LSU will gain the talents of sophomore wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. for its final regular-season home game Saturday.
When the No. 6 Tigers (8-2) host UAB (5-5) at 8 p.m., they will have Thomas back in the lineup following a one-game absence.
“He cleared protocol, practiced yesterday and practiced today, so he’ll play,” LSU football coach Brian Thomas said after Thursday’s practice.
Thomas, a native of nearby Walker, is the team’s fifth-leading receiver with 20 catches for 280 yards. His three touchdowns are second on the team to Jaray Jenkins’ five.
Thomas was injured last week in practice in the days leading up to the Arkansas game, suffering a concussion and missing his first game of the season.
Here’s what else Kelly had to say:
Any seniors who may not go through Senior Night and return for 2023?
“I’ve had discussions with a number of the guys. We have a pretty good understanding of who’s doing what. But I wouldn’t take anything from whether they’re running out or not. I think that’s much more of a personal preference as to whether they partake in the Senior Day ceremony. We’ve got a pretty good understanding and I think some guys will, over the next week or two, will start to make public announcements as to what their intentions are.”
On your success in Year One with Jayden Daniels?
“Well, it’s been a process. I think we’ve seen good days and we’ve seen days of growth. I think first of all, you have to have a quarterback that has the tools necessary. He’s got to be coachable. He’s got to have the ability to fight through some adversity which he has clearly. And, again, a system that fits the quarterback in which you have, and I think what we’ve done a really good job. It’s not been about the X’s and O’s as much as fitting the offense around the quarterback as we’ve gotten to know him. I think I’ve said this a couple of times, when we went into camp or the spring, we installed the offense and it wasn’t installed for a particular quarterback, but this offensive system is now installed for Jayden Daniels. And as we’ve gone through the season, we’ve really tweaked it to be about Jayden Daniels. I think that’s what you’re starting to see, that this really fits who he is as the quarterback.”
On the mentality of a true freshman being able to start this year?
“Well, you don’t necessarily know that’s probably the one unknown. You know about physical ability, but it’s the ability to handle the rigors of college life, living on their own for the first time, making choices and decisions as well acclimating to a SEC environment football wise. I think it’s trial. It’s putting them in that situation, preseason camp. Harold (Perkins) was not where he is today, from a maturity standpoint. And I think that’s just development. A lot of it is an unknown, some move through that process quicker. Will Campbell was here in the spring. I think that mid-year enrollment really helps with that process of acclimatized to all of those things. That’s why I’m a proponent of it if that’s in fact what the young man wants to do and the family feels good about it.”
On the way you want to see this team finish the regular season?
“We focus on a process, more so than then an outcome. And so, it’s been a consistent way of how we do things on a day-to-day basis. We focus much more on the little things, our habits, how we think, what we do on a day-to-day basis, much more than outcomes, championships, things of that nature. It’s just been kind of business as usual for us this week. And our focus has been strictly on our preparation and preparing for UAB.”
On Mason Taylor’s development in passing game this season?
“I don’t know that there’s been any particular focus one way or the other. I’d have to look at the drop off and in particular, relative to the stats, all of the receivers are part of a comprehensive progression read, so I don’t know that we’ve used them any differently as much whether they’re being covered or not. If his biggest play of the year was the two-point play against Alabama, that’s a pretty good deal right there. But I think we haven’t shied away from them. I think it’s just the luck of the draw relative to his progressions in the passing game.”
On team’s development to this point in the season?
“I think it’s pretty clear that when you look at where we were against Florida State, we had a lot of new players playing, transfers, freshmen, new quarterback, new system. It’s no excuse, my job is to prepare them and get them ready and I didn’t have them ready to the level that they needed to be for that game. But you know, they showed a fight and so we knew that we had something after that game, that these guys had a special trait of resiliency. And so, we worked hard on just building an identity within and that was having a better focus from play to play. And that’s grown throughout the year. The development of this football team has been getting to know each other better, playing together, coming together as a team, because there were a lot of new players, a lot of new pieces to this team. I think it was just the natural progression of a group of guys coming together over a period of time.”
On adjusting one week from an 11 a.m. kickoff to this week at 8 p.m.?
“I can tell you that I’m used to playing mostly night games because those are the national televised games, but there is a big difference between 11 a.m. and an 8 p.m. start. But I think our routine is pretty good and you’re playing at home. The comforts of playing at home, the routine’s an hour or so off from what is a pretty common routine for us. I don’t feel too uncomfortable with this one. 11 a.m.’s a little different, there’s no doubt 11 a.m. on the road and the first cold weather game. That’s a little different and that that was a difficult transition which we got through.”
On development of running backs Josh Williams, John Emery Jr.?
“Well, I think it starts with Josh. He comes in as probably the least heralded player in the offensive backfield, and he’s turned out to be a (offensive) captain for us on three different games. Productive runner, I think he brings an energy to our group. And I think all of those traits are what we’ve been looking for. I think it’s just been giving a guy an opportunity and so he’s been presented with an opportunity and here’s a great example of somebody just taking his opportunity and running with it. The same can be said for Emery. He didn’t have an opportunity look; he can blame himself for that. But he is now taking accountability for that and now he’s put himself in a position where he’s helping our football team. I look at it that both of them have seized the opportunity they’ve been given and have been able to help our football team because of it.”
On improvement of defensive back Joe Foucha?
“Let’s keep in mind now he didn’t play the first four weeks and I think there was probably, maybe subconsciously wanting to make plays, and he put himself in some compromising situations in the sense that he was a little too aggressive. I think he’s really settled into playing his position, doing his job being 1-11th of our defense and it’s shown itself. We’ve seen it as a staff, you’ve seen it, you know, as somebody that’s looking at our players and it’s helped our defense. I think having Major (Burns) back there, too, has been very helpful. He’s a great communicator and because of that it gets the guys in the right position.”