In year one under Brian Kelly LSU took a major step forward. The team finished 10-4, won the SEC West, and defeated Alabama in the process. Looking ahead to this season, sportsbooks seem to expect a similar result. FanDuel Sportsbook currently gives LSU a 9.5-win total juiced to -128 on the under. Let’s dive into LSU football predictions, futures, roster overview and more.
LSU Football Predictions, Futures & Roster Overview
Mentioned above, LSU achieved success in year one under Kelly. Heading into year two, Kelly has laid the foundation for a perennial contender. LSU currently ranks sixth in recruiting and third in the transfer portal. This team also retains offense coordinator Mike Denbrock and defensive coordinator Matt House. With plenty of returning production for this coaching staff to utilize, let’s dive in to the LSU roster.
LSU Football Offense
At quarterback, LSU returns former Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels. In his first season with the program in 2022, Daniels completed 266 of 390 passes (68.2%) for 2,913 yards, 17 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. He showed off his elite dual threat ability with 885 yards on 186 carries (4.8 YPC). Daniels now has at least 700 rushing yards in back to back seasons. Overall, he was the fifth highest graded passer in the SEC last year, squashing any doubts regarding his passing prowess. Behind him, Garrett Nussmeier remains in place as the clear backup. Nussmeier lost a close quarterback competition to Daniels last year, but he was a four-star prospect and the 152nd ranked player in 2021. With multiple seasons in the program, he provides quality depth.
The running back position actually begins with quarterback Jayden Daniels, who finished as the team’s leading rusher by over 300 yards. The actual running backs struggled with injury, but this is unacceptable for a team with National Title aspirations. To address the problem, LSU brought in Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs. Diggs stands 6-0, 214 pounds and ran for 822 yards on 165 carries last year. He also caught ten balls for 211 yards in a crowded Notre Dame backfield. Overall, he averaged 3.07 yards after contact and a forced missed tackle on 16.4% of his attempts. He will join incumbents Josh Williams, John Emery Jr., and Armoni Goodwin.
Williams played particularly well when healthy. He is 5-9, 200 pounds and rushed for 532 yards on 97 attempts. He also caught 21 balls for another 132 yards. Williams averaged 3.46 yards after contact and forced a missed tackle on 22.7% of his attempts, putting him among the SEC’s most efficient rushers. He looks most likely to complement Diggs. Emery finished fourth on the team in rushing with 370 yards on 76 attempts. The 5-11, 220 pound back caught 13 balls for 129 yards. As the 41st ranked rusher in the SEC, he averages 3.21 yards after contact and a forced missed tackle on 23.7% of his attempts. Emery has been serving academic suspension, so his status remains to be seen. Finally, Goodwin rushed for 267 yards on 45 carries, while adding four catches for 19 yards as a receiver. He is a 5-8, 195-pound back, who averaged 4.24 yards after contact and a forced missed tackle on 20% of his attempts. This should be a position of strength for LSU in 2023 with Williams and Diggs to lean on.
Career underachiever Kayshon Boutte departs Baton Rouge, but 2023 receiving leader Malik Nabers remains on campus. The 6-0, 195 pound receiver caught 72 balls for 1,017 yards and three scores last year. He played in the slot 39.8% of the time and his 2.44 yards per route ranked sixth in the SEC last year. From there, LSU also lost Jaray Jenkins and Jack Bech, but they otherwise return plenty of other production. Fifth leading receiver Brian Thomas returns after catching 31 balls for 361 yards and five scores. Thomas is 6-4, 201 pounds and played in the slot 12.5% of the time. His 1.35 yards per route ranked 45th in the SEC last year.
Sixth leading receiver Kyren Lacy also returns. The former Louisiana receiver stands 6-2, 217 pounds and caught 24 balls for 268 yards last year. Lacy played in the slot 18.2% of the time and his 1.40 yards per route ranked 40th in the SEC last year. Chris Hilton also returns after seven catches for 109 yards. If he cannot step up, LSU added Alabama transfer Aaron Anderson. Anderson stands 5-9, 184 pounds, but hasn’t recorded a stat in college yet. Anderson is a former four-star prospect and the 49th overall player from the 2022 class. His size makes him a logical replacement for Boutte in the slot. Impressively, LSU also added four four-star receiver prospects in Jalen Brown, Shelton Sampson, Kyle Parker, and Kai Prean, who could be asked to contribute to various degrees.
Tight end Mason Taylor returns after finishing third on the team in receiving last year. Taylor is 6-5, 245 pounds and caught 38 balls for 414 yards and three scores. He played in the slot 43.8% of the time and his 1.00 yards per route ranked 60th in the SEC. Taylor was a decent blocker last year, but LSU only asked him to block on 48.2% of his 843 snaps. With Kole Taylor hitting the portal, LSU will have to rely on unproven talent behind Taylor. The coaching staff has already spoken about relying on their incoming recruiting class. Ka’Morreun Pimpton and Mac Markway come in as four-stars, while Jackson McGohan has even impressed as a highly ranked three-star. With an influx of talent behind Taylor, it is hard to see this position being any worse.
The offensive line returns elite production, losing just right guard Anthony Bradford to the NFL. LSU returns left tackle Will Campbell, who played 882 snaps last year and allowed only 14 quarterback pressures. Left guard Garrett Dellinger returns after 397 snaps last year after battling injury. Center Charles Turner returns after 791 snaps. Right guard should be manned by Miles Frazier after 822 snaps across the interior in 2022. Finally, right tackle returns Emery Jones, who played 886 snaps. This unit ranked 55th in pass blocking and 41st in run blocking. With all the returning production, this should be the floor for 2023. LSU also added two-year Maryland starter Mason Lunsford. Lunsford has enough talent to start here or at the very least provide elite depth.
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LSU Football Defense
On defense, LSU ranked 32nd in 2022. This included the 16th-ranked run defense, 30th-ranked pass rush and 79th-ranked pass coverage. The defense makes for a tougher evaluation. Eight players depart who played at least 440 snaps. However, a few elite players return, plus 11 transfers, five four-stars, and one five star in Dashawn Womack off the edge comprise this defensive unit.
Starting with the secondary, LSU lost all three corner starters and safety Jay Ward. Luckily, safety shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Greg Brooks Jr. played 867 snaps and Major Burns played 394 himself. Brooks had an awesome season, allowing just 195 yards in his coverage. Burns didn’t reach the same heights, but LSU added Marshall safety Andre Sam, who they flipped from Tulane. Sam played 630 snaps last year and gives the safety position depth. At corner, LSU projects to rely on three transfers. Denver Harris comes over from Texas A&M. He only played in five games before injury.
Southeastern Louisiana transfer Zy Alexander also enters the program after two seasons with at least 532 snaps with Southeastern Louisiana. Duce Chestnut comes over from Syracuse after at least 699 snaps the last two years. He only allowed 356 yards into his coverage last year, which should immediately help the Tigers. If the jump from FCS ends up being too much for Alexander, JK Johnson also transfers in from Ohio State after 407 snaps last year.
At linebacker, LSU might have one of the best units in the SEC. Game-breaker Harold Perkins returns after 514 snaps and 41 quarterback pressures as a freshman. Gregg Penn III played 653 snaps alongside Perkins, with strong production across the stat sheet. Finally, LSU added All-PAC honoree and four-year starter Omar Speights from Oregon State. With depth and versatility, the linebacker group looks like position of strength for LSU.
Along the defensive line, the edge group could be considered the weakest on the team. LSU lost Ali Gaye and BJ Ojulari, leaving Sai’vion Jones as the most experienced returner. Luckily, Jones showed flashes of brilliance on his limited snap counts. He finished with 14 pressures and five sacks in this span. LSU did look to the portal to bolster this unit. Ovie Oghoufo comes over from Texas, where he played 766 snaps and recorded 36 quarterback pressures last year.
Also on the defensive line, LSU added edge Bradyn Swinson from Oregon, who played 144 snaps last year. With a somewhat limited group, five-star freshman Womack could be needed sooner rather than later. On the interior, Mekhi Wingo returns 821 snaps of solid production. Opposite him, Maason Smith will make his return from injury. Smith played 354 snaps in 2021, but a season-ender derailed his 2022 season just eight snaps in. Interestingly, LSU added Paris Shand (Arizona), Jordan Jefferson (West Virginia), and Jalen Lee (Florida) on the interior, giving this unit elite depth.
LSU Football Schedule
Typical of all SEC West teams, LSU will have one of the tougher conference schedules in the country. The difficult schedule is exacerbated by a non-conference game against Florida State in Week 1. Aside from that, LSU plays Grambling State, Army, and Georgia State in non-conference. They crossover against Missouri and Florida from the SEC East as well. LSU’s +600 odds to win the SEC trail only Georgia and Alabama, suggesting they will be favored or close to it in somewhere around ten games this year.
Even with LSU’s postseason expectations, this team can be tough to bet. Mentioned above, they bring a 9.5 win total, +600 odds to win the SEC, and +1600 odds to win the National Championship. Honestly, if LSU eclipses 9.5 wins, there’s a good chance they play for the SEC title game. The +600 odds make a lot more sense than over 9.5 wins. However, as for the National Championship, LSU would theoretically still have to get through Georgia and a pair of playoff games for just +1600 odds. At +600 to win the SEC, this looks like the best bet among a number of available wagers in an efficient SEC market.