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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #13 LSU

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 7, 2014

#13 LSU Tigers

 

2013 Recap:

Hard to say that a 10-3 season is disappointing but for LSU that is the case. LSU is seen as one of the elite programs in the country, in the top conference, the SEC. No school has had more players move on to the NFL than LSU over the last three seasons. All LSU losses were away from home to ranked opponents in Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama. Big wins were scored over Auburn and Texas A&M.

 

Coaching:

Les Miles is just below Nick Saban in the eyes of those that follow the SEC but there is no question he is one of the elite coaches in America. Miles has a championship and 85 wins over the course of 8 seasons at LSU and 113 over his coaching career. This is a man that knows how to get it done, even if he has to replace a lot of pieces like he will this season.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

It will be a different philosophy this season as Zach Mettenberger has moved on at quarterback. Mettenberger was one of the most improved quarterbacks in the country last season and found a home with the Tennessee Titans despite a late season knee injury. Anthony Jennings is the leader for the starting quarterback job but it's far from settled as Jennings completed only 45% of his passes in limited action last year. Jennings is battling freshman Brandon Harris, and what makes both of these quarterbacks different than Mettenberger is their ability to be mobile with the football. Expect this battle to rage into the season, perhaps up to the midway point before the Tigers settle on their man.

Leonard Fournette comes into the season at running back as the nation's most heralded freshman since Adrian Peterson. If Fournette is as good as advertised it may not matter who the quarterback is. Can't put Fournette up as a prospect yet, since we have to see him play a few games at the running back position.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

LSU lost their starting quarterback and their running back left early for the NFL, but to top it all off, the top three receivers from last year are also gone. The top returning pass catcher had 7 catches and that is new starter Travin Dural. Like many LSU receivers the one thing Dural has is plenty of speed. Quantavis Leslie and freshman John Diarse will be battling for the other starting spot although they will be the three we see the most especially in three receiver sets.

Tight end Dillon Gordon may wind up being a bigger part of the passing game than many had bargained for. Gordon has the ability to stretch the field but expect sophomore Desean Smith to see the field as well.

Best Draft Prospect: Dillon Gordon TE UFA 2016.

 

Offensive Line:

There are a few linemen that will need to be replaced but the offensive line is in phenomenal shape and looks like it may be the cream of the crop in the SEC.  La'el Collins was most likely a 2nd or 3rd round selection had he left early last season but he looks like he will hear his name called in the 1st round this season. Collins is not the only 1st round prospect on the line as junior Vlad Alexander looks like a future top round selection. The junior may opt to leave after this season as so many Tigers have over the last five years.  Jerald Hawkins is an up and coming tackle playing the right side as he is being groomed for the left side after this season and Elliot Porter is one of the better centers in the conference. This line has no glaring weaknesses and if there were ever a case to give a unit an MVP Award, it would be here, to LSU's offensive line as a whole.

Best Draft Prospect: La'el Collins OT 1st Round 2015.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Only 26 sacks for LSU last year and that is a low number for them as the team usually posts at least 30. What LSU lost was pressure coming right up the middle as both starting defensive tackles left for the NFL and they did so a year early. The team was expecting Anthony Johnson to leave but Ego Ferguson had a huge year and left as well, which was something the team wasn't prepared for. Christian LaCouture and Quentin Thomas will be the new tackles and there is talent here, but they are inexperienced combining for just 20 tackles with 2 for loss and 1 sack last season. LSU will have to rely more on pressure off the edge where Jermauria Rasco is the best option and pro prospect they have at this point. 56 tackles with 4 sacks and 8 quarterback hurries while playing second fiddle to many lineman up front is pretty impressive. Danielle Hunter and his 57 tackles are also back at the defensive end position. LSU will play primarily in a 4-3 base but they can switch to a 3-4 quite easily. 

Best Draft Prospect: Jermauria Rasco DE 5th Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

LSU has been known for outstanding linebacking play but that was not the case last year and this year looks underwhelming too. This defense was still very formidable last season ranking #15 overall but the linebacker play was not up to LSU standards. Kwon Alexander has the most talent and will start the season manning the weakside, although he has the ability to play all three linebacking positions in the LSU defense.  Alexander is seen as a mid round prospect for 2016. D.J. Welter finished second on the team to Lamin Barrow although now with Barrow gone he will man the middle primarily. This is a unit that does not offer the depth that we are used to seeing. LSU needs to ensure they pressure the quarterback because the second wave of defenders is very young and inexperienced. 

Best Draft Prospect: Kwon Alexander LB 4th Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

You can see Jalen Collins listed below as the top prospect in the secondary. Collins will look to keep the excellent recent tradition of LSU corners going in the 1st round (Patrick Peterson and Morris Claibourne). Of course the troubled past of Tyrann Mathieu kept him out of the 1st round but he played well for Arizona as a rookie last season before his knee injury. Collins may be 4th on the depth chart at the beginning of the season, which should give you an indication of just how good this secondary is. On paper LSU certainly has the best secondary in the SEC and they rival Virginia Tech for best overall in the country at the cornerback position. Tre'Davious White is a sophomore that also looks like a future first rounder. White had 55 tackles with 2 interceptions and 9 pass breakups as a freshman. Rashard Robinson is another talented sophomore corner while the other Jalen...Mills is a junior that had 3 interceptions last season. This team is just loaded at corner although the usually steady safety spot is anything but that this season. Ronald Martin is dripping with talent but inconsistency hurts him immensely. Martin is a 2nd round pick for this season if he puts it all together. With the supporting cast around him you better believe he has a good chance at hearing his name called fairly early in the process.

Best Draft Prospect: Jalen Collins CB 1st Round 2016 (Expected to declare for 2015).

 

Special Teams:

There are a few voids on special teams as the departed Odell Beckham was one of the best return men in the country. LSU always seems to find great return options but what the team does not have is a proven option.  Tre'Davious White could handle kickoffs and punts but don't count on that as LSU should find another option like Travin Dural or Trey Quinn to take some of the heat off of White. Colby Delahoussaye and Jamie Keehn are back at kicker and punter respectively.

Best Draft Prospect: Tre'Davious White CB/PR 1st Round 2017 (Early entrant possibility for 2016).

 

Schedule:

A game against Wisconsin at a neutral site opens the season for LSU. Alabama is a home game while opponents like Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M all require a visit from the Tiger team.  LSU has a brutal schedule as usual but they always manage and they are usually ranked higher than many teams around them.

 

Draft Outlook:

One can argue that LSU has been the NFL factory over the last five years, seemingly offering 4-5 players taken in the early to middle stages of the each and every draft. With lineman like La'el Collins and Vlad Alexander it will be easy to see why LSU is held in such high regard. The secondary situation will be fun to monitor and it will be fun to see who is declaring after this season and who is going to stay.

 

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