In advance of the Tigers kicking off Fall Camp, TSD's Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua will answer a question a day this week on the 2013 squad.
Today's Question: Which coach on the LSU staff has the most to prove this season?
BEN LOVE: For my money it's second-year defensive backs coach Corey Raymond. The former LSU player and Nebraska assistant had an okay run in his first year back in Baton Rouge, but at times, especially toward the end of the season, his secondary left a lot to be desired. The Tigers finished 2012 as the SEC's sixth-best pass defense, letting up 206 yards per game through the air. Here were the passing yardage totals LSU gave up in its last four games of 2012: 304 (Mississippi State), 316 (Ole Miss), 359 (Arkansas) and 346 (Clemson). Now there's no question a struggling pass rush also played a part in the defense's issues defending the pass, but that's not the way this LSU ‘D' under John Chavis is used to playing.
This fall Raymond will have to groom an even larger amount of young players to step to the field right away with Tharold Simon gone at cornerback and Eric Reid gone at safety. Raymond is well-known to be a technique-first coach, and he'll have to instill a lot in guys like Tre'Davious White, Jeryl Brazil and Rickey Jefferson, all of whom will be considered for early playing time. He'll also be tasked with helping take Jalen Collins' game to the next level at corner, where the redshirt freshman had his woes a season ago. That's a lot to ask of Raymond, having to operate with so many young players, but LSU can ill-afford to play like it did at the end of last year in the secondary, especially with quarterbacks like Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron and Johnny Manziel on the schedule. Big proving year for Raymond.
HUNTER PANIAGUA: Greg Studrawa now only has one responsibility. Granted it's a big one, but Coach Stud can focus solely on his offensive line for the first time since 2010. While that can also come as a relief for him, it also adds a lot of pressure to make that unit perform to its fullest. Gone is the excuse that his offensive coordinator duties are pulling him away from his position group. He can now devote all his time to instructing what could be a very young and inexperienced offensive line in 2013.
As Ben reported last week, it appears Vadal Alexander is switching to left guard so redshirt freshman Jerald Hawkins can start at right tackle. There'll be a battle at center between a mostly unproven Elliott Porter and true freshman Ethan Pocic. While that youth may be a concern, there's enough talent there to form as formidable a line as LSU's had in recent years. It will be Stud's job to make sure those players live up to that potential, otherwise the much-anticipated passing resurrection won't stand much chance.