Freshmen TJ Finley, Arik Gilbert Form Special Connection (247sports.com)

LSU’s freshman class was a terrific one, ranked No. 4 in the 247Sports Composite. And while injuries have forced some of those players into action sooner than anticipated, SEC Network analyst

said there were some positive takeaways.

Arik Gilbert, the top-ranked tight end and No. 5 overall player in the 2020 247Sports Composite, was expected to play right away. TJ Finley wasn’t. But in LSU’s 27-24 win over Arkansas, Harper said that Finley being forced into action could benefit the Tigers down the road.

Arik Gilbert and TJ Finley definitely have connection,”

said. “You can tell these two freshmen, they will be together for many, many years and they will continue to find success. I like how they worked in between the hashes, and they made the plays when they needed to the most offensively and defensively to get this win.”

After the game, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said that the Tigers did a great job of executing their gameplan against the Razorbacks.

“Exactly what you said. We wanted to run the football. We wanted to be in manageable third downs. Short, easy throws, take the shots when we could,” Orgeron said. “We thought that we had some chances and we missed some shots. Put the ball in our playmakers hand. I thought Arik Gilbert had a great game. Anytime we could give him the football. The key was the time of possession.”

The Tigers gave the ball to Tyrion Davis-Price 24 tines in the running game, and he responded with 104 yards and a touchdown. And while Finley threw the ball 42 times, completing 27 of those throws for 271 yards and two touchdowns, a number of those throws came after laying the foundation that LSU could run the football.

Gilbert was a major threat, ranking second on the Tigers in both catches (five) and receiving yards (55). And with his combination of size, athleticism and skill, he’s lived up to expectations with 27 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns over six games. Even with an uneven passing game, for a true freshman to have that kind of production — over the course of a 13-game season, that would equate roughly 59 catches for 680 yards and four touchdowns — would set Gilbert apart as one of the nation’s best tight ends and arguably the nation’s best tight end heading into 2021.

Orgeron also had praise for Finley, the quarterback getting Gilbert the ball.

“You know, he’s got ice in his veins. He’s got a lot of confidence,” Orgeron said. “I mean he practices that way. He’s got a strong arm. He’s got a big body. He’s confident. He can handle the rush, can scramble. There are some things with the play going fast that he has to key and diagnose a little bit better, but overall, he showed that he can win a big game at the end.”



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