Who steps up in Kayshon Boutte, injured secondary’s place against Gators?
LSU has been plagued with a myriad of injuries throughout the first five weeks of the season. The Tigers are getting healthy at some positions but dropping like flies at others.
So as the injuries continue to pile up, there are many players who will be thrown into increased roles this weekend against Florida. Here are a few players we feel will be thrust into more critical roles and why they’ll need to perform.
Jack Bech (TE)
LSU is down one of the most prolific receivers in Kayshon Boutte for the rest of the season and in need of someone to step up as a go to option. There currently are no better options than the true freshman receiver turned tight end in Bech.
Bech has been the leader of the freshmen group, hauling in 22 catches for 272 yards and a touchdown, becoming one of Max Johnson’s go-to third down weapons in the process. Though he’s converted to tight end, he is quick like a receiver and has been a mismatch when lined up against linebackers.
Like Boutte, Bech has done most of his work over the middle of the field, whether it be on crossing routes, slants and pops for most of the 2021 campaign. Of course without Boutte, Johnson could very well elect to spread the ball out more and even Ed Orgeron mentioned some of the veteran names like Devonta Lee and Jontre Kirklin who he hopes will step up.
“There’s still a lot of talent in the wide receiver room like Jack Bech like you mentioned, a lot of the other freshmen,” center Liam Shanahan said. “There’s more than enough talent in there for guys to step up and that could be something that’ll be interesting to see throughout the rest of the year to see who can kind of fill those shoes.”
Austin Deculus (OL)
This offensive line has been the brunt of scrutiny all season long and it will continue into this matchup against Florida. The group did a nice job in creating lanes for Tyrion Davis-Price against Kentucky in his 147-yard performance but this group faces a dynamic duo of edge rushers in Zachary Carter and Brenton Cox.
Carter and Cox have combined for 12 sacks on the season and are absolute menaces in making plays in the backfield. It’ll be on Deculus, Cam Wire and Anthony Bradford to give Johnson the right protection on the edge and build on last weekend’s performance on the ground. The depth up front will be much improved as well with the o-line as healthy as it’s been all season.
“Our offensive line is probably the healthiest it’s been so that’s good and our running backs are healthy, so that’s good,” Orgeron said. “I’m really excited to see what those guys do on Saturday.”
Sage Ryan (S)
The Tigers will be without starting safeties Major Burns and Jay Ward this weekend against the Gators and in dire need of a shakeup on defense. After getting gashed for 331 rushing yards against Kentucky, the obvious area of focus would be on the defensive line.
Emory Jones and his dual threat ability will be the primary focus this week in practice but the bodies in the secondary are just as important to executing the gameplan up front. LSU is already down Derek Stingley and adding Burns, Ward and Elias Ricks to this list will really affect the depth in the secondary. Orgeron noted on Monday how much he thinks Emory’s passing has improved from 2020 to 2021.
There was some momentum that Ryan would earn significant snaps against the Wildcats but he didn’t see the field all that much coming off that injury. Orgeron revealed on Wednesday that Ryan would start at nickel in order for Cordale Flott to slip to the outside.
Maybe another week of good practices will give the coaching staff the confidence to make him a bigger part of the gameplan. He’s a dynamic athlete who can come up and make plays at the line of scrimmage and drop back in coverage.