2010 NCAA Football Preview: LSU Tigers

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 9-4, 5-3
Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl (L 19-17 vs. Penn State)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 17, 17
Conference finish: 2nd SEC West
Offensive rank: 112
Defensive rank: 26

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Charles Scott, 542 yards, 4 TD
Passing: Jordan Jefferson, 2,166 yards, 17 TD, 7 INT
Receiving: Brandon LaFell, 792 yards, 11 TD; Terrance Toliver, 735 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: Kelvin Sheppard, 110 total tackles; Perry Riley, 97 total tackles
Sacks: Rahim Alem, 4.5 sacks ( 4 solo, 1 assisted)
Interceptions: Chad Jones, 3 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 4 vs. North Carolina: How good is the LSU offense? We'll find out in a hurry when they take on arguably the most loaded all-around defense in the entire country. The Tar Heels have had some problems with the NCAA and it's been suggested that they could sit some of the players who might have eligibility issues down the road, which could mean some pretty significant pieces of the defense could be off the field. If this Tar Heels defense is all on the field, though, the Tigers will get a very good sense for where they are offensively after this one.

October 9 @ Florida: The LSU schedule isn't a killer, but heading into the Swamp to take on the Gators won't be an easy task. The Tigers haven't beaten the Gators in Gainesville since their national title year of 2004 and haven't won at either location since 2007, their other national title year last decade. A win here would be huge, but they may not need it to win the division.

November 6 vs. Alabama: They may need to grab this one, however, especially if they lose to Florida. Alabama loses a lot on defense, but they'll reload quickly and should again be a power on a national scale. A win here could go a long way in securing an SEC divisional title and a trip to Atlanta for the conference championship.

November 27 @ Arkansas: The Razorbacks tout a Heisman candidate for a quarterback, but they're still flying a bit under the radar in terms of competing in the SEC. The Razorbacks and Tigers are both expected to finish looking up at the Tide at the end of the year, but if these teams can click at the right time and with enough talent on the roster, both have legitimate shots at dethroning the defending national champs in the West.

AP: 21st

Coaches': 16th

Key Losses

Charles Scott, RB; Brandon LaFell, WR; Richard Dickson, TE; Al Woods, DT; Perry Riley, LB; Harry Coleman, LB; Chad Jones, S

Key Returning Players

Jordan Jefferson, QB; Terrance Toliver, WR; Russell Shepard, WR; Joseph Barksdale, OT; Drake Nevis, DT; Kelvin Sheppard, LB; Patrick Peterson, CB

Offensive Overview

It isn't often that a team with the 112th ranked offense finishes with nine wins and plays in a January bowl game, but that's just what LSU managed to do last season. Part of the offensive woes was due to the inability of the offensive line to block anybody. They ranked tied for 105th in the nation in sacks allowed and didn't do all that much to help the running game get going either. Joseph Barksdale moves from right to left tackle where the former defensive lineman will look to improve in pass protection. Alex Hurst will get the start on the right side with Barksdale moving over. Three starters return, but Hurst is one of two new starters on the right side.

Another area that needs to see improvement is at quarterback. If the line can improve, Jordan Jefferson should have more time to make the right decision and get his passes off. Don't get me wrong, Jefferson had a nice year in 2009 and was helped by a group of talented pass-catchers, but if this team hopes to take the next step, Jefferson will have to become more consistent in his decision making. If he struggles this season, Jarrett Lee, 2008's starter, could get the opportunity to take back the starting gig.

The quarterback will have a nice slew of receivers at his disposal in Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randall and former quarterback Russell Shepard, who could actually see time as a Wildcat quarterback in addition to serving as a wide receiver. Toliver could be in for a huge season with Brandon LaFell no longer the number one guy in town, while Randall will prove an excellent third receiver as a true sophomore. DeAngelo Peterson will get the nod at tight end and could emerge as one of the SEC's top players at his position. The junior is an excellent pass catcher who will create tons of mismatches throughout the year.

Redshirt freshman Michael Ford looked outstanding this offseason and could grab the starting job sometime in the beginning of the season if his practice prowess translates into in-game production. Likely to start the season is Richard Murphy, a senior who has battled knee injuries. Stevan Ridley also returns as a power option, rounding out a trio that could be in for big things this season.

Defensive Overview

The defense had its rough patches last season, but overall were a productive bunch in 2009. Getting into the backfield and stiffening up in run defense will be focuses, but with arguably the top cover corner in all of college football and a speedy, talented secondary overall, the Tigers are in good shape going into the season.

Patrick Peterson, if he decides to leave a year of eligibility on the table, would probably be picked somewhere in the top half of the first round in the NFL Draft next April, if not somewhere in the top ten. As a junior, he'll shore up what should be one of the nation's most impressive secondaries. Lining up opposite Peterson is Morris Claiborne. He could get picked on early as teams try to stay away from Peterson, but he'll quickly force teams to think twice before focusing solely on his side of the field. Two cornerbacks will man the safety spots this season in Jai Eugene at free safety and Brandon Taylor at strong safety. Craig Loston, a redshirt freshman, could push Eugene for playing time with Karnell Hatcher seeing plenty of time as a reserve behind Taylor.

A pass rush would make this secondary even better, but it's not a luxury the Tigers had going for them in 2009. The hope is that 2010 will be different with LaVar Edwards taking over one of the end spots with Kendrick Adams, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo also seeing time in the rotation. The tackle situation involves Drake Nevis, a 292 pound tackle who is actually quite formidable as a pass rusher, coming up with four sacks as a reserve last season. Lazarius Levingston is the only returning starter, but needs to find a way to be more of a pass rusher from the interior after seeing time as an end last season.

Kelvin Sheppard is again expected to be a tackling machine in the middle. He is the only returning starter to the second line of defense coming off a 110-tackle season that led the team in that category. Stepping into starting roles at the outside linebacker spots will be junior Stefoin Francois and sophomore Ryan Baker. Baker, however, sustained a broken jaw in offseason practice that could keep him out of action for six weeks. This is an athletic bunch with tons of speed, but the new faces will have to turn that ability and potential into production on the field.

Special Teams Overview

Josh Jasper returns as the team's placekicker coming off a year in which he hit 17 of 20 field goals and all 34 of his extra point attempts. He'll be a good, consistent option with a big leg to hit the longer attempts (6 for 8 from beyond 40 yards in '09). The punter will again be Derek Helton, who averaged 40.0 yards per punt a season ago. In the return game, the Tigers will likely turn to all-star cornerback Patrick Peterson. He's not a burner or anything, but he should do fine in giving the offense some good field position.

Head Coach: Les Miles

Les Miles was an offensive lineman at Michigan in the mid-seventies and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Wolverines in 1980. In 1987 he returned to Michigan after a stint with Colorado from '82 to '86. He would coach the Wolverines' offensive line until 1994 until taking over as the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and later as the head coach. In between, he coached the Cowboys' (of the NFL variety) tight ends. He took over at LSU in 2005, leading the Tigers to five straight bowl games which, until last season, were all bowl wins. He's finished with double-digit wins three times at LSU and even took the Tigers to a national championship in 2007.

There were rumors that Miles would succeed Lloyd Carr as the head coach at Michigan in 2007 which persisted even after he denied interest in the position, but those rumors obviously stopped when Rich Rodriguez took the job in late December of that year. However, Rodriguez's lack of success in Ann Arbor has him on one hell of a coaching hot seat, fueling continued speculation that Miles would be interested in replacing him at Michigan despite continued pleas that he is happy and comfortable in Baton Rouge and has no plans of leaving.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Terrence Toliver, WR; Joseph Barksdale, OT; Drake Nevis, DT; Kelvin Sheppard, LB; Jai Eugene, S

Season Prediction

3rd SEC West

An 8-5 and 9-4 record in back-to-back seasons is not bad by any stretch, unless you're a team like LSU who prior to the 8-5 year were national champions at 12-2. The Tigers haven't won 13 national champions like divisional rival Alabama, but they won two national titles last decade and finished the season ranked eight times in the 2000s. They've also not finished with fewer than eight wins in any season since their three-win 1999 campaign. It goes without saying that LSU expects to see double digit wins and be in the national title hunt year in and year out.

As far as this season goes, some improvement on the offense, particularly on the offensive line, is a necessity if this team hopes to reclaim their previous glory. The running game should be solid and the receivers are there to give the quarterback plenty of options in the passing game. Now it all needs to come together in the form of more consistent production…and points. On defense, the secondary should be outstanding, but the pass rush needs to catch up a bit to make their lives easier and allow for more big plays in the pass defense. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.


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