An Insider's Look at the LSU Tigers

Being part of a great network like and FOX Sports, we are able to share our insights with other fan site publishers, writers, and followers. This week, we invite Managing Editor Randy Rosetta to give you a break down of the LSU Tigers position by position as the Gators head into Saturday to play the number one team in the nation.

Randy Rosetta has covered the LSU football program since 2004, seven seasons as a beat writer for The Baron Rouge Advocate and the last five months for and He has been there for every day of Les Miles' tenure and has even developed the skill of translating what the Tigers' quirky coach is saying … most of the time.

Here is Rosetta's take on LSU as they prepare for the match up with Florida.


Quarterback: Jarrett Lee (6-2, 206, Sr.)

Strength: Lee has proven to be unflappable through five games after moving into the starting job when Jordan Jefferson was suspended in the wake of an arrest for his alleged involvement in a fight outside a local bar. Arm strength and a quick release have always been big plusses for Lee, who has thrown for 793 yards and seven TDs this season with only one interception.

Weakness: Accuracy abandons Lee at times, especially on downfield throws. Throwing off his back foot has plagued him since his redshirt freshman season, although he has actually used it to his advantage at times against aggressive defenses. There's also a lingering habit of throwing the ball into closed windows or double coverage, but Lee said that's by design at times to give his playmakers chances to make plays.

Coming on strong: Jordan Jefferson (6-5, 225, Sr.)

The former starter, Jefferson has only been back for four full practices and has some progress to make, but LSU coach Les Miles said there was no discernible rust from his four-game suspension from all team activities.

Tailback: Spencer Ware (5-11, 223, So.) and/or Michael Ford (5-10, 215, So.)

Strengths: Ware is a battering-ram type runner who will administer punishment as much as he absorbs it and he is relentless, willing to peck away for 2-, 3- and 4-yard gains until bigger holes open up. Ford is the faster of the two and much more of a threat on the edges, and once he's in the open field he's powerful enough to burst through one-on-one tackles.

Weaknesses: As powerful as Ware is, he still needs to evolve as far as reading holes and finding the more inviting running lanes instead of simply bulling ahead. Ford has gotten better at shifting gears when a hole is plugged, but that's an area he could improve on as well. Ball security is also an issue at times with Ford – not on contact as much as simply fielding the ball from the quarterback on toss sweeps.

Coming on strong: Alfred Blue (6-2, 215, So.)

Blue may be the perfect blend of Ware and Ford, a little bigger and he has a longer stride that allows him to gain a head of steam once he gets past the defensive line. He runs as hard as Ware, can be elusive like Ford and is quickly developing as a go-to threat.

Fullback: James Stampley (5-10, 239, Sr.)

Strengths: A former walk-on and one of the team's strongest players, Stampley is legendary for breaking helmets in practice and he's taken that skill to the field this year with powerful hole-opening blocks. With young tailbacks still learning how to read defenses, Stampley is a nice security blanket in front of them.

Weaknesses: Stampley is a former high school center and isn't going to get any bigger or faster, making him solely a blocker in the backfield.

Coming on strong: Kenny Hilliard (5-11, 240, Fr.)

Although Hilliard has only gotten a handful of carries, his potential is huge. He arrived at LSU as the leading rusher in Louisiana prep history and looms as a powerful hybrid back of the future, cut from the same mold as former Tigers Jacob Hester, Charles Scott and Stevan Ridley.

Tight end: DeAngelo Peterson (6-4, 235, Sr.)

Strengths: A converted wide receiver, Peterson gives the Tigers an athletic and explosive threat who is a mismatch for linebackers and safeties because of his diverse package.

Weaknesses: Peterson has never completely figured out how to get free on the short routes a tight end has to excel at and often gets tangled up in traffic inside when he is a primary target.

Coming on strong: Chase Clement (6-5, 251, Jr.)

Though Clement is not the athletic specimen Peterson is, he has shown to have more reliable hands at times in quick, short situations and is also a much better blocker on the edge.

Receivers: Rueben Randle (6-4, 208, Jr.), Russell Shepard (6-1, 185, Jr.), Odell Beckham Jr. (5-11, 183, Fr.)

Strengths: All three primary receivers are home-run threats and can burn defenses on deep routes or short passes they turn into big plays. Randle is the most athletic of the trio, but Shepard is finally starting to look like the athlete he was recruited to be with the ability to go and snare passes at the peak of his jump. Beckham is as sure-handed as any receiver LSU has had since Early Doucet and has shown the last two weeks he knows what to do in open space when he gets a chance.

Weaknesses: Randle and Shepard have both had blatant, costly drops this season. At times Randle looks disinterested on routes when the ball isn't coming his way. Shepard's route-running is still suspect and that's problematic with Lee because he throws to spots on most pass plays.

Coming on strong: Kadron Boone (6-0, 195, So.)

It's going to be tough to crack the top three, but Boone is taking a stab at it with four catches for 39 yards and a TD. He has also evolved as a blocker, which is huge to Miles and LSU receivers coach Billy Gonzales.

Offensive line: LT Chris Faulk (6-6, 325, So.), LG T-Bob Hebert (6-3, 304, Sr.), C P.J. Lonergan (6-4, 305, Jr.), RG Will Blackwell (6-4, 303, Sr.), RT Alex Hurst (6-6, 340, Jr.)

Strengths: Experience and depth are the LSU o-line's calling cards. They have made progress every year since 2009 when the Tigers struggled to run the ball and Jefferson and Lee were sacked 37 times. Now the quarterbacks rarely get touched and no matter who the back is, there is consistently room to run. Because most of the starting five has been around a while, there is very good chemistry and familiarity among them.

Weaknesses: Going back to pre-season camp, this group has been injury-prone. Every starter but Lonergan has missed time this season, putting the depth up front to a test.

Coming on strong: Josh Williford (6-7, 324, So.)

Williford has regularly filled in at right guard and could shift to the left side if needed. When he lines up next to Hurst, the Tigers' right side blocks out the sun.


Defensive line: LDE Kendrick Adams (6-5, 255, Sr.), LDT Michael Brockers (6-6, 306, So.), RDT Bennie Logan (6-3, 287, So.), RDE Sam Montgomery (6-4, 245, So.)

Strengths: This was an area of concern before the season began with the loss of starting both tackles to the NFL and Montgomery coming back from a major knee injury. Those questions have been alleviated with a dominant five-game start, anchored by Montgomery and the quick transition to starting roles by Brockers and Logan, who are very effective as run stoppers. The rapid evolution of the defensive line is a major reason why the Tigers rank third nationally allowing only 60.4 rushing yards a game.

Weaknesses: Because Montgomery and Adams are so fast and athletic, both have a habit of running themselves out of plays at times. Other than that, it's hard to find many blemishes up front on the LSU defense.

Coming on strong: DE Barkevious Mingo, DT Anthony Johnson

Mingo has become a dominant wildcard for the d-line, a pass rusher with linebacker size and safety speed who is capable of blowing up a play on any snap. Johnson may make it hard for Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis to keep him off the field much longer because he has already shown he can disrupt offenses both on the ground and as an interior pass rusher.

Linebackers: WLB Ryan Baker (6-0, 236, Sr.), MLB (Karnell Hatcher 6-2, 223, Sr.) –OR— Kevin Minter (6-2, 242, So.)

Strengths: Baker is one of the fastest players on defense and is a sure enough tackler to find the ball and stop a ball carrier in his tracks. He is flexible enough to move around the formation and make plays wherever needed.

Weaknesses: Neither Hatcher nor Minter has taken ownership of the middle spot, which was a huge void after Kelvin Sheppard graduated and remains a weak link. Hatcher is a converted safety who was expected to bolster LSU's pass defense, but he has consistently been beaten deep. Minter is the heir apparent in the middle and is effective against the run, but still seems unsure of what to do or how to align the defense at times.

Coming on strong: Lamin Barrow (6-2, 239, So.), Tahj Jones (6-2, 205, So.)

Both young linebackers have shown flashes of being ready for the SEC level, but just not consistently enough yet. That said, if Minter and especially Hatcher don't make major strides quickly, Barrow and Jones could both get increased playing time – especially when the Tigers get into the teeth of a schedule against more traditional offensive schemes.

Secondary: LCB Morris Claiborne (6-0, 185, Jr.), SS Brandon Taylor (6-0, 194, Sr.), FS Eric Reid (6-2, 208, So.), RCB Tharold Simon (6-3, 187, So.), NICKEL Tyrann Mathieu (5-9, 175, So.)

Strengths: Mathieu is the headliner here, a ball-hawking, drive-killing, game-changing playmaker who is liable to line up anywhere on the field to make sure he's in the perfect spot to be around the ball. But he's certainly not alone in the secondary. Claiborne and Simon have both made life miserable for opposing receivers and quarterbacks as lock-down cover corners. Whatever those three don't take away, Reid and Taylor are capable of cleaning up – and both are effective when they have to come up to defend the run as well.

Weaknesses: As with the defensive front, it's a stretch to find a weakness. But if there is one, it's the fact that the DBs have squandered several chances for interceptions, especially against West Virginia when Mountaineers' QB Geno Smith lit them up for 463 passing yards when they botched several picks and couldn't get WVU off the field.

Coming on strong: Craig Loston (6-2, 208, So.)

Loston would likely start for most teams, but with the depth and talent at LSU, he's relegated to rotating in and filling in when Reid or Taylor need a blow. One of the hardest-hitting Tigers, Loston isn't great in pass coverage but makes up for that deficiency with an intimidating presence – a la former LSU safeties LaRon Landry and Chad Jones.


Specialists: PK Drew Alleman (5-11, 183, Jr.), P Brad Wing 6-3, 184, Fr.), KO James Hairston (6-0, 200, Fr.)

Strengths: Wing and Alleman have really bolstered the Tigers' kicking games the last few weeks, becoming weapons by consistently pinning opponents deep. Wing is averaging 43.8 yards a punt and has dropped nine inside the 20-yard-line. Hairston has handled kickoffs the last two games and his kicks have gone an average of 7.3 yards longer than what LSU was getting with Drew Alleman and backup punter D.J. Howard.

Weaknesses: Alleman has been a step back from the consistency and distance Josh Jasper provided and has been a bit gimpy since the season opener. Sooner or later, Miles may have to see if Hairston is ready for placement kicks as well.

Return men: KO Morris Claiborne (6-0, 185, Jr.), PR Tyrann Mathieu (5-9, 175, So.)

Strengths: Both return men have explosive capabilities, something Claiborne flashed with a 99-yard touchdown return at West Virginia that staunched the Mountaineers momentum. Mathieu's play-making skills on defense translate well when he has room and time to find openings.

Weaknesses: Before the bolt of lightning at WVU, Claiborne had been fairly pedestrian on kickoffs – albeit a safe option, and he always moved forward instead of running East-West. Mathieu needs to accept the notion of fair-catching the ball in certain situations and not taking unnecessary risks.

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