Skeptic’s guide to LSU’s 2022 season

LSU is optimistic about its future under new head coach Brian Kelly.

The Tigers were a combined 11-12 in Ed Orgeron’s last 2 seasons as head coach. Kelly won 74% of his games during a 12-year tenure at Notre Dame.

Things should get better.

Eventually.

Kelly has been busy using the transfer portal and cobbled together a pretty good roster under difficult circumstances.

But this is just the first step in a challenging rebuilding process.

Orgeron was fired during last season not just because of the won-lost record, though that certainly was the bottom line, but also because the program had gone significantly backward since the 2019 CFP championship season.

ESPN’s FPI projected win total for LSU in 2022 is 7.7, which would represent marginal improvement over last season.

But the Tigers still have many question marks and don’t be surprised if Kelly’s first team falls short of the projection – as well as the record of Orgeron’s last team.

Here is a skeptic’s guide to LSU’s 2022 season:

Everyone is starting over

The players have to unlearn (at least to some degree) the way they’ve been taught to do things whether they last played for Orgeron, another college coach or a high-school coach.

Then Kelly and his staff have to teach them how they want things done. Both coordinators – Mike Denbrock (offense) and Matt House (defense) – have said they’re still polishing their systems because they’re still trying to figure out how to tailor them to their new players.

The extensive getting-acquainted period will put the Tigers behind opponents that haven’t undergone a coaching change. Only 2 of LSU’s opponents – Southern and Florida – have a first-year head coach.

One positive about this transition is that the players (at least the ones not from South Louisiana) should catch on quicker listening to Kelly than they would have trying to work through Orgeron’s thick accent.

Young depth on defense

The Tigers feel good about the talent they have on their starting defense.

The depth isn’t as good as Kelly expects it to be in a couple of years, but there are backups with enough ability to compete in the SEC.

The problem is that a lot of the more talented backups are inexperienced.

LSU knows the importance of depth in the SEC because of the physicality of the league, the heat and humidity early in the season and the inevitable injuries.

The Tigers need a lot more than 11 dependable defenders and many of those who will be called upon will be receiving on-the-job training.

No proven tight ends

The Tigers have a bunch of good wide receivers. It might even be the deepest position on the team.

That group could be even more effective if they had a reliable tight end to complement them.

But they don’t.

In fact Kelly’s best option at tight end might be to move Jack Bech there, but that would diminish their receiver corps by losing the top returning pass-catcher.

Potential means you haven’t done it

LSU has several viable candidates for carries in John Emery II, Penn State transfer Noah Cain, Armoni Goodwin, Tre Bradford and Josh Williams.

They all have potential.

Big deal.

Each has had effective moments – some longer than others – but none has demonstrated that they can be effective as someone with a dozen or more carries week in and week out.

And in the SEC, most of the good teams have at least 2 of those guys.

None of these guys have rushed for as many as 500 yards in a college season.

No clear starter at quarterback

The Tigers have 4 quarterbacks that they like in Myles Brennan, Jayden Daniels, Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard. Their competition to be the starter will extend into preseason camp.

The fact that no one has established himself as a front-runner indicates that each has question marks.

If any one of them had the arm strength, athleticism, experience, maturity and familiarity with the system required of an effective starter in the SEC, LSU would have a front-runner.

Trouble in the trenches

Kelly recently told Tiger Rag that his concern before spring practice was that the offensive line was going to be “an unmitigated disaster.”

After spring practice, he said he was more encouraged about the unit’s potential.

But the line was one of the major problems in the Tigers’ drop-off the past 2 seasons and this season it’s not going to be anywhere near where Kelly wants it to ultimately be.

It’s the primary reason that LSU’s ceiling is of average height in 2022.

View Comments

  • LSU will be improved, no doubt. They have the talent, and I believe Kelly will know how to apply it. Say what you will about Notre Dame, but he had a system in place that maximized their talent, and he inherits far more at LSU. Could be rough for the rest of us.

    • I appreciate your optimism, but he inherited about 45 scholarship players and had to scramble to fill out a roster. Even then, he didn't have enough players to hold a proper spring game. There are some freshmen coming this summer, but they won't help much. I think some people are expecting too much from Kelly's first year. Depth is an issue, and the players have to acclimate to the new staff and to each other.

  • FPI has them ranked #11 in the nation, yet has their win total at 7.7. How does that work? I think the win total is probably close, and the ranking is too high. I'm thinking 8-5 and hoping for better.

    • Patience grasshopper. Kelly is a good coach, not sure I'd say great until we see what he does at LSU with the level of competition and quite honestly a deeper level of talent than he had at ND. To me his 74% win pct at ND is not relevant considering the weak ACC schedule for the last few years and the pounding ND took every time they got in a big bowl or the CFP. But, the talent level steps up tremendously on the Bayou and his kids will get battle tested every week. I'd give him 2-3 yrs and LSU will be contenders in the West again....if there is a West.

      • Yeah, that's pretty much where I stand. He's starting over from scratch, almost, although he has the benefit of a nice WR room and DL room. But the staff he has assembled looks good, and I'm thinking incremental improvement as the players get coached up.

      • Same here. #11 in the nation and 7.7 wins just makes no sense at all. I wouldn't expect a discrepancy like that from a computer program.

  • I think a medium point of 9 wins is realistic with this team.
    I think they have the potential to win 10-11 games, though not likely.
    CBK probably thought win now, because 2023 might see a slight step back before possibly challenging for the SEC and national title in 2024.

      • You should worry about Kirby and Jimbo, since they are both clearly in Saban’s head and Texas 8&Gorfeit has more $ than Bama. Yes let’s revisit after 2024, bighead

  • Going to be a rough year for everyone in a parity-stacked west division. CBK has an excellent history of keeping his team in games in the 4th quarter and the tigahs better hope that pays off the next 2 years before the tigers come back to relevance.

  • "One positive about this transition is that the players (at least the ones not from South Louisiana) should catch on quicker listening to Kelly than they would have trying to work through Orgeron’s thick accent."

    Really?? Rather unprofessional.

  • Question: Looking back at Notre Dame's schedules the past several years, I really don't see a lot of challenging games. When they did play a superb team, they often lost the game. Notre Dame's recruiting was always pretty high in the rankings. Kelly probably can do better with recruiting at LSU, but then he will be playing a much superior schedule against the likes of Alabama, Texas A&M, and the winner of the East if he can get to an SEC Championship game. What is the likelihood he will do better at LSU?

    • Balkwyll...The chances of Kelly's LSU Tigers doing better than his Notre Dame are much higher because of one word, talent and the ability to recruit elite players. Notre Dame has always been handcuffed a bit by the academic qualifications to gain admittance. His accent has zero to do with fielding a quality team, it's about the talent and coaches.

      • Despite academic qualifications, Notre Dame still had top quality recruiting classes. He can't do that much better at LSU. Notre Dame averaged #12 in national recruiting between 2010 and 2019. Like I said, he can do better at LSU, but he also has much fiercer competition.

        • If he can recruit anywhere close to his three predecessors then he will have much better talent than he ever had at ND. LSU has had talent good enough to win multiple national championships and ND hasn’t had any rosters that could legitimately come close to winning one. Saying he had 12th ranked talent at ND sounds good but there is an enormous talent gap between the top 5 and 12 which has been proven in the playoff games. Don’t just look at recruiting rankings look at the number of players they place in the NFL.

        • ND's actually recruiting better now that Kelly's gone. Take that how you want to, but it's true.

        • Gig em....
          Notre Dame won't be that high once all the other top recruits start commiting to LSU, Bama, etc.

      • Like similar institutions, Notre Dame finds a way for talented football players to gain admittance.

      • To be fair, Notre Dame is recruiting much better in their first full year without him at the helm.

        ND has the #1 recruiting ranking for 2023, with an average player rating of 93.56. Even though we're still early and they have 13 players signed, they've already signed as many 5* & 4* players as their previous years' average under Kelly. If every other player they sign is a 3* or less, they'll still be at their average, and they're likely to do a lot better than that when it's done. They won't finish in first, but they'll do better than they did under Kelly.

        Maybe the biggest handcuff against ND was actually Kelly's personality and distaste for recruiting.

        • It’s really early in the recruiting process and NIL has changed everything. Is ND throwing now throwing money at recruits? I don’t know but I do know that the overall recruiting landscape has changed overnight.

        • It’s only a matter of time before TAM moves up to the #1 2023 recruiting class by again exploiting NIL.

  • well I dont think orgerons and kellys accent will have any impact whatsoever on the players learning. you can get by without really good pass catching tight ends if they are really good blockers. But if you are light in both areas that is a big detriment. LSU will likely experience some problems this season, maybe two seasons, but kelly is a better coach than many SDS posters give him credit for. I think he and LSU will be very formidable and in the hunt for the west, the SEC and the NC in 2-3 years if the recruiting stays on track which I have little doubt it will. Obviously they have to get into the NIL money like everybody else but thats true for everyone. if you arent NILing you are dieing.

  • First and foremost this is The SEC, The King Of College Football.Notre Dame and that great lake conference is always over rated. Just look at the CFP performancea and the bowl games too.
    Kelly is now in the Big League SEC.
    It just means more.
    SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC
    SEC SEC
    DO I THINK LSwho can win a National title, yes I do.

Published by
Les East

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