I wanted to be wrong about Kayshon Boutte.

I wanted to go into the first week of December and make the case in a column for why Boutte was worthy of the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football. I wanted to write and talk about how he’d bounced back from 2 ankle surgeries and how he worked through the growing pains of a new starting quarterback. I wanted to be able to look back on Brian Kelly’s comments about “learning his last name” and treat it as a silly spring headline that ultimately didn’t mean anything.

I wanted Boutte to escape all of those potential land mines I repeatedly referenced in the offseason and have the All-American season he’s capable of.

Instead, though, it already looks like I was right about Boutte.

One week was all it took for Boutte’s season to reach a boiling point. A month after confirming that he nearly entered the transfer portal, his season began without a catch for the first 54 minutes and 29 seconds. Credit Florida State for making life difficult on Boutte, who had to watch an FSU linebacker get an offensive touch (and touchdown) before he did.

That didn’t come without some drama. At one point, the ABC broadcast crew highlighted Boutte’s frustration. He appeared to stop running a route and cameras caught him being visibly frustrated with new LSU starting quarterback Jayden Daniels:

Contrary to what Greg McElroy said on the broadcast, it didn’t appear that Daniels and Boutte ironed things out. Why? After the devastating loss to Florida State, Boutte scrubbed all mentions of LSU from his social media accounts.


We’ll wait and see what that means. Boutte is draft-eligible at season’s end, so in theory, he could opt out of the rest of the 2022 season and start training if he wanted to do that. Of course in an ideal world, that disastrous situation would be avoided and LSU would have its best player for the entirety of the 2022 season.

But what’s evident is that Boutte’s eventful offseason wasn’t just a feeling-out process. You’ve got a star receiver who is unhappy. Clearly. He’s used to being force-fed targets by Max Johnson. The guy had 83 catches in 16 career games heading into 2022. Now Johnson and so many of the familiar faces Boutte was surrounded by in his first 2 years at LSU have moved on. That includes the coaching staff who recruited him.

Yes, it was alarming to hear Kelly refer to Boutte “reengaging” with the team in the spring. It’s still alarming to think that they clearly didn’t see eye to eye from the jump. As recently as last week, though, Kelly addressed the uncertainty about Boutte’s role with the 2022 squad.

“I think he’s rounded himself into playing shape,” Kelly said on the SEC teleconference last Wednesday before the FSU game. “Obviously the injury put him in a situation where we had to be careful with him during summer training. … He committed himself into our training room and I think he’s in a position now where he can have a great season. He’s got explosiveness. He can catch the long ball, break tackles. He’s an all-around receiver from all those facets.”

To be clear, Boutte can still have a great season. For all I know, he and Daniels will connect for 3 touchdowns in the first half of Saturday’s game against FCS Southern and the good vibes will be back.

But even if that does happen, what’s to say Boutte won’t bail the next time LSU’s offense sputters? Let’s be honest here. As long as he’s healthy, I’m not so sure his NFL Draft stock would take a dive if he bailed on the 2022 season. Would it permanently damage some relationships in Baton Rouge? Absolutely. Am I saying Boutte is definitely going to quit on his teammates because he doesn’t like the circumstances? Not at all. I learned long ago that trying to get into the mind of 18-22 year-old kids is like trying to predict which way the wind will blow.

What we do know is that the morning after his first game with the new coaching staff “Kayshon Boutte” was trending nationally on Twitter.

If he had gone off for 200 yards and a game-winning touchdown, that’d be a different story. He had 1/10 of that production and made more noise with his social media-scrubbing than anything he did on the field.

Outside of Boutte reinjuring his ankle, it really couldn’t have gone much worse for him. The optimist would say perhaps that means things can only get better, and perhaps it was magnified that in his first game in 11 months, the Louisiana native wasn’t ready to have that kind of a night playing in the Superdome. The realist would say that Boutte’s night wasn’t just the byproduct of a couple miscommunications with his new quarterback.

By the way, credit Daniels for clearly recognizing the importance of talking things over with Boutte. Lost in the shuffle of the drama-filled evening was that he finished tied for the team-high in targets (6). It wasn’t like Daniels and Boutte were at odds on the sideline and the new LSU quarterback didn’t even look in his direction.

Would it have been nice to see a pop pass or a quick screen to the preseason All-American? Definitely. If Boutte is going to continue to wear the highly coveted No. 7 for the LSU — something that’s not taken lightly on the Bayou — there needs to be an even greater emphasis to manufacture touches for him.

LSU’s poor offensive line play can’t be the reason that Boutte is without a touch halfway into the 4th quarter. That’s on Daniels, Kelly, new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and obviously, Boutte. You can’t complain about a lack of touches and also be the guy who doesn’t look for the football at the top of the route in the red zone. It’s a 2-way street.

Boutte’s next direction is unknown. Maybe he’ll talk it out and get back on the fast track to superstardom. Or perhaps that first 2022 pothole will be all she wrote. After Sunday night, it certainly feels more like the latter.

I hope I’m wrong.