Black Back to Lead Tigers

• This is the sixth in an 11-part series previewing Southeastern Conference football teams. Up next: Mississippi State.

FAYETTEVILLE — LSU left tackle Ciron Black built up an impressive resume during his first three seasons on the field with the Tigers.

He logged 40 straight starts at a demanding position, was part of a national title team, and was well-known as one of the Southeastern Conference's top linemen. But the accolades weren't enough for the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Black to skip his senior year with the Tigers to enter the 2009 NFL Draft.

"I realized I had a lot more to do," Black said. "I have a lot more to work on becoming a better play, a better all-around player. When I made the decision it felt like a great decision and I haven't regretted it one bit."

So Black will be back in 2009 and it's good news for the Tigers. The Tyler, Texas native enters the season as the top left tackle in the league and a key cog in a team looking to rebound from last season's disappointments.

LSU's five-loss season was a shock. It was the first time since 2004 the Tigers hadn't won 11 games. They hadn't lost five since 2002.

But it's something Black said he and the Tigers are determined to bury.

"Right now we're really hungry," Black said. "We ended the season on a great note with the Chick-fil-A Bowl. That wasn't enough."

The Tigers will lean on Black to pave the way for bruising back Charles Scott, who also decided to return to school for his senior year. He'll also be in charge helping protect second-year quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

It's a big responsibility, but one Black has grown accustomed to. And one the Tigers are glad they can place on their left tackle for one more year.

"He's a very talented man," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Not only athletically, but I think he has an intuitive sense, an understanding what's going on. ... It's really interesting to watch a young man mature."



LSU INSIDER

DIFFERENCE MAKER: This spot is typically reserved for a player, but new defensive coordinator John Chavis earns the nod for the Tigers. LSU's defense flopped last season, allowing 30 or more points in five games under co-coordinators. Enter Chavis and his 20 years of experience in the SEC. Chavis, nicknamed "The Chief," is being counted on to make a big impact.

RISING STAR: LSU should be much more settled at the quarterback position with Jordan Jefferson running the show in 2009. Jefferson stepped on the field as a freshman for the final two games and performed well. Especially in the Chick-fil-A bowl win against Georgia Tech. Jefferson enters the preseason as LSU's starter. His growth in the offense is critical to LSU's success.

BIGGEST STRENGTH: LSU is loaded at tailback with Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy. The trio will shoulder the load on offense and should be a great security blanket for Jefferson as he enters his first full season under center. LSU also has a solid offensive line led by LT Ciron Black, so handing the ball off and wearing down opponents can be accomplished.

BIGGEST QUESTION: What will they do in the passing game? Jefferson hasn't established himself as a passer, yet, and the Tigers have big questions at wide receiver outside of Brandon LaFell. Only one other receiver — Terrance Tolliver — caught more than 10 passes last season. It means the Tigers need help from talented freshmen Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard right now.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The Tigers are determined to bounce back in a big way in 2009, but how serious are they? We'll find out Oct. 10 when Florida comes to Tiger Stadium. LSU will have a chance to make a splash by knocking off the defending champs. It's being looked at as a potential bump in Florida's road to another title. Could it be a step toward another title for the Tigers?

FORECAST: Second in SEC West

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