SEC Preview: LSU

The LSU Tigers may be the most talented team in the SEC, but can they live up to their preseason expectations?

Head Coach Les Miles raised quite a few eyebrows with his criticism of Southern Cal and the Pac-10 Conference. It's not that his comments were novel – it's an opinion held by many of college football's talking heads. It's that this time it came from within the coaching fraternity. But that's Les Miles. And it's refreshing to hear something different than the usual clichés and coachisms. But it won't mean a thing if Miles' Tigers, SEC favorites and national title contenders, don't reach the BCS Championship game to back it up. And anything short of an SEC championship would probably plant some For Sale signs in Miles' front lawn.

The conference schedule is favorable with Tennessee off the rotation and games against Auburn, Arkansas and Florida in Death Valley. The Tigers also face the Virginia Tech Hokies in what could be a matchup of the nation's two best defenses. One thing's for sure for Miles and LSU: it's time to put up or shut up.

Head Coach:
Les Miles, 22-4 in 2 years
Offensive Coordinator: Gary Crowton
Defensive Coordinator: Bo Pelini

Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in bold):

QB Matt Flynn Sr.
Ryan Perrilloux So.

RB Keiland Williams So.
Richard Murphy Fr.

FB Jacob Hester Sr.
Shawn Jordan Sr.

WR Early Doucet Sr.
Ricky Dixon Fr.

WR Brandon LaFell So.
Chris Mitchell So.

TE Keith Zinger Sr.
Richard Dickson So.

RT Carnell Stewart Sr.
Mark Snyder So.

RG Will Arnold Sr.
Lyle Hitt So.

C Brett Helms Jr.
Ryan Miller Jr.

LG Herman Johnson Jr.
Matt Allen Fr.

LT Ciron Black So.
Kyle Anderson So.

DE Tyson Jackson Jr.
Ricky Jean-Francois So.

DT Glenn Dorsey Sr.
Al Woods So.

DT Marlon Favorite Jr.
Charles Alexander Jr.

DE Tremaine Johnson Jr.
Rahim Alem So.

SLB Luke Sanders Sr.
Perry Riley Fr.

MLB Darry Beckwith Jr.
Jacob Cutrera So.

WLB Ali Highsmith Sr.
Kelvin Sheppard So.

SS Craig Steltz Sr.
Harry Coleman So.

FS Curtis Taylor Jr.
Danny McCray So.

LCB Chevis Jackson Sr.
Jai Eugene Fr.

RCB Jonathan Zenon Sr.
Chris Hawkins So.

Special Teams
K Colt David Jr.
P Patrick Fisher Sr.
KR Early Doucet Sr.
PR Early Doucet Sr.

Offensive Breakdown:

Key Returners:
RB Keiland Williams, WR Early Doucet
Key Losses: QB JaMarcus Russell, Dwayne Bowe
Key Newcomers: 5* WR Terrance Toliver, 5* JUCO WR Demetrius Byrd

Matt Flynn took a bit of a risk last year when he decided to remain at LSU despite losing the quarterback competition to JaMarcus Russell. Turns out he gambled right as Russell is now an Oakland Raider and the reins to one of the more talented offenses in the country are at his hands. If he can come close to performing like he did in the 2005 Peach Bowl, the offense should go far. The backfield took a hit when senior power back Alley Broussard unexpectedly quit the team last week. But the tigers should be more than prepared to make up for his absence. Sophomore Charles Scott was impressive in limited action last season and possesses skills similar to Broussard's. However, it all begins with Keiland Williams, who established himself as the feature back by midseason. Speedy redshirt freshman Richard Murphy should provide a change of pace as a third-down back and receiving threat. Senior fullback Jacob Hester should also get his share his of touches.

The receiving corps is headlined by senior Early Doucet, a mainstay in the Tiger passing game for years who will finally get his chance to start. Increased touches should lead to big numbers. Beyond Doucet, it's relatively unknown, though there's certainly no shortage of talent. Brandon LaFell showed flashes of potential last season as a freshman. Newcomers Terrance Toliver and Demetrius Byrd could be a factor early on.

Three starters return on the offensive line along with veteran Will Arnold. It's peculiar that Arnold still gets All-SEC mention despite having hardly played the past two seasons due to injury. There are still some lingering concerns going into the season but if he can stay on the field he should be an asset. Left tackle Ciron Black played remarkably well as a freshman last season. Center Brett Helms and massive guard Herman Johnson are dependable on the interior.

Defensive Breakdown:

Key Returners:
DE Tyson Jackson, DT Glenn Dorsey
Key Losses:
SS Jesse Daniels, FS LaRon Landry
Key Newcomers: 4* DE Sidell Corley, 4* DT Drake Nevis

While the offense has its share of firepower, it's the defense that has It starts up front with All-American defensive tackle glenn dorsey, who would've been a first round draft pick last year. Tyson Jackson is also a tremendous player off the edge and the depth is remarkable. The entire two-deep is full of SEC caliber players. The linebackers are also very gifted, particularly hard-hitting middle linebacker Darry Beckwith. Weakside ‘backer Ali Highsmith is very quick but can be outmuscled at times. If the defense has a weakness, it's strongside linebacker Luke Sanders.

The bad news is the Tigers will have to replace All-American and four-year starting safety LaRon Landry along with fellow senior Jesse Daniels. The Tigers are fairly well-equipped to do so with senior Craig Steltz logging plenty of meaningful playing time last season. Curtis Taylor should be solid but some dropoff is inevitable. The good news is both starting corners return in seniors Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon. The two combined are one of the better pairs of corners in the country. They should be bolstered by the emergence of redshirt freshman Jai Eugene, who replaces much-maligned Daniel Francis at the nickleback position.

Special Teams Breakdown:

The Tigers must replace longtime punter and distance place kicker Chris Jackson, but Colt David already has some experience. World-class speedster Trindon Holliday is a threat to score on every kickoff.

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