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Texas A&M Football

LSU looks to replicate 2022 success with defensive improvement

May 31, 2023
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The defense of LSU’s SEC West Division crown may depend heavily on LSU’s defense.

In finishing first in the SEC West race a year ago, the Tigers fielded a productive offense that averaged 34.5 points. That offensive unit figures to be even better in 2023.

But the defense is even more in need of improvement.

That statement might seem inaccurate on the surface. LSU allowed only 22.5 points per game last season.

However, against SEC competition, that average swells to 28.5 points. LSU allowed more than 30 points in five games last season. In their three losses against SEC opponents, LSU allowed 40 points to Tennessee, 38 to Texas A&M and 50 to Georgia.

The Tigers also allowed 35 points in a victory over Florida and 31 in a win over Alabama.

Repeating that generosity may prevent LSU from repeating in the SEC West.

Yet, the Tigers have good reasons to anticipate a bolstered defense.

Stellar defensive tackle Maason Smith is back from an injury that forced him to miss all but one game in 2022. He’ll team up with Mekhi Wingo to head what projects to be a strong defensive line.

The linebackers may be even stronger with three returning starters, led by sophomore Harold Perkins.

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
In Brian Kelly’s first season at LSU, he led the Tigers to an SEC West title.

There are concerns with pass defense, though. Six opponents passed for 239 yards or more. Five had multiple touchdown passes.

Safety Greg Brooks Jr. is the only returning starter in the secondary. Transfers Denver Harris from Texas A&M and Duce Chestnut from Syracuse were brought in to boost the secondary.

Offensively, LSU will be as good, if not better, than a year ago.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels and receiver Malik Nabers form perhaps the SEC’s best passing combination.

Running backs Josh Williams, Noah Cain and John Emery Jr. all return. The Tigers also added Notre Dame transfer, Logan Diggs.

The offensive line, which had issues last season, should be better, with sophomores Will Campbell and Emery Jones having a year of experience under their belt.

The offense might be good enough to win the West Division again. That defense? Maybe not.


 

LSU Tigers

2022 Record: 10-4, 6-2

Returning starters

  • Offense (8): QB Jayden Daniels, RB Josh Williams, WR Malik Nabers, TE Taylor Mason, OL Will Campbell, OL Charles Turner, OL Miles Frazier, OL Emery Jones
  • Defense (5): LB Micah Baskerville, LB Greg Penn, LB Harold Perkins, S Greg Brooks Jr., DL Mekhi Wingo

Primary Area of Strength: The front seven. When star defensive lineman Maason Smith sustained a season-ending injury in the first game, Missouri transfer Mekhi Wingo was pressed into duty. Wingo went on to post 46 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and three sacks. The return of Smith gives LSU a pair of defensive linemen any team would envy. They’re backed up by three returning starters at linebacker, including freshman All-American Harold Perkins, who is moving inside.

Primary Area of Concern: The offensive line. Admittedly, this is an odd pick with four starters returning, but the Tigers ranked eighth in the SEC in rushing and allowed 45 sacks. OK, Will Campbell and Emery Jones were true freshmen, and their additional experience should boost the entire line. Yet, there are also serious depth concerns. In fact, two defensive linemen were moved to the offensive line for depth in the spring. Any injuries up front could cause major problems.

Significant additions

  • Logan Diggs, RB (Notre Dame): Recruited to Notre Dame by Brian Kelly, Diggs rushed for 822 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Irish last season.
  • Denver Harris, CB (Texas A&M): Once a five-star recruit, off-field issues led to his exit from A&M. The Tigers got a good corner if Harris avoids trouble.
  • Aaron Anderson, WR (Alabama): A high four-star recruit from New Orleans in 2022, Anderson battled injuries and did not catch any passes last season.
  • Zy Alexander, LB (SE Louisiana): Posted only 27 tackles in 2022 but set an SEL record with six interceptions in 2021.
  • Duce Chestnut, CB (Syracuse): A freshman All-American in 2021, he posted 40 tackles and an interception in 2022.

Significant losses

  • WR Kayshon Boutte: His reputation may have been better than his production. Still, Boutte had 131 catches for 1,781 yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons. He was a sixth-round draft choice.
  • DE B.J. Ojulari: A second-round draft pick, Ojulari recorded 57 tackles and 5 sacks in 2022.
  • CB Jarick Bernard-Converse: A sixth-round draft choice, he broke up three passes, intercepted two and posted 45 tackles.

Top Players

  • QB Jayden Daniels: The transfer from Arizona State is regarded as one of the SEC’s better quarterbacks. In his first season at LSU he passed for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 885 yards and 11 TDs.
  • WR Malik Nabers: The SEC’s top returning receiver. He caught 72 passes for 1,017 yards and three touchdowns last year.
  • LB Harold Perkins: A freshman All-American in 2022 he was twice named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Perkins totaled 73 tackles, 14 TFLs and 8.5 sacks.

2023 LSU Schedule

  • Sept. 3 vs. Florida State at Orlando
  • Sept. 9 vs. Grambling
  • Sept. 16 at Mississippi State
  • Sept. 23 vs. Arkansas
  • Sept. 30 at Ole Miss
  • Oct. 7 at Missouri
  • Oct. 14 vs. Auburn
  • Oct. 21 vs. Army
  • Nov. 4 at Alabama
  • Nov. 11 vs. Florida
  • Nov. 18 vs. Georgia State
  • Nov. 25 vs. Texas A&M
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LSU looks to replicate 2022 success with defensive improvement

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