LSU's pricey investment on offense didn't pay off, as the Tigers played second fiddle to Auburn and Alabama in the SEC West last season. Rebooting on offense, Ed Orgeron has more to worry about than just breaking in a new coordinator. The entire backfield is uncertain with most of the returning experience on that side of the ball found along the offensive line. The defense also will feature plenty of new faces, as once again LSU felt the brunt of early departures to the NFL. Combine this with a rugged LSU football schedule and the Tigers have their work cut out for them this fall.
Previewing LSU Football's Offense for 2018
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The Tigers' traditional run-heavy attack appeared headed for big changes in 2017, when coach Ed Orgeron hired Matt Canada as offensive coordinator. But Orgeron and Canada clashed personally and professionally, Orgeron never finding a comfort level with Canada's misdirection and shifts. He sent Canada (now at Maryland) packing and promoted tight ends coach Steve Ensminger.
Orgeron wants a pro-style attack angled toward the pass, and Ensminger appears poised to give it to him. That's in large part because for the first time since at least 1974, LSU doesn't return a back who rushed for a touchdown last season. Baton Rouge natives Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are expected to shoulder the load.
The quarterback position vacated by Danny Etling was supposed to be sophomore Myles Brennan's to lose, but he was pushed surprisingly hard in spring practice by junior Justin McMillan and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse. Following spring practice, Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow committed to join the team for 2018. Burrow has two years of eligibility left and has played well in limited action with the Buckeyes. The dual-threat junior is likely to start the opener against Miami, but McMillan and Brennan will have a chance to win the job in fall practice. Whoever is playing quarterback is expected to make Jonathan Giles, a transfer from Texas Tech who had 1,158 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns in 2016, the top target. Terrace Marshall, the only five-star prospect in the Tigers' 2018 recruiting class, will have a chance to play right away.
Previewing LSU Football's Defense for 2018
LSU spent dearly to keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda away from Texas A&M, re-signing him for a guaranteed $10 million over four years. Aranda is finally expected to be able to install his entire defensive package in 2018, relying on a couple of key players to lead the way.
Junior inside linebacker Devin White led the SEC with 10.2 tackles per game in 2017 and has an All-American's nose for the football. And sophomore Greedy Williams is a shutdown cornerback in the Patrick Peterson mold.
The Tigers finally get to pair end Breiden Fehoko and tackle Tyler Shelvin after they sat out 2017 - Fehoko as a Texas Tech transfer and Shelvin for academic reasons. They'll team with highly regarded junior end Rashard Lawrence to form a stout defensive front, though Shelvin may be a backup to Ed Alexander.
Finding a cornerback to play opposite Williams is a huge issue. Sophomores Jontre Kirklin and Kary Vincent were battling in the spring, but freshman Kelvin Joseph or grad transfer Terrence Alexander could win out once they arrive.
Previewing LSU Football's Specialists for 2018
Orgeron used his new 10th assistant slot to make former analyst Greg McMahon his special teams coordinator after Connor Culp and Jack Gonsoulin combined to make just 16-of-27 field goal attempts in 2017. Orgeron also used a scholarship to sign Cole Tracy, a transfer from Assumption College in Massachusetts. The Tigers are expected to continue to use Zach Von Rosenberg for regular punts and Josh Growden for shorter distances.
LSU's schedule isn't conducive to finding a path back into the SEC's upper echelon. The Tigers will face two teams that played in the College Football Playoff (Alabama and Georgia) and two teams that played in New Year's Six bowls (Auburn and Miami). Add games at home with Mississippi State and at Texas A&M, and it's difficult to picture the Tigers being able to challenge for SEC West supremacy. The key for Orgeron is not to slip so far that he's facing a must-win-big scenario in 2019 to keep his job.