But before Les Miles and the Tigers invade AT&T Stadium in Arlington to battle TCU, TSD will get you ready by tackling a question a day for seven straight days surrounding the shape of LSU's team entering the Aug. 31 opener.
Saturday – Which freshmen will make an impact on defense in the opener?
Sunday – Can LSU's new-look offensive line gel in time for kickoff?
Today's Question: In what ways will the 2013 team be different than the 2012 team?
Let's start on offense, where although LSU won't be reinventing the wheel, there will be some subtle changes and tweaks that transform the presentation of what the Tigers do, though likely not the content.
LSU will remain an offense that really makes its money on the ground, but, under first-year coordinator Cam Cameron, look for the pace to be quicker and for more athletes to be utilized in space. It's been communicated so often this offseason that both Cameron and Miles want the offense to be less predictable, so the change from a year ago is that LSU won't just run from I-formation sets and throw from shotgun looks. It sounds simple to say that, but I look for it to be put into action more in 2013 – with the offense testing teams deep from traditional run sets while running the ball and throwing short to backs out of the backfield from shotgun sets.
It's also important to note the change in tempo referenced above. RB Alfred Blue confirmed on Monday the word that's spread like wildfire during spring and fall camps – that LSU is not just dabbling in an up-tempo, no-huddle pace in practice, but using it as a frequent weapon to get the power-run game going. Catching teams off-guard will now be in the playbook at all times, not just in two-minute drills, when defenses are more prepared.
Outside of that offensively, I look for LSU to gradually begin involving the running backs, fullbacks and tight ends in the passing game more. That transition won't happen overnight, though, and it won't be wholesale, so I wouldn't look for the stats, numbers and target percentages to rise drastically. Also, as much as Cameron has drilled Zach Mettenberger and the quarterbacks on short passing – quick slants off the line and spot screens, especially – look for Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Travin Dural to exploit a few more matchups at the line of scrimmage. Finally, there doesn't seem to be that experienced utility offensive lineman this fall, so depth at O-Line isn't what it was in 2012.
Defensively, the hope from John Chavis down to the players is that not much changes from a talent and depth standpoint.
DT Anthony Johnson reiterated on Monday that the D-Line still plans on playing a similar number of guys (four) at both end and tackle in rotational situations. The reality may be, though, particularly should injury strike, that the Tigers don't have the luxury of as much quality depth as they had in 2012. The end result is that certain veteran players – like Johnson, DT Ego Ferguson and DE Jermauria Rasco – could be forced to play more snaps than the starters up front had to a year ago.
From a scheme standpoint, Chavis will make nuanced adjustments this year based on one simple fact – it's now his linebacking corps, and not the secondary, which is loaded with talent and needs to send as many guys to the field in a game as is possible. The past few seasons, even through 2012, there's been a need to flex into nickel and dime sets to get guys like Tyrann Mathieu, Ron Brooks and Tharold Simon in for more downs. Now, with so many DBs gone to the NFL and the LB corps stacked, Chavis is likely to employ less nickel and dime in the traditional sense (personnel-wise). The key now will be finding ways to get more use from guys like Kwon Alexander, Debo Jones and Kendell Beckwith.
Another thing to watch on defense is that, unlike with Eric Reid and Craig Loston a year ago, LSU can put some faith in S Ronald Martin to man-cover receivers in the box. That will allow Chavis to take some chances with his free safety that he couldn't always take last season.
When looking at special teams, that might just be where LSU is the most different in 2013.
Gone is the reliable Drew Alleman, the latest in a string of kickers who Miles & Co. could depend on consistently. In, according to Miles at his press luncheon on Monday, is a three-headed monster of kickers LSU won't hesitate to deploy beginning Saturday night. Colby Delahoussaye will handle the majority of the field goals; Trent Domingue could also see a kick of two in Arlington; and James Hairston will be the over-50-yard option.
There's also a relatively new face at punter, where Jamie Keehn will now officially take over for fellow Aussie Brad Wing after filling in for Wing in the opener and closing game a season ago. LSU has obviously used special teams as a major weapon in recent seasons, so it will be curious to see if this new-name group can replicate the successes of their predecessors. Until I see differently, I have more faith in Keehn's punting than I do the hodgepodge at kicker.