Summer Session: Team Leaders

TSD is cranking out 30 stories on the 2014 Tigers in the coming weeks. Today's Summer Session: Who steps up as LSU's team leaders in 2014?

30 days, 30 topics inside the world of LSU football.

TSD is previewing and analyzing the 2014 edition of the Tigers from every angle, bringing you a daily dose of "Summer Session" each weekday through July 11, three days before the unofficial kickoff to football season at SEC Media Days.

Today's session: Team Leaders

There's no denying how much faith Les Miles has in his team leaders. The infamous "team vote" has become a joke across the Internet, but to Miles, placing that power with the players shows his team they have his trust.

There's also the Unity Council — an elected group of player representatives — that serves as the team's highest level of governance behind the coaches. All that just proves how important the leaders are for this LSU football team.

Especially when you consider the youth present throughout the two-deep, having veterans step up to control actions both on the field and off it is of the utmost vitality to this year's squad. So who will be those players to emerge?

The easiest guy to point out is the one pictured above. La'El Collins trotted out in January to a room full of media to announce his plans to return for another year, dressed in a dapper brown suit with his teammates at his side for a strong showing of support.

It was all quite the display.

Les Miles turned the occasion into a celebration of who was coming back, drawing focus away from another large group of underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft. With that press conference, Collins became the face of LSU's team, accepting the responsibility that comes with being one of only a handful of seniors on the entire squad.

Factor in that he's the anchor of an offensive line that's the most experienced unit on the field, and Collins is an easy choice to lead this team. He's quite literally LSU's first line of protection, and he can personify that as the Tigers' unquestioned leader.

That offensive huddle will desperately need a stabilizing force without Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill. Collins can be that, as can senior RBs Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee — my early pick to wear the No. 18 jersey this season.

But even with that trio of seniors, the Tigers will only go so far as their quarterback will take them. Whether it's Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris, whoever wins that battle will ultimately receive the responsibility of leading this team.

It's one thing to win the job on a practice field. A strong arm and quick feet can only take the team so far. It's that fortitude between the ears that really determines the success of a quarterback, and ultimately the team.

Jennings has proven himself to an extent. That 99-yard, game-winning touchdown drive is a testament to his mental makeup, but that pressure's nothing compared to leading a team for an entire season.

And what about Harris, a true freshman that hasn't completed more than a semester of college? Can he really be trusted to lead?

The coaches certainly think so, or else he wouldn't even be in the discussion to start in his first year on campus. Both he and Jennings have earned respect from their teammates, which is ultimately the most important aspect in this whole discussion.

And with veterans like Magee, Hilliard and Collins — and even guys like D.J. Welter and Jermauria Rasco on the defensive end — the entire weight of the world won't necessarily be on the quarterbacks' shoulders.

But that responsibility will certainly be there when crunch time arrives. How either Jennings or Harris handles it will be what makes this season something to celebrate, or what makes it something to forget.

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