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College Football Preview: 15. LSU Tigers

15. LSU Tigers

It was an overall disappointing year in Baton Rouge last season. Even without star Tyrann Mathieu, the Tigers had a huge number of NFL prospects and a number of great running backs. Though LSU ended up with a 10-3 mark and lost a heartbreaker to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A bowl. Even with a ton of players gone LSU still has the talent to compete in the brutal SEC West.

Zach Mettenberger

Backfield: In order for the Tigers to have any chance at contending in the SEC West they need their passing game to improve dramatically. Zach Mettenberger returns for his senior season after a rollercoaster of a junior year. He has a great arm but he made bad decisions throughout all of last year. LSU brought in former Ravens' offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to run the offense. Cameron could really help improve this passing offense that has been weak for a long time. As usual, the Tigers have a ton of great backs including last year's leading rusher sophomore Jeremy Hill. Hill had 755 yards in 11 games and proved to be a real threat in the red zone recording 12 touchdowns. Also returning is senior Alfred Blue, who missed most of last year. LSU also returns a strong blocking and running fullback in senior J.C. Copeland.

Receivers: Another reason this passing game could flourish is the returns of a number of fantastic receivers. The top four receivers in 2012 return this year including junior Jarvis Landry, who led the team a year ago. Landry is extremely athletic and has great hands. He has average speed but gets open because of how precise he runs his routes. Also back is another junior, Odell Beckham. Beckham is a more dangerous threat downfield but wasn't as consistent as Landry. With teams focusing on the dangerous combo of Beckham and Landry it should leave opportunities for other receivers including senior Kadron Boone. Boone can stretch the field on occasion but does most of his damage in the middle of the field and constantly moves the chains. The tight end position is in good hands with junior Travis Dickson the most likely starter.

Jeremy Hill
Offensive Line: The Tigers have one of the nation's best tackles on their roster in junior left tackle La'el Collins. Collins is a very athletic tackle, getting to the next level and picking up additional pass rushers. With Collins dominating on the left side, teams will most likely target the other sides. Sophomore right guard Trai Turner has a ton of potential but he must learn quickly against the great SEC defenders. The Tigers lose a very important player in center P.J. Lonergan who was the leader of this line last season. Junior Elliot Porter will likely start in his place and he must also learn on the fly. He has a little more experience than Turner but is still pretty unproven. Coach Les Miles brought in a tackle that could make an impact immediately in 6-7 Illinois product Ethan Pocic, who could spend some time at tackle. Tight end Dickson is also a good blocker that could help this ground attack.

Defensive Line: Gone are Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan but this line could still be very good. Junior defensive tackle Anthony Johnson returns after being a rotational player for LSU a year ago. He had 30 tackles in 2012 and can really stuff up running lanes. Starting alongside Johnson up the middle is another proven run stuffer in junior Ego Ferguson who had 14 tackles last year. It isn't known if both will be effective as starters but both will make plays either way. In order to continue their run of dominant defense the Tigers need to find pass rushers to replace Mingo and Montgomery. Sophomore Danielle Hunter will be the top candidate to lead the team in sacks in 2013. He has a huge frame and is extremely athletic and could definitely be the second coming of Mingo. Junior Jordan Allen may have a chance to start at the other spot or backup Hunter. He is big and strong and could make a habit of disrupting offenses.

Linebackers: The Tigers also suffered a huge loss in their linebacking corps with middle linebacker Kevin Minter now gone. Minter was one of the best linebackers in the nation all of '12 and had 130 tackles. Replacing him at the middle linebacker position is a question. Junior D.J. Welter may have the upper hand at the spot but sophomore Ronnie Fiest could also get a look. Though even with the loss of Minter LSU still has a pretty strong group of linebackers with the return of seniors Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones. Barrow was a real factor all of last season and is an All-SEC candidate this year. He had 104 tackles last season a number that could continue to skyrocket with more opportunities in 2013. Jones is also an impact player this year and can make a ton of plays. He reads plays very well and should also be a somewhat factor as a pass rusher. Both Barrow and Jones are experienced and can study offenses.

Secondary: Even without Mathieu the Tigers' secondary was still very solid through all of last season. The cornerback positions are in good hands even with Tharold Simon now gone. Two sophomores, Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, will be fantastic from the start. Both are athletic and good coverage players. Mills has the edge in experience after being thrown into a starting spot when Mathieu was kicked off the team. The Tigers also have two great safties including strong safety Craig Loston. Although injury prone Loston is a fantastic player when he is healthy. He can make big plays as he recorded 3 interceptions last year and took one back for a touchdown. The other safety spot is a little bit of a question. Junior Ronald Martin is a hard hitting machine and can also make his fair share of big plays. Also sure to see some significant time is sophomore Micah Eugene who had a very strong freshman season recording 3.5 sacks in 2012.

Even with a number of players gone the Tigers have the talent to contend in the SEC. If Mettenberger can take big strides this year a BCS bowl definitely isn't completely out of question especially if the Tigers can take down Alabama or Texas A&M.

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