While one can expect the Tigers to open much lower in the preseason polls than a year ago, how Les Miles and his 2008 LSU team answer the following questions will go a long way in determining their success next fall.
Here we do our best to outline the 10 hottest topics surrounding the LSU program of the upcoming year.
1. How will LSU handle the national championship hangover?
Looking back at the 2004 season after the Tigers claimed their first crystal ball, LSU faced many of the same problems they will be facing in '08. The departure of valuable grizzled veterans such as Jacob Hester, Matt Flynn, Glen Dorsey and Chevis Jackson, just to name a few, will make a successful title defense hard to fathom. Not to mention the brutal schedule facing the Tigers. As if hosting the '08 media darling Georgia Bulldogs, Houston Nutt-guided Ole Miss Rebels, and Nick Saban's Crimson Tide isn't tough enough, the Tigers will have to travel to unfriendly combines of
2. Will LSU fans finally accept Les Miles as the Tigers' head coach and no longer question his coaching abilities?
What more does the man with the high hat have to prove? His accomplishments and numbers are jaw-dropping, along with his unique coaching style that guarantees a thriller every time the Tigers take the field. With his cumulative record of 35-6 as coach and a flawless record in bowl appearances – including the illusive UNANIMOUS national championship – it's time the kool-aid drinkers still stuck in the Saban era wake up and smell the obvious. Les Miles is for real.
3. Who will Miles hire to replace defensive coordinator Bo Pelini?
Early rumors pointed to Georgia Tech zone-blitz guru Jon Tenuta taking over for the Nebraska-bound coach, but those speculations have been squashed. A likely scenario now seems to be an in-house promotion of defensive backs coach Doug Mallory or a possible co-defensive coordinator position with Mallory sharing the spot with linebacker and special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto.
As amazing of a freakishly talented athlete that Jones is, he didn't exactly look natural returning punts for the Tigers this season. On his good returns, he plowed over defenders and picked up decent gains. On the other hand, Jones seemed to not understand the concept of fair catching the ball, which led to scary collisions and even a couple of fumbles. He is the kind of guy you want on the field at all times, but maybe the LSU coaching staff should dig into the promising '07 redshirt crop and keep Jones doing what he does best – giving defensive coordinators nightmares.
5. Can Ryan Perrilloux get the job done replacing Matt Flynn?
Named the national high school offensive player of the year in 2004 by USA Today, Perrilloux looked to have the potential to be a brilliant star in the talent-rich LSU galaxy of players. After sitting behind number one draft pick JaMarcus Russell and the savvy Matt Flynn, the former Mr. Football of the state of
It would be hard to imagine that anyone could ever fill the role of a player who snatched up virtually every defensive award possible in '07. To put it in perspective, Dorsey was the first player in college football history to win Nagurski, Outland, Lott and Lombardi trophies. Throw in the fact that the defensive lineman finished ninth on the Heisman ballot – higher than any other defensive player – and it seems like Jean-Francois has no chance to be what Dorsey was to the Tigers. Despite those staggering facts, LSU's BCS Championship Game hero without a doubt has the upside to become another dominant force on the Tigers defensive front. An amazing freshman season in '06 for Jean-Francois had Tiger fans excited about the defensive line for 07'. But due to a hefty academic suspension, the
7. Who will step into the leadership role for the 2008 Tigers?
At first glance, all the Tigers that one might classify as a leader seemed to be on their way out after bringing home the hardware this year. That's easily understood because LSU was simply flooded with seniors who were battle-tested SEC veterans. But the Tigers bring back a true commander on the defensive side of the ball in linebacker Darry Beckwith, who will bring quality senior leadership to a fairly young squad next season. Returning on offense is versatile lineman Brett Helms, who has found his home at the center position. The big question is if quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, despite past transgressions, can become a leader on the field and off.
8. Which young players will step into the vacancies left by LSU's three departing senior defensive backs?
With game breakers such as Craig Steltz, Chevis Jackson and Jonathon Zenon moving on to further their careers in the NFL, it would be completely understandable for LSU fans to have doubt concerning next year's defensive secondary. Good news is that the Tigers are drenched with young prospects to fill the roles of the exiting greats. Jai Eugene – the No. 1-rated defensive prospect coming out of
9. Like Chad Jones and Terrance Toliver, which newcomer will contribute in 2008?
Patrick Johnson terrorized offenses and defenses in high school, but his college career will consist of giving quarterbacks grief. The 6-1, 200-pound physical beast of a cornerback should step in and contribute as a true freshman. His closing speed is scary, and when he arrives he is usually in a terrible mood. Chancey Aghayere of Garland, Texas, was an enormous land for this year's Tiger recruiting class as well. The 6-3, 240-pound defensive end is rangy and loves to dish out punishment. His speed and athleticism will have him on the field as a true freshman. Both Aghayere and Johnson are five-star recruits and are ranked among the top 25 prep players in the country.
10. LSU still has plenty of firepower to compete in the SEC West, but can the Tigers make it back to
The West will be extremely competitive once again.