5 sophs to watch

Countdown to kickoff: The stars from a promising Class of 2011 start to carve out key spots for the Tigers.

Part 10 in the "Countdown to kickoff," offers a look at five sophomores who must have an impact this season for LSU:

Jarvis Landry

1. Jarvis Landry: One of the glaring holes for LSU as the season gets closer is at receiver, where Rueben Randle left a void as the home run threat. It's easily arguable that the Tigers are deeper across the board at receiver and Landry is part of that, but there's some pressure on him to show he can be the kind of downfield threat every quarterback craves. Landry has worked hard on route-running, particularly getting in and out of breaks and he'll need more separation than Randle simply because he doesn't possess the former LSU star's lanky, angular frame. As much as LSU's running game figures to loosen up defenses and create deep passing chances, Landry will certainly get his chances to explode.

2. Odell Beckham Jr.: Like his running mate, Beckham has a key role in the LSU passing game. Though he is plenty fast enough to strike for bog plays in the mid-range and downfield, Beckham's reliable hands and precision running routes make him the best weapon available to Zach Mettenberger on short routes that can turn into catch-and-run lightning in a hurry. Beckham carved a nice niche last season when he didn't draw a lot of attention. Well, now he'll be a focal point of defenses, so the sledding will be a lot tougher. Landry's presence, along with Russell Shepard's potential and tight end Chase Clement's emergence will certainly help open things up. But Landry needs to be the receiver who Mettenberger knows can get open quickly and for whatever yardage is needed, particularly on third downs.

Anthony Johnson

3. Anthony Johnson: As is the case for a handful of LSU players who showed up with major hype attached, it's time for Johnson's legend to start matching up with his on-field performance. That's not to say he didn't make an impact as a freshman, because he delivered a nice rookie campaign. But stepping in for Michael Brockers on the interior defensive line means the chance is there now for Johnson to show exactly why recruiting services and fans couldn't wait to see him put a college uniform on and show what he could do. With plenty of help on the deep d-line, Johnson won't have to be the only run-stopper or interior quarterback harasser up front, but there will be spots every game where he needs to make his presence felt and help the LSU defense demoralize the opposing offensive line.

Kenny Hilliard

4. Kenny Hilliard: Getting carries will be an ongoing battle for all four of LSU's primary backs, but Hilliard is in the unique position of having a chance to contribute in a lot of different ways. Last season he put his hand in the dirt on occasion as a fullback and also carved a nice spot as a receiver on play-action waggles and as a safety valve. Look for him to get snaps in both those roles early on, and he is also the no-brain option in short-yardage situations because of his 5-foot-11, 240-pound frame. Hilliard has a golden opportunity to emerge as the primary back because of his size and versatility and be a bruising weapon in what shapes up as the most diverse arsenal LSU has had in several years.

La'el Collins

5. La'el Collins: Collins will play a lot of football one way or another this season, either as the starting left guard or the jack-of-all-OL-trades or sixth man for a unit that has a chance to be as good as any in Les Miles' eight-year tenure. Right now the former 5-star standout is operating as the starting left guard, and that puts him in the spotlight as the only new starter up front surrounded by veterans. Nobody wants to be the wink link on a line that will play a massive role in how effective the offense will be. Should Collins not secure the starting job, it's huge that he embrace the role of staying sharp and prepared to jump into any of the four spots other than center because of injury or when a starter needs a break.

5 juniors to watch

5 seniors to watch

5 special teams MVPs

5 defensive MVPs

5 offensive MVPs

5 keys to the season

LSU's season game-by-game

Predicting the West Division race

Predicting the East Division race

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