Week 8 didn’t have too many stand out match ups, but this encounter between LSU and Ole Miss looked like it could be decent on paper, and it certainly was.
I’d seen these teams much earlier in the season, so I was eager to get some eyes back on them and see what they were like now we’re in the thick of conference play.
It certainly seems that LSU have turned a corner and look very much on an upward curve, and even in defeat the Rebels still look like a very talented team that can push the very top of the SEC to their limits.
We’ll start the scouting notes with the very impressive Tigers…
The quarterback position has been a bit of a struggle for the Tigers since Joe Burrow led them to their greatest ever season.
The fans don’t have to worry anymore though, as Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels is playing out of his mind right now. He absolutely destroyed the Rebel defense to the tune of 242 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and 121 yards and three scores on the ground.
He has such a calm demeanour about him, stays cool under pressure and takes care of the football, all very important traits to have. He was impressive during his career with the Sun Devils, but he has taken it up another level here in the SEC and this won’t go unnoticed.
There are limitations and question marks when it comes to evaluating him for the NFL.
Like, how much does he actually weigh? Why does he struggle with short touch passes? And, how good of an arm does he actually have?
But as a college quarterback he certainly is an entertaining watch, and he is putting himself into the Heisman trophy conversation too, which isn’t bad for a transfer who wasn’t expected to even win the starting job in the summer.
On the receiving end of Daniels throws should be star wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, but I think it’s fair to say he isn’t having the season that everyone was expecting.
Boutte hasn’t been playing at 100% health wise, and there was a run in with new head coach Brian Kelly before the season, so there are factors to why he is struggling, but right now he looks a shadow of what we saw the past two years.
He had 4 catches for 43 yards in this game, which aren’t big numbers at all, and he did have a drop too, but he was out there blocking his ass off on run plays when bigger ego players might not have bothered.
With a wide open WR1 for the 2023 draft, Boutte is still in that mix, but if the production doesn’t increase he’ll have to wow the scouts in interviews, and with his athletic testing to reach that lofty goal.
The recent Tiger defense’s haven’t always lived up to the levels that their predecessors were famed for, but they always produce NFL talent year in year out.
The 2023 NFL draft will have plenty of Tiger defenders in it, and there’s certainly one who could be a first round pick. EDGE B.J Ojulari is that player with a first round shot, and in this performance against Ole Miss it’s easy to see why. He is the brother of NY Giants EDGE Azeez Ojulari, and they certainly have a very similar style of play.
He is lightning quick out of his stance, can convert speed to power nicely and can dip under and around tackles in the flash of an eye. He isn’t the biggest and can get washed out on some plays, but there’s enough elite talent here to get first round looks, and at worst case he should end up a top 50 pick, just like his brother.
The Tigers other EDGE Ali Gaye is someone I wasn’t as high on as others during summer scouting, and he hadn’t impressed me in the couple of early season games I caught, but he was terrific here and showed why he could be a day two player.
He lacks the athletic traits that his teammate Ojulari has, but Gaye is a much bigger end who defended the run in this game well, and still showed enough as a pass rusher to worry the young Rebel tackles.
Testing will be key for him, but he looked a different beast in this game to what I’d seen previously, and hopefully he can continue to put these types of games on tape.
LSU knows how to produce cornerbacks, and the next one in line is Louisiana transfer Mekhi Garner.
He was part of a very stingy Ragin’ Cajun defense the last couple of years but decided to make the leap to the SEC and he has shone every time I’ve watched him. He was tested more in this game than my previous watches, but he came through well showing fluid transitions and good route recognition skills, which considering how big he is (6’2 217lbs) is very impressive.
Garner did give up a pass interference call on a quick slant where he was a fraction early on the play, but he really does look the part out there, and if he can answer the question about his long speed with good testing, he has the ability to be a round two guy for me.
It would be wrong if I didn’t mention true freshman Harold Perkins, who is having himself an excellent season. You can tell he is going to be a special player already, and although he is mainly lined up as an EDGE right now, with time you can see him moving inside to a more traditional off ball linebacker.
He could very well be the next Micah Parsons, we’ll just have to wait another couple of years before we get to talk about him in regards to the NFL draft.
Any Lane Kiffin coached team is exciting to watch, and these Rebels are no different. Defensively they were found out in the second half, but the offense was a fun watch and they were just inches away on a couple of big plays that would have kept them up with LSU.
Quarterback Jaxson Dart is a true sophomore who transferred in from USC in the summer and has impressed so far this season at Ole Miss. He has nice touch, good arm strength and can be creative out of structure. He is also a very capable runner which he displayed in this game too, so a good all round package player.
Dart isn’t afraid to take a chance or two down the field, and that will get you into trouble at times as well, but let’s face it, we’d all prefer that type of quarterback over the boring efficient ones! Certainly a name for next year’s draft, which is shaping up to have quite a few top end QB prospects in it already.
It’s not often you get a transfer between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but that’s what Wide Receiver Malik Heath has done, and it’s paying off handsomely for him.
You’d have thought being a receiver in the Bulldogs air raid system would be a better fit for him, but he is having the most productive year of his career in this more balanced Rebel offense, and also showing scouts there’s a more complete receiver profile to him.
Heath is a big, strong pass catcher who displays really good hands and strength at the catch point. There’s a little bit of former Rebel A.J Brown about him, but not as dynamic as the current Eagle is.
He has impressed me every watch so far this season and he may be one of my favourite sleepers at his position for the 2023 NFL draft.
The Rebel offensive line had struggles in this game, which isn’t surprising considering they were starting two freshman tackles. They do have two highly rated draft eligible guys on this Line, but both are having indifferent seasons.
Former Left Tackle turned Guard Nick Broeker was highly thought of during the summer, but I was never quite as high on him as the consensus was, and I’m still not.
For me, he struggled at tackle the past couple of years, so the move inside to guard was expected, but the level of play still remains inconsistent. There are nice flashes at times but there were so many plays in this game where he was beaten to his set points or just knocked off balance too easily, and it’s a big concern if he is still viewed as a top 100 type player.
I was much higher on former right tackle-turned-guard Jeremy James than most during the summer, but his move inside to guard for me isn’t playing to his strengths, and it’s causing him to slide down boards.
He is excellent in pass protection and staying at tackle would have showcased that more, but inside at Guard he is having to do more of the dirty work.
That said, he did consistently beat up on LSU defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy, who I’m pretty high on, so this tape is still good, I just wish he was out at tackle where I’m pretty sure he’ll be drafted to play in the NFL.
As I said earlier, this Rebel defense was torn to shreds in the second half of this game, but there was one stand out player who needs to get mentioned.
EDGE Jared Ivey is a transfer from Georgia Tech and he has taken the step up in competition to the SEC in his stride.
He has ideal size (6’5 265lbs) and length, and does a nice job rushing the passer from both the traditional outside role, and also inside as a three technique at times too. He has some decent bend to him and isn’t afraid to go through a lineman too if needed with brute strength, so plenty of nice traits to work with. He had a sack in this game, giving him 3.5 on the year so far, which is more than double what he managed in over 600 career snaps at Georgia Tech. Certainly a player on the rise, but as a true junior he may well go back to school to continue his progression and improve his draft stock.
Follow Keith on Twitter – @LordLucken