2011 Record: 13-1
Returning Starters: 11
Key Losses: Rueben Randle, Jordan Jefferson, T-Bob Hebert, Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Ryan Baker
It’s impossible to imagine a more disappointing end to such an unbelievable season for the LSU Tigers. Les Miles’ squad looked dominant the entire season, and was able to squeak out an overtime victory on the road in Tuscaloosa, only to see the Crimson Tide again in the BCS National Championship.
In their 21-0 loss to Alabama for the title, LSU’s offense couldn’t get it going, in large part, because Jordan Jefferson couldn’t find any sort of a rhythm at the quarterback position. This year, Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are both gone, and that’s being viewed as a good thing by LSU fans, because former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger has already been anointed as the starter.
The four-headed rushing attack of Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue, and Kenny Hilliard are all back, and the foursome combined to rush for 2,338 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, but the question will be whether or not they can continue to find enough carries for all four backs and if they can continue to peacefully coexist.
Defensively, LSU is still loaded with talent, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t feel the effects of losing two potential first-round picks in Michael Brockers and Morris Claiborne. However, even though he won’t be nearly as high on anyone’s draft board, the loss of Ryan Baker may be even more difficult to overcome, as LSU will be thin at linebacker this spring.
What to watch for:
The Tigers already started spring football practice on March 1, and as mentioned, there isn’t much of a battle at quarterback, as Mettenberger entered spring as the de facto starter. However, seeing how the talented junior adjusts to being “The Guy” will still warrant the attention of LSU fans.
The competition at tailback will be well-publicized, but perhaps the most pressing issue offensively will replacing the production in the passing game of departed wide receiver Rueben Randle and tight end DeAngelo Peterson. Peterson’s role was limited for most of the year, but combined with Randle, who was the clear cut No. 1 option, they accumulated over half the team’s receiving yards and that will have to be replaced.
Jarvis Landry, Kadron Boone, and Russell Shephard will all be looked upon to step up and relieve pressure from Odell Beckham, Jr. but the trio combined for 25 catches total in 2011.
Defensively, the Tigers still feel fairly confident in the secondary with Tyrann Mathieu and along with defensive front with Bennie Logan and Sam Montgomery, but linebacker is a clear position of need. This spring, they’re a little thin, so it’s difficult to say what can be learned, but when the freshman arrive in the fall there is going to be some serious competition in the second-level of what should still be a solid defense.
Spring Game: 3-31