There are numerous ways to define success within the overall spectrum of a college football program, but the goal of today’s piece is to identify different ways in which the 2014 season would be considered successful for LSU.
Here are my top five such examples, in no particular order (until the last one, it’s the most important). Sound off with your thoughts on TSD’s free board by clicking on the link below.
1. Young bucks on offense grow into stars of the (near) future.
- This one’s meant to cast a wide net over all LSU’s hyped freshmen skill players on the offensive side of the ball, but most important is and will always be the quarterback position. It’s absolutely vital that Cam Cameron identifies the signal caller of the future by the Auburn game on Oct. 4, if not sooner. Particularly if that player ends up Brandon Harris, LSU will put itself ahead of the game in 2015 and beyond if he’s prepared on the field this fall.
It’s not just Harris, though, not by a long shot. Running back Leonard Fournette, receivers Malachi Dupre, Trey Quinn and Tony Upchurch and tight end Desean Smith (a sophomore) are all a big part of the future of this LSU offense. The more they become an impactful part of the present this season, the better the Tigers will be this year and beyond in the race to backfill for playmakers Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Bottom Line: If LSU’s offense is going to become prolific again under Cameron, these are the torchbearers. Their respective developments are easily one of the most significant things to monitor on this 2014 team.
2. Defense returns to familiar Chavis form, sets pace for team.
- In 2013, a season of great struggles for most SEC defenses, LSU joined the pack, allowing 21 points or more on seven occasions. On the brink of a new campaign, John Chavis’ crew projects to be stronger and more reliable, bringing back a minimum of seven starters and numerous rotational players with SEC experience. The veteran Tiger defense also appears more capable of turning over opposing offenses, an area where LSU wasn’t up to par last season, when the Bayou Bengals finished 11th in the SEC in turnover margin (gaining as many turnovers, 19, as they committed).
The coming season will be a success if defense again shines the light for LSU and leads the way, restoring itself as the true bedrock of the team. With a new quarterback at the helm no matter who wins the job, a trusty defense can make life easier on that player and Cameron as an offensive play caller. So within a full team concept, the defense will play an important part in terms of granting a developing offense good field position on a consistent basis. That, and if LSU can hang its hat on defense, knowing more often than not that 17-20 points wins a game as compared to 27-30, there won’t be as much pressure on the offense. This is about reestablishing an identity.
3. The offensive and defensive lines of 2015 are born.
- With so many of the skill positions on offense and defense pointing downhill at a dominant 2015 season, there will be a potentially alarming amount of attrition on both sides of the line following this fall. For sure the Tigers will lose starting offensive linemen La’el Collins, Elliott Porter and the right guard combo of Fehoko Fanaika and Evan Washington. Position coach Jeff Grimes could also lose Vadal Alexander and/or Jerald Hawkins, both in their third years on campus in 2014. On the defensive line Brick Haley will definitely bid adieu to end Jermauria Rasco and could quite possibly be doing the same to bookend mate Danielle Hunter.
So it comes into focus pretty quickly why Grimes and Haley must bring along their replacements whenever possible this season – with substantial in-practice reps and playing time when situations dictate as much in-game. Offensively it’s time to stop hearing about how good Ethan Pocic will be and start seeing it. The same goes for Josh Boutte, Andy Dodd and K.J. Malone. Freshman Garrett Brumfield will have to develop on the fly as well. Defensively Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal have to continue to be groomed while freshman Sione Teuhema has to learn the ropes as a pass-rusher. It’s just inconceivable that 2015 will go according to plan if these lines of the future aren’t actively brought along during this season.
4. The Tigers clean house with remaining Louisiana prospects.
- This one’s the same every year, right? It’s no different with the Class of 2015 as we near the end of summer. Once again Louisiana offers a bountiful recruiting harvest, and once again some of the state’s top players remain uncommitted on the verge of their senior seasons. LSU is still eyeing – and needs – pledges from in-state players Tyron Johnson (the No. 7 WR in the country), Donte Jackson (No. 16 CB), Deshawn Raymond (a four-star safety prospect) and Kirk Merritt (recent SPARQ champion and one of the nation’s top athletes).
Of course the name that would send this signing class to another level, particularly from a position-of-need standpoint, is Jerry Tillery. The Evangel offensive tackle, currently committed to Notre Dame, continues to show interest in LSU and hasn’t been afraid to stop by Baton Rouge over the past year. Should Frank Wilson & Co. flip Tillery and land the slew of athletes listed above, this will have been an extremely successful fall from the recruiting sector of the overall program.
5. LSU finds a way to get to 10 wins.
- Winning 10 games is something symbolic for Miles and his program. When the ultimate goals (division, conference and national titles) have evaporated in seasons past, Miles has pointed to this time and time again as something that can still be salvaged. He did it a year ago when 9-3 LSU was set to play Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Ultimately the Tigers got that victory and ran off a 10-win season for the fourth consecutive year, a program record. Ten wins would again be a helluva benchmark in 2014, given all the turnover at key positions on offense and a brand new interior of the defensive line.
Of course 10 wins would also mean another thing – that LSU found a way to win at least one of its four true road games. All four figure to be difficult in 2014: at Auburn (defending SEC champ), at Florida (great defense, tough place to play), at Arkansas (the week after Alabama) and at Texas A&M (Thanksgiving night). Getting to 10 would be big because it means this young, developing team beat some odds and grew up on the road, one of the toughest things for an inexperienced team to do.