With that premise in mind, even before we reach National Signing Day or spring camp, I’m rolling out my first projections on Tiger starters entering the 2015 season.
Cam Cameron’s offense is up first today, with a litany of personnel and depth chart notes to follow below, and I’ll tackle Kevin Steele’s defensive starters and rotation tomorrow.
PROJECTED OFFENSIVE STARTERS
QB: Brandon Harris
RB: Leonard Fournette
FB: David Ducre
WR (X): Malachi Dupre
WR (Z): Travin Dural
TE: Dillon Gordon
LT: Jerald Hawkins
LG: Ethan Pocic
C: Andy Dodd
RG: Josh Boutte
RT: Vadal Alexander
DEPTH CHART/PERSONNEL NOTES
- I must be some kind of moron – and clearly I haven’t paid attention to how Les Miles operates during my six years on the beat – to project Harris as the starter. Either that or I just have a belief that eventually the better, more talented quarterback has to play. Coming into his junior season, Anthony Jennings will be the more experienced signal caller. It’s also true that quarterbacks make their biggest jump between year one and year two as a starter. But anyone who watched LSU football in 2014 can recognize Jennings’ near-debilitating limitations. The offense quite simply can’t grow with Jennings, who struggles to complete 50% of his passes, in there. So I’ll give the nod to Harris, a sophomore, but he’s going to have to earn it this spring and into August. There’s nothing in Miles’ history in Baton Rouge that suggests he’s going to just give it to Harris.
- Slotting Fournette as the starting tailback is maybe the easiest decision within LSU’s offense. I do expect position coach Frank Wilson to share some of the load (and carries), as he always does, with the next guys in line – sophomore Darrel Williams and true freshman Derrius Guice. But I don’t think the split will be as even as it has been in recent years. In fact I look for Fournette in 2015 to be as close to a workhorse as LSU’s had back there since Stevan Ridley in 2010 (when Ridley had 63.0% of running back carries). As for fullback, there will be turnover after the recent revelation that Melvin Jones, who would’ve been a junior, is no longer on the team (academics). I’m going with Ducre, a true freshman who’s arguably the top high school fullback in the country, as the starter. It wouldn’t surprise, however, if Williams got a long look at fullback and maybe even splits his detail between tailback and fullback as he did this past season.
- An interesting and relevant thought: If the LSU staff does turn to Harris at quarterback, that lends itself to the offense utilizing spread sets more frequently. So, theoretically, more Harris means more receivers in the ballgame. The player who’d stand to benefit the most from that move would be John Diarse. The rising redshirt sophomore came on down the stretch of the 2014 campaign to supplant Trey Quinn as LSU’s third receiver and produced. He’ll make a strong option in the slot for the Tigers, which seem set on the outsides with Dupre and Dural, who fits best as a Z-receiver that can come in motion across the formation. At tight end Gordon, a senior, is the best blocker on the roster at his position, but after a big bowl game performance, perhaps 2015 is the year Desean Smith, a junior, takes hold as a receiving tight end that the Tigers actually use. Junior-to-be Colin Jeter should factor in as a second blocking tight end in two-tight sets and can also protect the quarterback in shotgun formations.
- In a piece I penned last week I implied that the starting offensive line was more or less set. Well, let’s just say with a few days’ more wisdom, the “less” part of that statement is more accurate. About the only thing I feel certain about is that Hawkins will start at left tackle. After that two other starters will be Alexander and Pocic, for sure, but where will they be? It’s clear Miles promised Alexander he’d give him a shot at tackle. I get the rationale behind it – the kid wants to improve his draft stock and that’s easier done at tackle – but in my opinion it would be the wrong move for LSU as Alexander is a much better interior run-blocker than pass-protector that has to rely on quickness on the perimeter.
So for the purposes of this starting 11, I have Alexander at right tackle. But it’s my firm belief he’ll be back inside at guard, probably on the left side, before the midpoint of the 2015 season. With the two tackles in place, Pocic will play a guard spot, and I’ll push him over to the left side. That gives the Tigers a strongside on the left, which they prefer, and also leaves the right guard spot open for a bigger player, something Miles also prefers. That player could be a number of guys, including second-year lineman Garrett Brumfield, but for now I’ll go with the more experienced Boutte, who is an iceberg at 6-foot-5, 340 pounds. At center I have Dodd, who will be a redshirt sophomore and played in four games this past season, but redshirt freshman William Clapp will be in the thick of competition for starter’s minutes.