Brad Davis’ lone chance to lead LSU to victory looks as if it will be an uphill battle. Davis, who is normally the Tigers’ offensive line coach, will serve as interim head coach for their Texas Bowl game against Kansas State on Tuesday.
The Tigers, like many other college football programs, are dealing with opt-outs by some of their best players. They’re forgoing the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. The team’s leading rusher, Tyrion Davis-Price, went this route. He had 211 carries for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns.
LSU is even thinner at quarterback after starter Max Johnson transferred to Texas A&M. Myles Brennan returned from the transfer portal but will not play Tuesday. The Athletic reports that the Tigers have just 39 scholarship players total, none of whom are quarterbacks.
The Tigers (6-6) had a down year, with five losses to ranked teams, all in SEC play, only one win over a ranked team (Texas A&M) and a stretch from Oct. 2 to Nov. 13 in which they won just once. The Tigers ended the regular season with two wins in a row, however.
Sporting News takes a look at LSU’s roster situation ahead of the Texas Bowl.
Who will play quarterback for LSU?
The Tigers got serviceable play from Max Johnson this season. The sophomore completed just over 60 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,814 yards, with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions.
But Johnson took his talents to Texas A&M last month. That potentially paved the way for Myles Brennan, who entered and then exited the portal last month. Brennan, however, is recovering from surgery to repair a broken arm. Freshman backup Garrett Nussmeier isn’t expected to play; he reportedly was deciding whether to maintain his redshirt.
That leaves LSU with no scholarship quarterbacks for this game. But somebody has to take snaps under center, so Davis could lean on walk-on QBs Tavion Faulk or Matt O’Dowd, or receiver Jontre Kirklin.
O’Dowd played just two games last year as a senior at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, but as a junior he completed 56.2 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,396 yards and 15 touchdowns to six interceptions.
KIrklin, who’s a senior, has 20 career catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns, but he was a prolific quarterback in high school. He amassed 7,468 yards while completing 54.9 percent of his passes and notching 97 touchdowns to 35 interceptions at Lutcher High School in Louisana. He was also a standout rusher, totaling 3,035 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Is LSU depleted at other positions?
LSU will be without a lot more than Johnson and Davis-Price. The team’s leading receiver, Kayshon Boutte, has missed significant time with an ankle injury and won’t play Tuesday. Corey Kiner, who had 65 carries for 271 yards as the team’s second-leading rusher, and tight end Jack Bech, who was second on the team with 43 catches for 489 yards, will look to step up as replacements.
The Tigers will also be without several key members of the secondary, including Derek Stingley Jr., Eli Ricks and their replacements. The team’s leading tackler, Damone Clark, opted out and declared for the NFL Draft, as did Neil Farrell Jr. The two combined for 24.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
2021 LSU offensive and defensive rankings
Even when everyone was healthy and available, Ed Orgeron’s final year in Baton Rouge was less than stellar. Things have gone downhill for the program since quarterback Joe Burrow and quarterback coach Joe Brady went to the NFL following the Tigers’ 2019 national championship season. The Tigers didn’t participate in a bowl last year and are 11-11 since winning the title.
The offense in particular struggled this season. LSU ranked 83rd nationally in red-zone offense, 85th in total offense and 86th in third-down conversion percentage.
The defense was a bit better. Orgeron’s squad ranked 56th in scoring defense, 58th in total defense and tied for 59th in third-down defense, but it was also 87th in red-zone defense.
One area where LSU excelled was in not committing penalties. They committed the third-fewest nationally. That number could be higher than normal with an inexperienced lineup facing a tough Kansas State squad.