Rebuild vs. reload

Minus several key players from 2009, the LSU Tigers will find out this fall if they're a team that must rebuild or simply reload.

On offense, head man Les Miles must find replacements for last year's top two rushers, Charles Scott (452 yards, 4.7 per carry) and Keiland Williams (368 yards, 5.2 per carry). The coach also must find a successor to last season's top receiver, Brandon LaFell (57 catches, 792 yards, 11 touchdowns).

Defensively, Miles must replace four of the top five tacklers from 2009. The departed include linebackers Perry Riley (97 stops), Harry Coleman (82) and Jacob Cutrera (81), along with standout safety Chad Jones (74 stops). Jones elected to bypass his senior season in favor of the NFL Draft.

In addition, Miles must find someone to take the place of return ace Trindon Holliday (18.1-yard average on punts, 24.4-yard average on kickoffs).

Junior Stevan Ridley (6-0, 226 pounds) and redshirt freshman Michael Ford (5-10, 207) are the heirs-apparent at running back. Ridley started the 2009 regular-season finale against Arkansas and the Capital One Bowl game against Penn State. He followed that up with a strong performance - 13 carries for 104 yards - in LSU's spring game. Ford was the leading rusher in the Purple & White Game with 19 carries for 139 yards.

Inheriting the go-to receiver role will be Terrence Toliver, a 6-5, 206-pound senior whose 2009 numbers (53 catches, 735 yards) were very similar to LaFell's. Finding someone to complement Toliver in 2010 - as he did LaFell in 2009 - will be critical.

Jordan Jefferson returns at quarterback after starting 12 of 13 games last fall. Jefferson completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,166 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2009 with just 7 interceptions. He also ran for 171 yards.

Jefferson is looking to be the first LSU quarterback to start back-to-back season openers since JaMarcus Russell did so in 2005-06. Senior Jarrett Lee may have something to say about that, however. Lee finished spring practice with a flourish and reportedly is challenging for the No. 1 job. Jefferson completed just 8 of 23 passes for 94 yards in the Purple & White Game, whereas Lee was 10 of 20 for 114 yards. Lee has experience, having started eight games in 2008 and one game in '09.

The leading returnees on defense are linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and cornerback Patrick Peterson. Sheppard recorded a team-high 110 tackles a year ago. Peterson is regarded as one of the premier cover corners in college football.

To bolster his defense this spring, coordinator John Chavis moved senior Jai Eugene from corner to free safety, senior Lazarius Levingston from end to tackle and redshirt freshman Barkevious Mingo from linebacker to end. Junior college transfer Ken Adams, a mid-term enrollee, finished spring practice as a first-team defensive end.

Chavis is one of two former Tennessee aides on Miles' staff for 2010. The other is running backs coach Frank Wilson, who coached wide receivers for the 2009 Vols.

LSU boasts one of the NCAA's premier kickers in senior Josh Jasper. He nailed 17 of 20 field-goal tries last fall and booted a 57-yarder in the spring game.

Although the Tigers have some quality players back from a team that went 9-4 last year, they face stiff competition from improved Auburn and Arkansas squads in the battle to unseat Alabama in the SEC West.


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