Those two words are what every performer in sports and entertainment thrive to say. It’s that overwhelming swell of confidence a competitor has after a job done well.
In LSU’s case, the 2019 football team can say those two words to the 2020 club and beyond. Chances are that season will never be topped. So in previewing this year’s team, one must fully come to that realization and put 2019 to bed.
Looking ahead, the 2020 football season will feature far more hurdles now that Joe Burrow is no longer riding shotgun. His incumbent, Myles Brennan, enters a situation where he is expected to produce high-octane offense, and he has the arm to do so. From just a pure arm strength standpoint, that might be the one thing Brennan boasts over Burrow.
Whether or not he can be savvy in the pocket, progress through reads, make athletic plays with his feet and continuously deliver the ball accurately in the most high-pressured moments of the season remains to be seen. No pressure, Myles. The good news is Brennan has some of the best weapons in college football surrounding him, which is why Las Vegas has set the regular season win total at 9.5 this season.
The word from Baton Rouge right now is that John Emery is on the cuffs of breaking out now that he’s learned the playbook more and grown more accustomed to the speed of the game. He’s the Tigers most dynamic running back, while Chris Curry and Tyrion Davis-Price, who is in phenomenal shape, will be the two bruisers.
What makes this skill position group perhaps the best in the country is the combination of wide receivers and tight ends.
The best receiver in football, Ja’Marr Chase, returns alongside Terrace Marshall, who quietly caught 13 touchdowns in 2019, and studs Trey Palmer and Racey McMath. In case you forgot, Chase broke the SEC record for most touchdowns (20) and yards (1,780) in a single-season.
Along with those receivers, 5-star tight end Arik Gilbert enters the fray with immense hype, and reports from campus are that fellow freshman Kole Taylor looks the part also.
LSU’s skill positions should aid Brennan and a retooled offensive line. Because though Dare Rosenthal, Ed Ingram, Chasen Hines, Kardell Thomas and Austin Deculus have very few collective starts on their resume, four of the five players have experience. Due to an injury last year, Thomas was unable to see the field, but let’s not forget he came to LSU as a 5-star guard. Add in transfer Liam Shanahan, a First-Team All-Ivy selection in 2019, and this unit has potential.
Because of the limitations COVID-19 offers and really due to the success of last year’s offense, you can expect LSU to utilize a similar offensive philosophy even with Joe Brady now calling plays for the Carolina Panthers.
The offense won’t avoid taking a dip in 2020, but if Brennan can maximize his skill set and lean on the talent surrounding him, there’s no reason why LSU can’t average more than 35 points per game in 2020. And that should be good enough to win 10 games if the defense is as special as we think it is.
Speaking of said defense, it always starts with the backend at LSU, and with All-Everything Derek Stingley putting the opposing team’s best receiver on an island with 5-star Elias Ricks and potential breakout player Cordale Flott battling it out for the other corner position, LSU will remain DBU. Flott allowed eight of 25 targets to be caught in 153 coverage snaps last year.
Add in Kary Vincent at nickel again after a strong finish to the 2019 season and safeties Jacoby Stevens and Mo Hampton, and this group will once again be the strength of the team.
Switching to a 4-3, the defensive line figures to be the anchor of this unit, at least in the beginning. The incoming freshmen, including highly decorated in-state recruits Jaquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory, will add depth to an already stout unit that’s headlined by Tyler Shelvin. One could argue no LSU player has received more praise than pass rusher BJ Ojulari this offseason. And though the linebacker position will feature fresh faces, Jabrill Cox (North Dakota State) transfer is likely to continue LSU’s strong tradition of future NFL talent at the position.
So ask yourselves two questions entering the season.
The first one is — will it be as good as 2019? The answer to that is simple: not even close.
But the second question you should ask yourself about LSU’s upcoming season is whether or not LSU will remain relevant in the national title conversation. I think that answer is an easy yes.
Assuming this season is played without any hiccups, the Tigers should be favored against Texas at home, should be favored in late road matchups against Auburn and Texas A&M and will most likely be heavy favorites in every other game outside of Alabama and Florida. The Tide and Gators figure to be LSU’s two toughest games this season, but even if LSU loses those two games, the Tigers are still eying 10 wins and a New Years Six bowl. That is in no way a disappointing season.
The 2019 will forever be the standard bearer for all LSU teams moving forward. The quicker the 2020 club gets out of the 2019 team's shadow the better.