Reloading or rebuilding? That's the big question in Baton Rouge this spring. With a 34-6 record from 2010-12, LSU has been one of college football’s top programs in recent years. However, the Tigers will be hard pressed to win 10 or more games in 2013, as the team returns only 10 starters from last season. Coach Les Miles has recruited plenty of talent to Baton Rouge, but LSU will be young on defense and needs quarterback Zach Mettenberger to take a big step in his development. With road games against Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama in 2013, getting to 9-3 with a revamped starting lineup should be considered a good season for LSU.
LSU Tigers 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 10-3 (6-2)
Spring practice dates: March 14-April 20
Returning Starters:Offense – 7, Defense – 3
Passing: Zach Mettenberger, 207 of 352, 2,609 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Jeremy Hill, 142 car., 755 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Jarvis Landry, 56 rec., 573 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Lamin Barrow, 104
Sacks: Micah Eugene, 3.5
Interceptions: Craig Loston, 3
Redshirts to Watch: OL Derek Edinburgh, OL Jerald Hawkins, LB Lorenzo Phillips
Early Enrollees to Watch: WR John Diarse, OL Fehoko Fanaika, QB Anthony Jennings, WR Avery Johnson, DT Christian LaCouture, OL Ethan Pocic, QB Hayden Rettig
JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Fehoko Fanaika, WR Quantavius Leslie, TE Logan Stokes
Aug. 31 TCU (Arlington)
Sept. 7 UAB
Sept. 14 Kent State
Sept. 21 Auburn
Sept. 28 at Georgia
Oct. 5 at Mississippi State
Oct. 12 Florida
Oct. 19 at Ole Miss
Oct. 26 Furman
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Alabama
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Texas A&M
Nov. 30 Arkansas
Offensive Strength: Even though Michael Ford and Spencer Ware left Baton Rouge for the NFL, the Tigers are set in the backfield. Jeremy Hill should be one of the SEC’s top running backs in 2013, while Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard return after combining for 734 yards in 2012.
Offensive Weakness: With the departure of Josh Dworaczyk, Chris Faulk and center P.J. Lonergan, LSU’s offensive line is a concern going into spring practice. There are options returning to fill the voids, but the Tigers need to mix and match to find the right lineup.
Defensive Strength: Despite some losses, the back seven of LSU’s defense should be solid. Lamin Barrow will slide to middle linebacker to replace Kevin Minter, while Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins is a solid duo at cornerback.
Defensive Weakness: Churning out top defensive linemen isn’t an issue at LSU, but that notion will be put to the test this spring. The Tigers must replace six key players in last season’s rotation.
Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers
1. Can Zach Mettenberger take the next step? As expected, Mettenberger’s first season as LSU’s starting quarterback had its share of ups and downs. He threw for 298 yards and one touchdown against Alabama on Nov. 3 but threw just five passing scores in SEC play. With a strong rushing attack and one of the SEC’s top defenses, Mettenberger wasn’t asked to carry the team. However, with LSU losing significant contributors on both sides of the ball, the passing attack has to step up in 2013. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has a wealth of experience and should help Mettenberger continue to refine his game this spring, along with developing more consistency in SEC games.
2. Finding the right mix on the offensive line. Although the line is a weakness going into spring practice, the coaching staff has to be optimistic about the returning talent. Guard La’el Collins was an honorable mention All-SEC selection last season and will slide to left tackle this spring. Josh Williford missed most of 2012 due to a concussion but is expected to replace Collins at left guard. Sophomores Elliott Porter, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander will likely fill out the remaining spots on the line. Junior college recruit Fehoko Fanaika and redshirt freshmen Derek Edinburgh and Jerald Hawkins will have an opportunity to work their way into the mix if any of the projected starters struggle this spring.
3. Rebuilding the defensive line. Developing talent on the defensive line hasn’t been an issue for LSU, but line coach Brick Haley and coordinator John Chavis will have their hands full this spring. The Tigers must replace six key players from last season’s unit, including dynamic ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs will also be missed. There’s very little in the way of proven experience at end returning, as junior Jermauria Rasco and sophomore Danielle Hunter are expected to start spring practice as the top options. Rasco and Hunter combined for 22 tackles last season. The situation at tackle is slightly better, as Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are poised to have a breakout year. Incoming freshmen Tashawn Bower, Maquedius Bain, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Christian LaCouture, Lewis Neal and Michael Patterson will provide depth and should see plenty of snaps with the way LSU likes to rotate its defensive linemen.
4. Filling the holes on the back seven. The defensive line wasn’t the only area of LSU’s defense that will need to be overhauled. The situation in the back seven is just as desperate, as the Tigers must replace first-team All-SEC linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid. Lamin Barrow is expected to slide into middle linebacker to replace Minter, and the Tigers will look for Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis, Deion Jones and Ronnie Feist to improve in their second year on campus. Tahj Jones is a player to watch after making just one appearance last season and recording four tackles and one sack in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson. Losing Reid and Simon is a big loss in the secondary, but LSU has pieces to build around in cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, while Craig Loston, Corey Thompson, Micah Eugene and Ronald Martin is a solid foundation at secondary. There’s plenty of talent in the back seven, but LSU needs to blend all of the new faces into the starting lineup this spring.
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