The season ahead – Can the Tigers rebuild after losing nine players to the NFL?

LSU finished the 2013 season with a 10-3 record. After losing nine players in the 2014 NFL draft, including five players in the top three rounds, the Tigers are looking to rebuild and return as a top contender in the SEC. The big question for LSU this summer has been at the quarterback position.

Last season Zack Mettenberger led one of the most prolific LSU offenses in recent years, and his leadership will be missed. However, the unexpected good news for the Tigers is that when Mettenberger went down in the final regular season game of last season against Arkansas, his backup, Anthony Jennings, came in and led the offense down the field for the game-winning drive Jennings led the Tigers to victory in their bowl game, too.

So is the position Jennings’ to lose?

Even with Jennings’ stellar performance late last year, the quarterback position is up for grabs. Hotshot true freshman Brandon Harris came into the program fighting hard for the starting role. Harris turned a lot of heads in the spring game, hinting that this will be an interesting battle between two dual-threat quarterbacks who can run and pass with efficiency.

Speaking of running, the Tigers will once again have a stable of solid backs and a powerful offensive line to make room for them to run. Upperclassman La’el Collins and Vadal Alexander are both veterans on this offensive front with great power and agility. Keeping these two healthy will be key, as they are the leaders of what could be the best o-line LSU has had in years.

Even with the departure of Jeremy Hill, LSU is once again stacked at running back. Seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard have both been great contributors to the program for years. Incoming freshman Leonard Fournette is getting some buzz already, too. His raw power and speed should get him some immediate playing time, and fans will see if he’s ready during the opening game versus a defensive-minded Wisconsin.

All this talent in the backfield should make opponents susceptible to the deep ball, so getting Jennings and Harris in sync with their receivers is a second key to success.

Defensively, the Tigers will have one of the best linebacker cores in the league. Kwon Alexander stepped up late last season, and he is going to be a force to reckon with. On the defensive front, LSU will have some good speed on the outside with Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. Hunter has a big frame and is a nightmare for opposing offenses. Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White are two young players to watch in the secondary. Both can be explosive and have a great nose for finding the ball.

Make no mistake, this team is young. But with smart coaching, they have the talent to do remarkable things in 2014.

Each year, Tiger fans mark their calendars for the Alabama showdown. But this season, the most important game is the opener against Wisconsin. This matchup will be a battle of young quarterbacks and set the tone for the season.

The last time LSU lost a season opener was in 2002, and nobody wants to be the LSU quarterback who breaks that streak. Jennings and Harris need this win for their confidence, and with two games after to prep for SEC play, it’s a crucial contest.

The toughest stretch of the schedule is the two back-to-back games at Auburn and at Florida. Alabama is always tough, but with the Tigers playing the Tide at home, and Alabama losing several key players, LSU should come out on top.

The trap game this season is Arkansas. We face the Razorbacks on the road a week after playing Saban’s crew, and if injuries or late-season distractions get in the way, the Tigers could be caught off-guard.

Still, this squad has the potential to be remarkable if only a leader can step up at quarterback. LSU will be dangerous in SEC play. My prediction is a 10-2 finish for the Tigers who will be serious contenders for the SEC West title.

For more information on this year’s team and updated game and broadcast schedules, visit lsusports.net.

OT #70
This 315-pound tackle and second team All-SEC performer will be the key to LSU’s running success. Last year the Baton Rouge native said he felt his time as a Tiger was not complete. As a junior he did not enter the NFL draft, so Collins will be a senior leader on the field with something fierce to prove.