HOOVER, Ala. — LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson thought he had a bad season at first glance.
After all, Jackson had just 3 1/2 sacks in 14 games as a starter in 2007. It was far fewer than his breakout sophomore season, when Jackson had 8 1/2 sacks and was regarded as an up-and-coming lineman.
But the more Jackson thought about it in the offseason, after the Tigers had claimed the national championship, the more he changed his mind.
"I think I learned that I didn't have a bad season," Jackson said at Southeastern Conference Media Days last month. "After going back and looking at all the games, I didn't have the real stats that I wanted. But I think I did a lot of special things for our team."
There's no doubt the 6-foot-5, 291-pound Jackson played a big role in the Tigers title, but they're expecting even more as he becomes one of the leaders of the Tigers defense. LSU lost a handful of veterans from the 2007 bunch — included defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey — leaving Jackson with a new challenge.
But Jackson said he and the Tigers don't plan to miss a beat without Dorsey in the middle.
"You can't replace Glenn Dorsey," he said. "There's one and only Glenn Dorsey. I was fortunate enough to be around for four years and I learned a lot from him."
Primarily, Jackson learned how to deal with double teams. It was a staple of Dorsey's LSU career and something Jackson battled with last season.
In fact, it was a big reason his numbers diminished. Opponent's did their best to lessen his impact, which often meant making sure two players were blocking him.
Jackson said he's better prepared for the attention the attention this season. He also plans to improve enough to leave no doubt about his impact this season.
"I can get a lot better," Jackson said.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: LSU will break in a new quarterback, but it helps to have a talented receiver to lean on. Demetrius Byrd will fill the bill. The senior caught 35 passes for 621 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, but has the size, strength and speed to become one of the SEC's top receiver in 2008.
RISING STAR: LSU has followed a tailback-by-committee plan lately, limiting the numbers one player typically piles up. The plan remains in 2008, but junior Charles Scott is expected to play big role. Scott, who was fourth on the team in rushing last season (324 yards), averaged a team-high 7.2 yards a carry. He will share time with Keiland Williams and Trindon Holliday.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: Losing a dominant player like Glenn Dorsey would be a big blow for any team, but the sting won't be quite as bad at LSU because it is still loaded along its defensive front. Starters like Jackson, defensive end Kirston Pittman and defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois are back. So the Tigers feel good.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Like a handful of other SEC teams, the Tigers must find a starting quarterback. Ryan Perrilloux was a shoe-in before off-the-field troubles led to his dismissal. Without him, the Tigers are looking at junior Andrew Hatch and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee. Freshman Jordan Jefferson is also in the mix.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The Tigers face their toughest stretch in October, when they play consecutive games against Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. The first two are on the road. How well LSU handles the test could determine its role in the championship chase.
FORECAST: 10-2, 6-2 in SEC
Tigers DE Ready For Special Season
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