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Line of Scrimmage: How does FSU match up with LSU? Feat. Zachary Junda of And the Valley Shook

Can the Seminoles snag a win in New Orleans?

Welcome to the Line of Scrimmage, the latest show on the Tomahawk Nation podcast network.

Ahead of each game this football season, we’re giving you insight into Florida State’s opponents from those in the know.

This week, we welcome Zachary Junda, who is the site manager of our LSU SB Nation sister site, And The Valley Shook. We spoke with him about how the Tigers match up with the Seminoles this season, the names to know on each side of the ball for LSU, how the two teams are almost mirror images of each other and more.

You can read some of his answers here or find the full interview below.

Let’s start with the obvious. If it wasn’t for the Lincoln Riley sudden USC move, the biggest college coaching headline this offseason would have been LSU landing Brian Kelly. How has his arrival specifically rejuvenated this program and where do you feel Kelly’s strengths are compared to the previous regime?

Once you kind of got over the ickiness of the Brian Kelly, you kind of thought about it like, “huh, he’s the winningest coach in Notre Dame history. He’s got more wins of any college football coach in the game right now.” And then you think, “if Kelly can get to the college football playoff twice in a five year or six-year span with the handcuffs on, you take those handcuffs off at a place like LSU where there’s a freak show, high school talent, mere minutes from campus...wait, this can work.”

It’s just nice to have an adult back in the room. When former head coach Ed Orgeron was winning, it was like, “Oh, there’s that crazy coach punching himself in the face and chugging monsters and Red Bull. That’s really funny.” But when you start losing, you’re going five and five and then six and seven, you kind of look at them. You’re like, wait, this guy’s kind of a clown.

The Tigers will start the season with several new faces on offense. I want to look at the skill positions first. Wide receiver looks to be the area with the highest upside, with Kayshon Boutte leading the way. Starting running back John Emery (as of this recording) is suspended for the game opener and last year’s starting quarterback Myles Brennan has left the team. What’s your confidence level in transfers running back Noah Cain and quarterback Jayden Daniels?

Boutte is probably the first or second receiver drafted next year. Jack Besh is another name that Noles fans should know ahead of Sunday.

Brian Thomas Junior is a physical freak. He’s a six-foot-four kid, and he got a lot of D-1 basketball offers and he knows how to really use his body. So there are weapons all around the skill position and running back-wise. I’m feeling pretty good about the running back room — now it’s thin because you’re assuming Emery is still suspended by the time Sunday rolls around. Cain was a pretty good player at Penn State his freshman year in 2019, but he had an ACL tear, I believe, in the first series of the 2020 series and didn’t really regain his footing back in 2021. Armani Goodwin has put on some good weight. He’s on the shorter side, like five, eight, five, nine, but he’s bout 210 pounds now, so he can really bowl people over.

I always assumed when Daniels transferred to LSU in March, this is after Brennan took his name out of the portal. I always figured it was just a matter of when, not if. He’s a little erratic, or at least his his numbers have decreased from a pretty stellar freshman season at ASU. Last season, I think he had ten touchdowns, ten interceptions, but he also really moved. He’s got several future pros at receiver.

I think there’s a good chance, barring Daniels has like a Joe Burrow against Oklahoma type of starts, I think both quarterbacks will play, where one guy (Daniels) is more of the running quarterback and one guy (Garrett Nussmeier) is more of the throwing quarterback.

Speaking of new faces, LSU’s starting offensive line is slated to start a true freshman at left tackle in Will Campbell and a name FSU fans are familiar with, FIU transfer Miles Frazier at one of the guard spots. Is the offensive line an area that LSU fans are excited or nervous about?

I’m excited, especially for Will Campbell, a five-star early enrollee freshman. I mean, he’s 18 years old. He’s going to be starting and protecting the quarterback’s blindside. I mean, that’s a rare feat in itself. That said it’s basically a brand new line across the whole line. I’m surprised that Frazier’s playing inside. I thought with him being such a highly sought-after transfer free agent, so to speak. You know, he was an all-American, a freshman, all-American, four years as a tackle, but now he’s playing on the interior. The biggest question is going to be at the center, and that’s the scary part because nothing can happen if the quarterback the center exchange is iffy. We just won’t know until we see it. It gives me a lot of pause, but I’m choosing to be optimistic about the center position. Especially because really it just can’t be worse than it has been the past two seasons.

Jumping over to defense, Coach Kelly hired Matt House from the Kansas City Chiefs. In his past House has utilized both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme. Has there been any indication if the multiple formations will continue or will LSU roll with a base 4-3 building off a strong defensive line of Smith, Roy, Gaye, and Ojulari?

I think it will be a multiple look. One thing that I’m excited about this really the whole coaching staff as a whole, instead of being so committed to “this is our system and it’s how we’re going to play,” they’re going to look at what they have to work with and make the system fit the players.

Next to the wide receivers, this defensive front has the most future pros. Ojulari is wearing the famed number 18 — that’s a big deal with the LSU program. Mason Smith was, depending on what outlook you were using, he was either the top defensive tackle in the country or the top defensive lineman in the country. And he definitely looked the part last season and he should only get better this year. Smith might be the most talented lineman LSU’s had since Glenn Dorsey — that’s big comparison to make, but Smith has that same kind of talent. He can play inside, he can play outside.

Everything Florida State Seminoles, all the time.

The Tomahawk Nation podcast channel, presented by SB Nation, features insider Seminoles recruiting, football, basketball, baseball, softball, and soccer analysis and commentary, featuring shows hosted by staff writers Tim Alumbaugh, Matt Minnick, Michael Rogner, Brian Pellerin, and Ben Meyerson, featuring contributions by Joshua Pick, David Stout, Jon Marchant, Max Escarpio and the entire Tomahawk Nation staff, produced by managing editor Perry Kostidakis.

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