3 takeaways from LSU football’s ReliaQuest Bowl win over Wisconsin | Sports

Other than securing a 35-31 win over Wisconsin, Brian Kelly accomplished a lot of his LSU football team. 

He gained lots of insight on the future, and made up some ground on the major question marks looming over him into the off-season.

Not everything is answered, and it likely wont be for quite some time, but Monday provided a good starting point for him and his staff going forward.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s bowl win over Wisconsin that could carry into the off-season:

Garrett Nussmeier strengthened his case to be the future starting quarterback

Nussmeier’s first career start wasn’t pretty 100% of the time, but it was certainly enough for having little experience.

The redshirt sophomore completed 31 of his 45 pass attempts for 395 yards and three passing touchdowns, along with an interception.

With Vanderbilt quarterback, A.J. Swann, transferring to LSU for next season, there could be a competition on who will be the starter. 

Malik Nabers’ decision to play in the ReliaQuest Bowl paid off, and now he has another spot in the record books.

But Kelly and the Tigers gained a lot of clarity on what type of team they’d be with Nussmeier running the offense. He made some impressive, back shoulder throws, and was accurate with the football.

While Swann is a similar type of quarterback to Nussmeier, the advantage of knowing the offense for a longer time, knowing his receivers for a longer time and being a part of the program for a longer time should work in Nussmeier’s favor.

It would be a different type of offense than the one centered around Jayden Daniels, as Daniels can run the ball more effectively than Nussmeier. Nussmeier is more of a pocket-passer, that’s when LSU’s depth in its running back room could come in handy.

What Nussmeier may still have to prove is the consistency of his decision making. In past appearances, Nussmeier would often throw the ball into tight coverages resulting in interceptions. For example, he threw two interceptions against Southern in the 2022 season as a result of poor decisions.

He’s obviously grown a lot since then, and Monday’s bowl win was a testament to that. But in order to be the starter next season, consistency will be a huge factor.

Younger players may be the key to defensive success next season

Many LSU fans question how far the team could have gone if it wasn’t for the defensive struggles.

Greg Penn III and Harold Perkins are both returning to the team for next season, but in order to avoid repeating the struggles of this season, Kelly and his staff may have to look to younger players to not only see what they can provide, but also to establish some longevity.

Whit Weeks has arguably been one of LSU’s most consistent players on defense. In the ReliaQuest Bowl, he recorded eight tackles, and in the nine games he appeared in this season, he recorded eight or more tackles in four of the nine games.

In addition, Da’Shawn Womack and Ryan Yaites have shown flashes of good potential as true freshman as well. While they both had limited playing time this season, providing them with more opportunities may result in better and more consistent production.

But just as these three players got opportunities as true freshman, the incoming freshman class has the ability to do the same. 

Right when the clock struck midnight on the east coast on Monday, five-star defensive tackle, Dominick McKinley, flipped his commitment from Texas A&M to LSU. 

According to 247sports, McKinley is the top-ranked recruit in the state of Louisiana. With Maason Smith and Mekhi Wingo both eligible to come back, if they both do so, McKinley may have to wait behind them most of the time.

However, if one or both decide to declare for the NFL Draft, McKinley has the ability to make an impact as a true freshman.

Saturday night marked the final non-conference game for Kim Mulkey’s Tigers and the team’s final game of 2023. It was the last chance the team…

LSU’s offense could look different next season

Daniels bailed LSU’s offense out of a lot of jams with his legs, as he led the nation in rushing yards from a quarterback.

Obviously he won’t be returning next season, and both Nussmeier and Swann don’t have the mobility Daniels has. This being said, the depth LSU has at its running back position could serve the offense well.

Josh Williams is able to return next season for his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility, and Logan Diggs could return as well. Kaleb Jackson will be in his sophomore season, and Trey Holly will be a redshirt freshman. Those four players alone could all have considerable snaps out of the backfield next season.

But the Tigers are also bringing in four-star running back, Caden Durham, as a part of its true freshman 2024 class. 

Durham could arguably be the quickest running back in the country. He led his Duncanville team to a state championship this past season, where he ran for more than 200 yards in just the first half.

Including Durham, the Tigers will have five solid options for its run game to make up for the absence of Daniels. Assuming Kelly and his staff embrace that, the Tigers could turn into a run-heavy team unlike this season.

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