LSU football has gotten off to a solid 2-1 start to the season. The Tigers’ second-half surge against Mississippi State saw them nearly double up the Bulldogs on points, despite playing poorly throughout the first half. This has many fans excited about what the future holds if Brian Kelly’s team can put all the pieces together.
Though supporters of the purple and gold cannot be allowed to lose sight of what this season is all about. More than anything else, this is a transitional year for a program amid a rebuild. Kelly’s team is still going to win football games, but it’s highly unlikely LSU will be competing for any serious silverware for at least another season. This is why the Tigers’ personnel decisions thus far have been very telling—the coaching staff is focusing on the future.
LSU football will benefit long-term from involving freshmen early on
As one of the NFL’s biggest producers of talent, LSU has tended to give an abundance of minutes to young players over the last few decades. There has been an overreliance on older players this season though. This is mostly because a lot of the Tigers’ depth during this transitional period comes from transfers, some of which are graduates.
While the current LSU team seems older than those of years past, it’s also younger in a sense as well. The Bayou Bengals are just three games into the season and we’ve already seen a plethora of fresh faces—notably, freshmen—on the field. It’s a refreshing sight for fans to see given the expectations placed on the program this year.
Kelly giving minutes to underclassmen sets the Tigers up to succeed long term.
There are a handful of freshmen who are making an impact each game, and every one of these individuals will look to be an impactful player going forward. It goes without saying that some are already establishing themselves as key individuals in Kelly’s game plan.
Will Campbell and Emery Jones Jr. are chief amongst them. The two freshman tackles have both played extremely well this season (Campbell in all three games; Jones Jr. against the Bulldogs). Another freshman generating some buzz around Baton Rouge is Harold Perkins Jr. The Cypress, Texas native has been an important piece in the Tigers’ defensive plans over the last two contests.
These three—plus starting tight end Mason Taylor and kicker Damian Ramos—are getting some serious minutes under their belts throughout their first full seasons in college. Kelly voiced his confidence for the youngsters in the build-up to the New Mexico match-up, which can only be good news for LSU going forward.
If nobody within the program can displace these individuals during their freshman seasons, they will only continue to get better with experience at the top level. Nothing is more valuable than the in-game reps that the aforementioned young phenoms are getting at this moment in time. This will be a huge benefit to Kelly throughout the next few years when he’s got sophomores and juniors with a ton of games under their belts for the Bayou Bengals.
Elsewhere, keep an eye on the play of Chris Hilton Jr., Walker Howard and Garrett Nussmeier. The offensive trio may not get to start, or even play, in every game this season. They will come into non-conference blowouts though, as we saw against Southern in Week 2. This will only get them more prepared for the future when the coaches turn to them after others depart.
It’s easy to downplay the roles of these players because of potential mistakes they might make now and again. Regardless, one needs to gaze at the bigger picture. Kelly looking to a handful of freshmen in important roles now will only better the program later on.