LSU freshman wide receiver Kayshon Boutte saved his best for last in the Tigers’ 2020 season.
Not only did his SEC-record 308 receiving yards and three TDs on 14 catches in LSU’s season-closing 53-48 win over Ole Miss on Dec. 19 serve notice for next season, but it also helped him win a couple of unforeseen honors.
The Football Writers Association of America named Boutte and Tigers’ cornerback Eli Ricks to their freshman All-America team, but also tabbed Boutte’s season-finale outburst vs. the Rebels as the “Freshman Breakout Performance of the Year.”
“I knew Ole Miss had a good offense and we had a good offense, too,” Boutte said in Monday night’s Zoom call accepting the award. “I didn’t expect 308 yards. I just knew I had to step up and be a guy that could compete.”
As LSU’s top returning receivers quit during the 2020 season to concentrate on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, starting with returning Biletnikoff Award winner JaMarr Chase in the preseason and Terrace Marshall Jr. after game seven vs. Texas A&M, Boutte knew it was his time.
In his last three games against Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss, Boutte had 27 of his 45 catches on the year as well as 527 of his 735 receiving yards and four of his five touchdowns.
“The day he (Marshall) opted out, I slept on it and I woke up knowing we had no No. 1 receiver,” Boutte said. “So, I knew I had to step up and it just happened.”
Boutte, a former New Iberia (La.) Westgate star, was ranked as the No. 1 receiver in the state of Louisiana in 2019 by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports. As a senior, he had 47 receptions for 1,005 yards and 15 TDs, rushed 71 times for 874 yards and 12 TDs, returned kickoffs for 282 yards and 2 TDs and added nine punt returns for 198 yards and a TD.
Yet, his transition to standout college wide receiver didn’t happen overnight.
“When you get kids at schools like LSU, Alabama or Auburn, they’ve been the best kids on the field since the age of five,” LSU wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph said. “They might think they know about playing hard at full-speed, but they never really had to do it because they had been the best players.
“When Kayshon got to us, he had to learn that. He started working at it and overnight the light came on. He played 88 snaps in the Florida game and covered nine punts as a gunner. I said to myself, “You know what? I’ve got to keep pushing him.’
“Then, the performance against Ole Miss was unbelievable. A kid 18 years old put the team on his back and said, `Hey, we’re going to win this game.’”
Boutte is already looking forward to 2021.
“Halfway through the (2020) season, we started realizing the potential we had a team,” he said. “Going 5-5 is not really a good thing, but it’s not a bad thing because it’s something to learn from. We’re just coming back harder and getting the job done. I’m excited about the team we have coming back.”