Previews 2014: LSU Tigers

Apr 5, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Anthony Jennings (10) during the 2014 spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 5, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; quarterback Anthony Jennings (10) during the 2014 spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Tigers: Team Overview
by
TideFans.com Editor-in-Chief
August 22, 2014

For LSU to remain at or near the top of the SEC heap, some things will have to improve from where the Tigers left off in 2013. LSU has issues at quarterback, linebacker and along the defensive line. But the Tigers seem to do some of their best work when people underestimate them and their too-weird-for-words coach .

Returning Offensive Starters: 6 (LT, LG, C, RT, TE, FB)

Returning Defensive Starters: 6 (RDE, LDE, MLB, WLB, RCB, LCB)

Returning Specialists: 2 (PK, P)

 

Projected Overall Record: 10-2 (AU, TAM)

Projected SEC Record:                       6-2 (AU, TAM)

Projected Record:             4-2 (AU, TAM)

 

Ratings (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr)

Quarterbacks:      Fr                            Defensive Line:    Av

Running Backs:   Vg                           Linebackers:         Av

Wide Receivers:   Av                           Defensive Backs:                Vg

Offensive Line:    Ex                           Special Teams:     Ex

 

For LSU to remain at or near the top of the SEC heap, some things will have to improve from where the Tigers left off in 2013. LSU has issues at quarterback, linebacker and along the defensive line. But the Tigers seem to do some of their best work when people underestimate them and their too-weird-for-words coach Les Miles.

 

OFFENSE

 

LSU bases from an I-formation, but what the Tigers run is rarely confused with a traditional pro set. Miles has utilized elements of the spread, the spread-option and West Coast in his tenure, and with a young (but mobile) quarterback group in 2014, expect to see more designed runs and the return of some spread-option elements now that is no longer in the LSU backfield.

 

QUARTERBACKS

Anthony Jennings finished the season as LSU’s starter after was knocked out with a knee injury. His experience in the last two games of the 2013 season should carry over enough that he gets the initial snaps of LSU’s 2014 season. But true freshman is pushing Jennings, and many expect Harris to be the eventual starter once he gets his feet wet. Both players are dual-threat quarterbacks who will make plenty of mistakes early throwing the ball, and with Stephen Rivers gone to Vanderbilt, there is no safety net.

 

RUNNING BACKS

Despite the loss of Hill to the NFL, LSU should be set here. All-everything true freshman could very well be the opening day starter, although senior holdovers Terrence Magee and will have something to say about it. Hilliard is a bruiser, Magee a speedster and Fournette is a combination of the two. Fullback Connor Neighbors returns, and while he’s not a rushing threat, his blocking skills make all of LSU’s tailbacks better.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

For once, LSU doesn’t have superstars waiting to step into roles vacated by departed upperclassmen. The closest thing LSU has to a proven commodity is Travin Dural, who caught all of 7 passes in 2013. Tight end Dillon Gordon returns, but he wasn’t a big part of the Tiger passing attack. Plenty of players are competing to see who will start next to Dural, including John Diarse, Quantavius Leslie and signee Trey Quinn, of whom much is expected. Kenny Spears and Avery Peterson are some of the holdovers vying for time at receiver, while Travis Dickson and Desean Smith should see time at tight end.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

So long as injuries don’t creep into the picture as they have in recent years, LSU should be solid here. Left tackle La’el Collins is the hoss of the group, but left guard Vadal Alexander and center Elliott Porter are solid players in their own right, and the three of them form a fairly impenetrable wall. Right tackle Jerald Hawkins is back, but the right guard starter is new, with Hoko Fanaika the favorite over Evan Washington. Depth is promising, with only one freshman, K.J. Malone, counted among the second unit. Reserve center Ethan Pocic could be a special player.

 

DEFENSE

 

Last year was not LSU’s finest under John Chavis, as the Tigers ranked 35th in rushing defense and just didn’t affect games like they could have. Things aren’t expected to get much better in 2014, as graduation and the NFL draft gutted the middle of the front seven, while question marks abound at safety. Chavis is an able tactician, but LSU is in the middle of rebuilding its talent base on the defensive side and LSU could be in a tight spot because of it.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

Ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco can both get after the passer, but they’re sized like linebackers and need to be more stout against opposing rushing attacks. LSU is high on both Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture in the middle, but Thomas has been banged up and it’s all freshmen behind him. Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain held down the backup jobs coming out of spring, although Travonte Valentine will press them both, provided he can get his NCAA status settled. At end, true freshman Davon Godchaux joins redshirt freshman Frank Herron and sophomore Tashawn Bower coming off the bench. LSU will be young, and thus vulnerable early on, but this group has talent.

 

LINEBACKERS

Depending on who you ask, LSU will either be solid here, or this unit is the liability of the defense. It hinges mostly on how D.J. Welter either does or doesn’t improve as the middle linebacker. Welter knows the defense and doesn’t make many mistakes, but he also doesn’t make many plays. A pair of juniors, Ronnie Feist and Deion Jones, will battle for the strongside position, while Kwon Alexander takes the weakside spot. Alexander must develop better practice habits and mature; if he does, he could be the bellcow of the unit. Lamar Louis is also in the mix for a starting job, while Kendell Beckwith will push Welter. Signee Clifton Garrett has enough talent that he could eventually push everyone.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

There is plenty of competition at cornerback, but safety could be an issue. Tre’Davious White is the top corner on the team, especially now that Jalen Mills has run into off-field trouble. Even with Mills out of the picture, Rashard Robinson and Jalen Collins should have a spirited battle at the slot opposite white. As for safety, it’s anyone’s game, with Rickey Jefferson, Corey Thompson and Ronald Martin the most likely candidates to start the opener. Ed Paris Jr. and Lionel Williams add depth. If LSU gets solid play up the middle from Jefferson, Thompson and Martin, this could be a tough group.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

LSU returns booth kickers, and even though Odell Beckham Jr. is no longer around to terrorize opponents on kick returns, the Tigers have plenty of athletes available to fill his shoes. Kicker Colby Delahoussaye doesn’t have the strongest leg in the conference, but he missed just one field goal attempt in 2013 and keeps a cool head under pressure. Punter Jamie Keehn had a so-so 2013 campaign, but is widely expected to improve in 2014. Signee Cameron Gamble may split time with Delahoussaye at kicker, with Gamble handling the longer kicks.

 

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