Offense was an afterthought in the 2003 season. While the Tigers possessed plenty of offensive weapons and recorded some of the gaudiest stats in school history, LSU's first national championship team will be remembered for its suffocating defense.
In the wake of the Tigers' first national championship in almost half a century, several questions surround the LSU program – on both sides of the ball. The Tigers must replace a starting quarterback, a pair of star receivers, some key offensive linemen, arguably the nation's top defensive player a year ago at defensive tackle, a key missile in the blitz package, plus a valuable all-purpose safety.
Around Tigertown there is little concern surrounding the vacancies left on the defense. Folks will be quick to tell you while Lavalais, Marquise Hill and Jack Hunt will be sorely missed, LSU returned its most valuable defensive star, the mastermind himself – Nick Saban.
These days, the most popular subject around water coolers in the Capital City is – you guessed – who is going to be LSU's starting quarterback? That's a no-brainer, right? You're thinking it has to be one of the Tigers stud freshmen…. not quite. Anyhow, we'll get to that in a minute.
As LSU preps for the annual Spring Game in Tiger Stadium on April, we break down the Tigers by position giving our best guess of whose running with the one's and whose trailing with the two's.
Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher (right)
has a stable of three solid QBs. (MJBrown)
All right already, here it is.
Hold on to your seat and don't scare the kids when you read the next statement – Marcus Randall has been the most impressive quarterback so far this spring for LSU.
Saban remains extremely tight-lipped and moody when the word depth chart arises. The 5th-year head man bristles whenever talk of first team or second team, depth chart and quarterbacks pop up in the form of questions or statements form the media.
However, Randall, who lost his starting job a year ago to Matt Mauck, entered the spring as the No. 1 guy – Saban made no bones about that. But Saban said it was because he was the player with the most experience.
And why shouldn't he?
Randall looks like a senior quarterback who has been on campus for going on five years. While JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn have applied adequate pressure, Randall looks to have the poise of the leader the offense needs in the post Mauck LSU offense.
Russell still possesses the cannon of an arm and has improved his footwork. When he arrived, Russell had the arm but lacked the mechanics necessary to play in the SEC as a true freshman. He appears more polished and, in our opinion, would be the second-stringer (if you will).
But if Russell is No. 2, call Flynn 2A.
Flynn has made some obvious adjustments to his delivery and no longer short-arms the ball, but has developed a fluid overhand throwing motion. As far as who has made the most progress of the two, we tip our caps to Flynn as both freshmen seem to be nipping at Randall's heels.
With that said, will Randall be the go-to guy when LSU tees it up Oregon State? Maybe…. well, probably.
Right now, Randall has fared better this spring than we thought he would and continues to lead the three-way battle for the job. However, the knock on the Baton Rouge native has been inconsistency and the tendency of getting rattled when the heat is on in live action (see LSU v. Auburn 2002).
Justin Vincent (MJBrown)
Possibly the deepest and most talented backfield in all of college football, the combination of Justin Vincent, Shyrone Carey, Joseph Addai, Alley Broussard and Barrington Edwards may give LSU the most electrifying stable of backs in Division I-A.
Now, now that sounds rather optimistic, but when Alley Broussard and Barrington Edwards are battling for the fourth spot in the rotation, you know your backfield is pretty deep.
Alley Broussard (MJBrown)
While we believe Broussard and Edwards are really in contention for the backup role, Carey seems to get most of the reps with the two's. Addai, who has seen considerable action at receiver lining up in the slot in shotgun formations, is probably third right now, but both veterans will be presses heavily by the two sophomores who will be the future of LSU's rushing attack.
The talent is well balanced between the second and fifth backs on the roster, but there is little doubt Vincent is the solid No. 1 man in the running back rotation.
Joseph Addai (MJBrown)
The MVP of the SEC Championship Game and the Nokia Sugar Bowl, Vincent proved his worth rushing for just over 1,000 yards in a little more than half the 2003 season. While he, Broussard and Addai shared the duties of full-time tailback toward the end of the year, Vincent separated himself from the rest of the pack and will undoubtedly enter the season as the No. 1 tailback. No doubt this guy is head and shoulders above the rest.
With LSU now on the national scene with last season's national title, Vincent's name should begin popping up in Heisman circles.
Amp Hill (MJBrown)
For those of you who are still stewing over the loss of Michael Clayton, just remember one name – Dwayne Bowe.
The departure of Clayton and speed burner Devery Henderson are two major losses in terms of firepower, but in their wake await the emergence of a pair of sophomore showouts.
Bowe was impressive in the team's first scrimmage and gives LSU not only a large target, but a weapon with equal aggressiveness and speed. The most developed of last season's freshman wide receiving trio, Bowe should replace Clayton and Davis, who has switched from No. 85 to No. 3, possibly could follow Henderson.
Amp Hill, who was the third of the newcomers a year ago, is still slowed by an ACL injury a year ago. Saban said Hill's recovery was slowed by muscle atrophy in his right calf and his prognosis is positive, but it will take time. Don't expect much more out of Hill this spring, but watch out in August.
Oh, by the way, Skyler Green is back!
Doesn't it seem just like yesterday this guy was a freshman? But Green, now a junior, is the dean of LSU's receiving corps. Responsible for the Tigers' most memorable play in 2003, a 37-yard TD grab in LSU's 17-10 win over Georgia, Green returns along with his lightning speed and swivel hips. And don't forget he is always a threat to bring a punt or kickoff back for a touchdown.
Bennie Brazell has been a no-show in the spring focusing a more on his role on Pat Henry's nationally-ranked track team.
Also in the mix are reserves Gino Giambelluca, Steve Mares, Schirra Fields and Terrell Clayton.
Check back tomorrow for offensive line and tight ends. We will break down the defense on Wednesday (D-Line, LBs) and the secondary on Thursday.