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You can read the entire LSU preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 SEC magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
SEC West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Les Miles, 62–17 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Greg Studrawa | DEF. COORDINATOR: John Chavis
Coming off an 11–2 season with a veteran quarterback, there might not seem to be much cause for concern. But there is some concern for the Tigers as they begin the season with a maligned third-year starting quarterback in Jordan Jefferson, who enters his final season with plenty of reason to look over his shoulder. Georgia castoff Zach Mettenberger is on campus now and will undoubtedly push Jefferson if there is any sign of trouble.
Stevan Ridley’s departure threw the running back spot into an open audition, with sophomore Spencer Ware poised to take over after showing the ability to read blocks and find the smallest holes in a 94-yard, two-TD performance in the spring game.
Three returning veterans anchor the receiving corps — split end Rueben Randle had 33 receptions for 544 yards and three TDs; inside receiver Russell Shepard snared 33 balls for 254 yards; and hybrid tight end/receiver Deangelo Peterson pulled in 16 passes for 198 yards.
For stability’s sake, the offensive line should give LSU some comfort. Four spots feature returning starters, along with a handful of veteran backups. The key for the line will be to take another step forward as run-blockers with a less experienced group of running backs and make sure the quarterbacks aren’t constantly dodging the pass rush — particularly if the less-mobile Mettenberger slips into the starting spot.
Les Miles is the most entertaining coach in college football.
Stopping the run is always a staple for LSU under John Chavis, and there’s strong a pool of talent up front with an interchangeable crew of athletic ends and tackles, led by sophomore end Sam Montgomery and incoming 5-star freshman tackle Anthony “Freak” Johnson.
Departed senior Kelvin Sheppard was an anchor at middle linebacker, and replacing him is a major challenge. Senior Ryan Baker and sophomore Kevin Minter give the Tigers two building blocks and fit the linebacker mold Chavis likes — rangy, fast and sure tacklers.
The secondary has to replace lock-down cornerback Patrick Peterson but should be a major strength. Junior Mo Claiborne led the Tigers with five interceptions and six pass breakups last season. Sophomore Tyrann Mathieu was spectacular as a nickel back — almost always seeming to be around the ball when a big play was made. Craig Loston and Eric Reid are blossoming stars at safety, although senior Brandon Taylor will be the leader in the defensive backfield as long as he can return from a foot fracture that ended his season in mid-November.
Jordan Jefferson, QB Senior is back as a third-year starter and will have to fight to keep his job if he stumbles at all.
Rueben Randle, WR After two years of making occasional big plays, it’s time for Randle to take next step as an All-SEC-caliber receiver.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB Gets a chance to take over for Patrick Peterson and build on his rookie season as a major playmaker.
|Sept. 3rd||Oregon (Arlington, TX)|
|Sept. 10th||Northwestern State|
|Sept. 15th||at Mississippi State|
|Sept. 24th||at West Virginia|
|Oct. 15th||at Tennessee|
|Nov. 5th||at Alabama|
|Nov. 12th||Western Kentucky|
|Nov. 19th||at Ole Miss|
Filling three holes in the kicking game looms large if LSU has designs on making a national championship run. Junior kicker Drew Alleman and Australian-born punter Brad Wing will get their shots, and Randle, senior Ron Brooks and Mathieu will all take a turn at filling the void left in the return game by Peterson, a major threat on punts and kickoffs.
LSU’s 41–24 romp past Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl has whetted an already eternally famished fanbase’s hunger for what’s coming next. Now, fresh off that victory and a campaign in which LSU knocked off Florida in Gainesville and slammed the door on Alabama’s bid to repeat as national champions, there is a championship vibe engulfing the LSU program. The Tiger faithful are eager for another season that winds up down the road in New Orleans in the BCS National Championship Game.