Breakout Player Watch: Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU)

Breakout Player Watch: Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU)

Tall, rangy, and athletic.

All words that were used to describe then 18-year-old Brian Thomas JR as he was prepared to enter his true freshman season at LSU in 2021, after having an outstanding multi-sport high school career for Baton Rouge area Walker High School.

Yeah, I know. Calling a football player ‘athletic’ isn’t exactly a real stretch.  But we aren’t talking about your typical high school wide receiver here. Thomas is entering his sophomore season for the Tigers standing at 6-foot-4, 201-pounds. But even when he was a 190-pound high schooler he was doing big things in small places.  A consensus four-star receiver by 247 Sports, Thomas was not only a wide receiver that hauled in 105 receptions for 1,779 yards and 24 touchdowns over his final two seasons. He was also a hardwood standout scoring 1,000 points in each of his three seasons of high school basketball with appearances in two state title games. He was a key cog in securing Walker their first state championship in basketball during his freshman year in 2018, where he took home the Most Outstanding Player award in the championship game. He was also a second-team all-state selection during his junior year.

Imagine a tall, strong, fast receiver that has since added weight to his frame that not only has the athletic ability to run by defenders, he can also use his size and rim attacking ability to high-point a football and win those contested catches against opposing defensive backs.  

As a true freshman Thomas looked like, well… A true freshman. He started nine games for the Tigers and finished the season with 28 receptions for 359 yards and two touchdowns, but never really put it all together.

While Kayshon Boutte is the name everyone is talking about at the receiver position during camp, Thomas is a guy that has a real opportunity to turn into a key contributor for LSU in 2022. He’s already made some big plays in camp and new LSU head coach Brian Kelly hopes to see him ignite things for the offense this season.

“He’ll be a contributor, he needs to be a key contributor,” Kelly Said of Thomas following LSU’s first scrimmage during fall camp. “There’s a difference between a contributor and a key contributor in the sense that as I look at it, the consistency and performance has to be such that he can step in and be a starter for us.”

He’s got the physical talent to win a job on the outside, if he can continue to impress the staff and earn that playing time and earn those opportunities to use his athleticism, we’re talking about a guy that could have a real breakout season during his sophomore campaign.  

“We like his work ethic, he’s very, very strong,” Kelly added on Thomas. “When we look at our numbers in terms of strength in the weightroom he’s one of our strongest players. It’s amazing what his raw physical ability is, sometimes it’s a matter of maturation and coming along and probably making a play or two in an SEC game and once he does that, I think we’ll see him continue to grow.”

If Thomas can continue to mature as Kelly pointed out, get his footing with a couple of big plays his ceiling could be just as high as any LSU receiver in recent history and that’s saying a lot considering LSU has two of the top receivers in the NFL right now. 

While I’m not ready to crown him the next LSU great just yet, he certainly has the tools needed to go down in Tiger lore. Whether he puts it all together and get there, we’ll have to wait and see.

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