Honorable mention: Malik Nabers (WR)
The first honorable mention goes to Nabers, although many will likely have an issue with that. The true sophomore had an abysmal night on special teams, as he notably muffed two punts at crucial points in the game. If not for Florida State‘s goal-line blunder with a minute to go, Nabers would’ve cost the Tigers a chance to tie the game at the death.
However, earning your stripes is about a lot more than just two plays—regardless of the result.
Nabers showed determination and maturity on the Tigers’ last drive as, after his second special teams mistake, he trotted back out to try to redeem himself. No. 8’s catches in the final seconds may be forgettable in hindsight, but they were incredibly important in getting LSU down the field. Nabers tallied five catches out of the slot on the evening, tied for a team high.
The Youngsville, Louisiana native had a night to forget on the field, but he earned his stripes by showing fans what a stand-up character he has underneath the uniform. Nabers has shown that he is a mature individual who possesses true leadership qualities. In a team full of new and young players, the receiver can have a huge impact on the locker room.
There will be those who continue to doubt his abilities after Sunday’s showing, but me? I’ll be backing Nabers to have a breakout year in 2022.
Honorable mention: Mekhi Wingo (DT)
There aren’t many people who knew the name Mekhi Wingo outside of Columbia, Missouri before last weekend. Wingo came to LSU as a transfer from Mizzou after enjoying a breakout season in the black and gold. He wasn’t expected to have a huge part to play this year as he was listed behind Maason Smith—one of the nation’s best—on the depth chart.
Unfortunately, Smith suffered a torn ACL early on against Florida State, and Wingo was there to spring into action. He put his “next man up” mentality on display against the Seminoles as he became an absolute force to be reckoned with on the night.
The sophomore defensive tackle came off the bench to tally as many total tackles as the likes of Mekhi Garner and BJ Ojulari. Wingo recorded the fourth-most tackles on the Tigers’ defense, only trailing Greg Penn III, Burns and Ward. His biggest contribution of all though was coming up with the fumble on the goal-line in the fourth quarter that gave LSU the opportunity to tie the game toward the end of regulation.
Wingo is going to have to step up in lieu of Smith’s season-ending injury. If Sunday was any indication though, he looks more than ready to handle the spotlight alongside Gaye, Ojulari and Jaquelin Roy on the defensive line.