers didn’t get a whole lot of mileage out of their transfers. But this former Clemson defender found a niche when defensive coordinator Daronte Jones tweaked the defensive approach during the open date.
Jones became effective as a safety/linebacker hybrid.
Most improved: LB Micah Baskerville
This award could have gone to Clark. But his fellow senior linebacker made significant strides as well and deserves recognition.
Baskerville is one of the Tigers’ most instinctive defenders, and he finished 2nd only to Clark in tackles.
Biggest surprise: DB Cameron Lewis
After seeing very limited playing time during his 1st 4 seasons, Lewis was little more than an afterthought entering the season, with several highly touted DBs ahead of him on the depth chart.
But he kept moving up the depth chart because of attrition in the secondary. He finished the season as the Tigers’ No. 4 tackler.
Play of the Year: Game-winner against Texas A&M
The Tigers were on the verge of losing the finale to the Aggies and finishing with a losing record for the 1st time since 1999.
But Max Johnson drove them into scoring position in the final minute and launched a perfect pass to Jaray Jenkins, who ran under it, snared the football and crossed the goal line to give LSU a 27-24 victory in Orgeron’s final game and secure a bowl bid.
It was a magical moment at the end of a difficult season mostly devoid of special moments.
Win of the Year: Texas A&M
The 49-42 victory against Florida before Florida stopped being Florida was the leader in the clubhouse before the dramatic finish to the regular season.
But the comeback to defeat the No. 15 team in the CFP rankings, to send Orgeron out with a win and extend the season with a bowl trip trumped it.