STARKVILLE, Miss. — Two days, Bulldog fans, two days. Mississippi State kicks off the 2020 season on Saturday against No. 6 LSU in Tiger Stadium.
The 2019 LSU offense was a historic one. It was easily the greatest in LSU history, and one could argue that it was one of the greatest displays of offensive firepower in college football history.
The Tigers’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Joe Burrow, who put up 5,671 yards passing and 60 passing touchdowns last season, is gone. Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson and star running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire are gone. Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was supposed to be back, but he opted out and is focusing on the 2021 NFL Draft. Starting tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame WR Randy Moss, is gone. And on top of that, LSU only returns one starter on the offensive line.
All in all, the Tigers lost 72% of their rushing yards and 78% of their receiving yards from a year ago.
With all the talent lost on offense and defense, LSU becomes the first defending national champion team to not be ranked in the top-5 of the next season’s preseason poll since Auburn in 2011.
Junior Myles Brennan is the next starting quarterback for the LSU Tigers. Brennan, from Long Beach, Mississippi, was one of the top quarterback prospects in the country coming out of high school in 2017. He holds the Mississippi high school career records for total offense (16,168 yards), passing touchdowns (166) and passing yards (15,138). During his senior campaign, he completed 275-of-399 passes for 3,982 yards with 48 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback has hit on 42-of-70 passes for 600 yards and two touchdowns in 17 games with LSU.
“I expect Myles to explode,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said.
Junior wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. is the best returning offensive player for the Tigers. Marshall, from Bossier City, Louisiana, had 671 yards and 13 TDs in 12 games last year. His 13 TDs last year rank as the third-highest single-season total in LSU history. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was the unanimous No. 1 prospect in the state of Louisiana in the class of 2018.
Senior wide receiver Racey McMath will also be poised for a starting spot in the offense. The 6-foot-3, 224-pound receiver from New Orleans had his best season a year ago when he hauled in 17 catches for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
The most anticipated starting receiver for the Tigers is four-star freshman Kayshon Boutte. His pure athleticism and run after the catch ability are what stands out for me. From New Iberia, Louisiana, Boutte was ranked as the No. 1 receiver in the state of Louisiana on all platforms. He found himself ranked 52nd on the ESPN 300 List, too. The 6-foot, 185-pounder stuffed the stat sheet as a senior at Westgate High School, compiling 1,005 yards receiving and 15 TDs on 47 catches and rushing 71 times for 874 yards and 12 TDs. He also had 282 kick return yards and two TDs to go with 198 punt return yards and one score.
At the tight end position, LSU brings in five-star freshman Arik Gilbert, the Gatorade National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end is the first true tight end to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year since the inception of the award in 1985. He caught 101 passes for 1,760 yards (117.3 yards per game) and 14 Touchdowns as a senior. In his career, he reeled in 243 balls for 3,540 yards (90.8 yards per game) and 35 touchdowns.
LSU plans to use a running back by committee approach for the run game in 2020. The Tigers list three starting running backs with sophomore Chris Curry, sophomore Tyrion Davis-Price and sophomore John Emery Jr. all being listed on the same tier. Curry, a 5-foot-11, 216-pound running back from Lehigh Acres, Florida, makes himself a prime candidate after starting the Peach Bowl in replace of an injured Edwards-Helaire. He rushed for 90 yards against Oklahoma. Davis-Price, a 6-foot-1, 232-pounder from Baton Rouge, is the Tigers’ top-returning rusher, a downhill runner who rushed for 295 yards and six touchdowns on 64 carries last season. Emery, a 5-foot-11, 215-pounder from Destrehan, Louisiana, rushed 39 times for 188 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games last year. It is likely that one of these guys will emerge as the starter the same way Edwards-Helaire did last season.
LSU’s one returning offensive lineman from last season is senior right tackle Austin Deculus. The 6-foot-6, 331-pounder from Mamou, Louisiana, has played in 39 games with 24 starts during his career. Left of him, at right guard, will be junior Chasen Hines. The 6-foot-3, 349-pounder from Marshall, Texas, makes the move from center to right guard for the 2020 season. He has seen action in 18 games during his career with one start, that coming against Mississippi State in 2018.
Liam Shanahan, a graduate transfer from Harvard University, gets the nod at center for the Tigers this year. The 6-foot-5, 304-pounder from Marlborough, Massachusetts, was a three-year starter on the offensive line for Harvard.
Junior Ed Ingram, arguably the Tigers’ best offensive lineman will be the man at left guard. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder from DeSoto, Texas, started the final 12 games as a freshman in 2017 before sitting out the 2018 season. He rejoined the Tigers for the 2019 season and played in 12 games with three starts. To the left of him, at left tackle, will be sophomore Dare Rosenthal. Originally signed as a defensive tackle, The 6-foot-7, 327-pounder shifted to the offensive side of the ball as a freshman. The Clayton, Louisiana, native has appeared in five games with three starts during his LSU career.
The Tigers absolutely lost a lot on offense. And they won’t be as dominant as last year, but they will still be a very tough team to beat.