LSU Football Preview

Uncertainty at quarterback and running back and the loss of 13 starters, not to mention a savage schedule, have tempered the usual high expectations surrounding the LSU football team. Rather than being hyped as a challenger to Alabama for SEC — and national — supremacy, the Tigers are regarded as more of a sleeper.

On a positive note, the Tigers enter Ed Orgeron's second full year as head coach loaded with young talent. Another plus is the return of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Granted, the question out-number the answers at this juncture, but reports of LSU's demise could prove to be overstated.

LSU suffered substantial losses on offense, including quarterback Danny Etling, its top two rushers in Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, leading receiver DJ Chark and first-team All-SEC center Will Clapp.

What started out as a four-candidate quarterback race was narrowed down to a two-party runoff earlier this weaked when junior Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse announced their intentions to transfer.

Sophomore Myles Brennan and junior Joe Burrow are the only two remaining scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Neither has started a college game. Brennan, a 6-foot-5 pocket passer, completed 14-of-24 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Burrow, a graduate transfer, appeared in 10 games at Ohio State the past two seasons, completing 29-of-39 passes for 287 yards and a pair of scores.

Minimal experience remains in the backfield following the subtraction of Guice and Williams, who combined for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Senior Nick Brossette (19 carries, 96 yards) is the top returning rusher. Others in the hunt for carries are sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire, junior Lanard Fournette and true freshmen Tae Provens and Chris Curry.

Senior tight end Foster Moreau (24 receptions, 278 yards, 3 TDs) is the top returning pass-catcher.

However, the new quarterback will have a proven weapon at wide receiver. Junior Jonathan Giles, who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules, caught 69 passes for 1,115 yards and 13 TDs for Texas Tech in 2016.

Junior Stephen Sullivan (11-219-1) is the top holdover wide receiver.

True freshman Terrace Marshall Jr., the consensus No. 1-ranked player in the state out of Bossier City Parkway, will likely play immediately. Also in the wide receiver mix are junior Dee Anderson and sophomores Justin Jefferson and Racey McMath.

Sophomore left tackle Saahdiq Charles and senior left guard Garrett Brumfield return from an offensive line which helped the Tigers average 207.6 yards per game on the ground. Sophomore Dutchtown product Lloyd Cushenberry III is projected to succeed Clapp at center.

While Charles and Brumfield are locked in on the left side, the right side of the wall remains a work in progress.

Ed Ingram, who started the final 12 games at right guard as a freshman, was placed on indefinite suspension shortly before preseason camp opened. Junior Damien Lewis, a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College, could wind up as the starter.

Vying for the right tackle spot are junior Adrian Magee, a former Franklinton stalwart, and sophomore Austin Deculus.

Shifting over to the defensive side, there is a reason LSU made Aranda the highest-paid assistant coach in the nation during the offseason. In their second season under Aranda's tutelage, the Tigers ranked in the top 25 in scoring (18.9 points per game), rushing (128.4 yards per game), passing (187.6 ypg) and total defense (316 ypg).

In 26 games under Aranda, the Tigers have allowed only 43 touchdowns.

Sustaining the level of the past two seasons will be a challenge following the loss of six starters.

First-team All-SEC junior linebacker Devin White headlines the unit after recording team-highs in tackles (133) and tackles for loss (14.5) last fall.

Other than White and sophomore K'Lavon Chaisson (27 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks), experience is scarce in the linebacker brigade.

Junior Michael Divinity Jr. (15 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 interception) and sophomore Jacob Phillips (18 tackles) are the remaining two projected starters.

Junior Travez Moore, a former Bastrop Ram, and true freshman Micah Baskerville are among the remaining linebackers pushing for playing time. Moore was ranked as the No. 1 junior college weakside defensive end in the nation by 247sports coming out of Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College. Baskerville was a four-year starter at Shreveport Evangel. As early enrolees, both arrived in time for spring practice.

Neville product Rashard Lawrence (32 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), a junior, is the lone returning starter up front. Junior transfer Breiden Fehoko (19 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks at Texas Tech in 2016) will start at left end with junior Edwin Alexander (17 tackles, 1 sack) and sophomore Glen Logan (17 tackles) at the nose.

Sophomore Andraez "Greedy" Williams (38 tackles) is the pillar of the secondary after intercepting an SEC-best six passes and breaking up 11 more.

Sophomore Kary Vincent Jr., who ran the lead leg for LSU's SEC champion 4 x 100-meter relay team, is expected to man the other corner.

True freshman Kelvin Joseph, a four-star recruit from Scotlandville, could have an immediate impact.

Senior strong safety John Battle (61 tackles, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles) and sophomore free safety Grant Delpit (60 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT) ranked third and fourth on the team in tackles.

Junior Jack Gonsoulin and sophomore Connor Culp are being challenged by senior graduate transfer Cole Tracy for the place kicking spot. Tracy won the Fred Mitchell Award as the outstanding kicker in the FCS, Division II, Division III and NJCAA last season while playing for D-II Assumption (Calif.) College. He converted 27-of-29 field goal attempts with a long of 53.

Sophomore Zach Von Rosenberg and junior Josh Growden will continue to share the punting duties.

Edwards-Helaire returned 13 kickoffs for a 19-yard norm.

Giles and Jefferson are the top candidates to replace first-team All-SEC punt returner DJ Chark.

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LSU SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT TIME

AdvoCare Classic at Arlington, Texas

Sept. 2 (Sun.) Miami (Fla.) 6:30

Sept. 8 Southeastern Louisiana 6:00

Sept. 15 Auburn* 2:30

Sept. 22 Louisiana Tech TBA

Sept. 29 Ole Miss* TBA

Oct. 6 at Florida* TBA

Oct. 13 Georgia* TBA

Oct. 20 Mississippi State* (HC) TBA

Nov. 3 Alabama* TBA

Nov. 10 at Arkansas* TBA

Nov. 17 Rice TBA

Nov. 24 at Texas A&M* TBA