Who’s in, who’s out? LSU coach Brian Kelly said he has a handle on personnel for bowl preparation

All-SEC quarterback Jayden Daniels has remained mum on status for game

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5), shown here in the regular season finale against Texas A&M, hasn't indicated whether he'll play in the team's Jan. 1 ReliaQuest Bowl or not. PHOTO BY: Michael Bacigalupi

Five players with limited playing roles during the 2023 season have already indicated they won’t be a part of LSU’s program and take part in next month’s bowl game.

Beyond that LSU football coach Brian Kelly can only hope the majority of players on his two-deep position groups choose to play in the Jan. 1 ReliaQuest Bowl at 11 a.m. against Wisconsin in Tampa, Florida.

The Tigers begin the first of 15 practice for the bowl on Monday.

“Yeah, I think we have a really good sense of the players that will be available for the bowl game,” Kelly said Tuesday during a press conference. “For me to stand here and tell you exactly what those players are, I couldn’t do that. But I will say that we spent most of last week doing exit interviews with our players.

“But as it relates to our players,” Kelly said, “we feel like we’re in a pretty good position relative to who we think is playing and any of that information will come out here in the next week or so.”

Fifth-year senior quarterback Jayden Daniels, who had to return home in California because of the death of a family member, hasn’t indicated to Kelly which way he’s leaning.

Daniels, who quarterbacked the nation’s top-rated offense, is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy award which will be announced on Saturday. He’s also a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Davey O’Brien Award which will be given during Friday’s College Football Awards Show.

“He clearly knows the pros and the cons of this decision,” Kelly said of Daniels. “And I do too, right? Who wouldn’t want him to play? I mean, everybody would love to see Jayden Daniels play one last time. I’m a fan. I’m his coach, but I’m a fan of Jayden Daniels, but he’s got to make a decision and clearly, I see both sides. So, we’ll provide him with all the things necessary for him to make an informed decision. But he hasn’t gotten to that level yet.”

Daniels’ name has skyrocketed up several different mock NFL Draft boards, some of which project him to be a cinch first-round selection, thus lending credence that he’s played in final game in purple and gold.

Two other such players are junior wide receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. Nabers, a finalist for Friday’s Biletnikoff Award, has surged into the top portion of the first round – as high as No. 6 to the New York Giants – while Thomas could either be an and of the first round or high second-round selection.

Running backs Armoni Goodwin and Tre Bradford and tight end Jackson McGohan have already entered the NCAA transfer portal along with defensive tackle Bryce Langston and cornerback Laterrance Welch.

“You’re offered ample time to do that,” Kelly said of the possibility of transitioning to new players. “I mean, if you really look at our schedule, beginning Monday through that entire week, that’s really a transitional week for us to develop our players. In that entire week is going to be an opportunity to take some of the younger players that need more finishing and more developing and get them a lot of work.

“The following week we get to work on Wisconsin, and then duplicate that work when we get down to the bowl site,” Kelly said. “So, really, it’s two weeks of Wisconsin work for those guys that are going to be playing a lot, and then a full week of development, technique work and repetition for younger guys that need more developing. Now, they may transition right into first team, second team reps during those Wisconsin preparation periods as well, but that first week is when we’ll really focus on the development piece in this process.”

NOTE: McGohan, part of a large signing class at tight end from Miamisburg, Ohio, played in eight games this season without a start or recording any statistics.

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