1. What will expectations be heading into year two under coach Les Miles? Many predicted Miles would be successful in his initial season in Baton Rouge capitalizing on the wealth of talent left behind by coach Nick Saban. Then it would be up to Miles to try and sustain the program. But after a decisive bowl victory over perennial power Miami propelled the Tigers to a top five final national ranking, the bar has been raised high for this LSU squad as the Tigers project to open the season ranked in the top 5 once again.
2. Who will play quarterback? It seems this always tends to be the most frequently asked question heading into any football season. Miles insists JaMarcus Russell is the No. 1 guy heading into fall camp. But when Russell missed the Peach Bowl with an injury and Matt Flynn led the Tigers to their most dominating bowl victory ever over national power Miami, things got interesting. Russell missed spring drills while recovering from wrist surgery and Flynn traded snaps with redshirt freshman Ryan Perrilloux. Perrilloux has been in the system almost a full year now and has all the tools to lead the offense. Three quarterbacks, one ball; something's gotta give.
3. Will LSU's running backs be ready to go? Never before at LSU has the backfield been so decimated by injury. Not only are starters out with injuries, the backups to the backups are injured. Alley Broussard tore his ACL last August and missed the 2005 season as well as spring drills. Justin Vincent followed suit tearing his ACL in the Peach Bowl win over Miami. Redshirt freshman R.J. Jackson became the third ACL casualty in the Tiger backfield sustaining a knee injury early in spring practice. Jacob Hester moved from fullback to tailback for the spring and redshirt freshman Antonio Robinson got more work than he could have ever expected. Broussard had some problems healing but seems to be on his way back for the fall. True freshman Charles Scott and Keiland Williams could factor into the equation with such a depletion of depth.
4. How good can Dwayne Bowe be? If the spring game is any indication, pretty darn good! Bowe had three touchdown receptions, including an acrobatic one-hander that got plenty of oohs and aahs from the crowd. Bowe was plagued with the dropsies last season, including the infamous one against Auburn that would have put the game away. But he did redeem himself against Alabama snaring the game-winner. Offseason LASIK surgery to correct a slight vision problem may help Bowe see the ball better allowing him to have an all-American season.
5. Can LSU fill the holes left vacant across both the offensive and defensive lines? LSU boasts some of the best specialists in college football on the offensive side of the ball and the Tigers' secondary will be ranked among the best in the SEC, maybe the country. However, one of the major concerns surrounding the 2006 Tigers will replacing four of five offensive linemen and three of four defensive front men. Those seven losses include all-Americans Andrew Whitworth, Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten and all-SEC performers Rudy Niswanger and Nate Livings. Glenn Dorsey has been noted as already shaping up to be the leader on the defensive front and Will Arnold and Brian Johnson will be the playmakers on the offensive side.
6. What is to be made of players changing positions? All coaches like to experiment with different players shifting to new positions in the spring and Miles tinkered a bit this spring. Quinn Johnson was the biggest move of note from linebacker to fullback to make up for some lack of depth in the backfield. Carnell Stewart swapped from the defensive line to offensive tackle and Alonzo Manuel traded sides of the ball as well going from linebacker to tight end.
7. Will Chris Jackson remain the Tigers' primary kick specialist? Chris Jackson greatly improved on kicking field goals last season and how he wasn't named to the all-SEC team as the punter defies explanation. But Miles said he is uncomfortable with Jackson wearing so many hats. With Jackson nursing a surgically repaired right elbow after undergoing Tommy John surgery over the winter, it allowed Miles to get looks at Patrick Fisher punting the ball and Andre Boagni as a kickoff specialist. While it is likely Jackson will retain the duties of punting and kicking long field goals, it never hurts to have a plan B.
8. What kind of season will LaRon Landry have? After asking a similar question pertaining to the offensive side of the ball and Dwayne Bowe, can LSU's senior defensive leader Landry boost his stock to be a high, first round pick in next years NFL Draft. Landry, who will be a four-year starter, was likely a first round pick this past year, but chose to return to LSU after his junior year statistics were pretty average. Odds are Landry is poised to have a exclamation point type season to his career and be one of the first 10 players taken in next season's pro draft.
9. Can Les Miles continue to fly under the radar? The second-year coach likes to be low-key. In press conferences, Miles doesn't like to say much, playing his hand very close to the vest. Depth chart? Hardly. Injuries? No way. There is no doubt Miles liked the fact the men's and women's basketball teams made it to the Final Four, thus diverting all attention away from spring football. Miles did comment after the final spring scrimmage that he doesn't like to put a great deal of emphasis on spring football from a fan's perspective, will choose not to hold a true "spring game" per say, and will choose to conduct spring drills the way he has the past two years – on the down low.
10. Will fans be as critical of Miles in year two? Let's be honest, year one was quite brutal for Miles. Every move, every action, every breath he took was analyzed and broken under a microscope by way of talk radio and the Internet. You have to give Miles credit, though, he did not give into the pressure, continued to coach the same way game after game staying the course. Even after the lowest of two lows, the loss to Tennessee and blowout by Georgia, Miles maintained his poise and came back to coach the Tigers to the most dominating bowl victory in school history against a legitimate team. Will the pressure cooker simmer a bit in 2006? Wait and see.