2013 Auburn Football Opponent Preview: LSU

Our series of previews of Auburn's football opponents continues with a look at LSU.

After suffering heavy losses from last year's team, the question in Baton Rouge about the 2013 LSU Tigers is whether or not they are reloading or rebuilding.

Coach Les Miles must replace seven starters on defense and three on offense as well as his kickers. Included in the losses are nine players who were selected in the NFL?Draft, the most ever from an LSU team.

After posting a 13-1 record in 2011, expectations were for the 2012 team to make a run at the national title. That didn't happen as LSU lost three times, including a season-ending 25-24 game to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Auburn will play LSU on Sept. 21st in Baton Rouge in what will be the first SEC game for the Bayou Bengals, who open vs. TCU in a game at Arlington, Tex., before returning home to play UAB and Kent State.

Miles has turned to veteran offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to make a positive difference. His first major assignment is improving senior Zach Mettenberger, a quarterback with a big arm and plenty of talent who has been good, but nothing special despite coming into the collegiate ranks as a highly-regarded prospect.

Last season the former Georgia Bulldog completed 58.8 percent of his 352 passes for 2,609 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. If LSU's running game performs up to its potential, the quarterback should get a lot of single coverage this fall so it will be disappointing if his numbers are not improved, especially with talented receivers to throw this fall.

Odell Beckham, who caught 43 passes for 713 yards last year, is one of the top wideouts in the SEC. Also returning is Jarvis Landry, who caught 56 passes for 573 yards and five touchdowns last fall.

Odell Beckham will be a junior this season.

LSU's leader in rushing yards is back, too. Jeremy Hill ran for 755 yards and a dozen TDs while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Powerful Kenny Hilliard rushed for 464 yards and six TDs last season. Alfred Blue is another talented tailback while J.C. Copeland is a strong lead blocker from the fullback position.

The offensive line had injury issues last year, but should be improved with four starters back. That group includes Trai Tuner, Vadal Alexander, Josh Williford and La'el Collins.

Junior Anthony Johnson will be a key player for the defensive front at tackle. LSU will be counting on juniors Jermauria Rasco, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson to help on the line, a strength in recent years. Whether or not they can fill the big shoes of players like Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan is one of the key questions on defense for the Bayou Bengals.

Anthony Johnson made 10 tackles for lost yardage last season.

There is also major rebuilding to do in the secondary where LSU will be counting on junior free safety Ronald Martin to develop into a key player filling a role handled by Eric Reid. Martin was in on 35 tackles last season. Craig Loston, the strong safety, was a second team All-SEC pick as a junior.

The top returning tackler is senior linebacker Lamin Barrow, who made 104 stops last year. He leads a group that should be a team strength with players like Tahj Boyd, Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis and Deion Jones in the mix.

Top Offensive Player

Jeremy Hill is a 6-2, 235-pound tailback with a chance to rush for 1,000-plus yards this season. He ran for 12 touchdowns last year, setting a record for an LSU freshman, breaking a mark set back in 1982 by talented running back Dalton Hilliard.

Top Defensive Player

Anthony Johnson, a 6-3, 304 tackle who has the quickness of an end after dropping a lot of weight since he arrived in Baton Rouge, looks like he is ready to blossom into a standout performer.

Schedule Tough Stretch

The Bayou Bengals play just three games in November, but will be tested with a road game at Alabama and home contests vs. Texas A&M?and Arkansas.

Newcomer to Watch

Greg Gilmore, a five-star defensive tackle who was the top-rated prospect in North Carolina in the 2013 signee class, could help early at a position of need if he is more ready to play than another highly-regarded freshman tackle, Christian Lacouture.

Washington State Preview

Arkansas State Preview

Mississippi State Preview

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