LSU Football: Projecting 2012 Depth Chart After National Signing Day
The 2012 season has the potential to be even better than the 2011 season for the LSU Tigers, and the depth chart proves it.
With national signing day in the books, the Tigers are ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 on most early preseason rankings. The biggest reason is because of their youth returning to the team that played a large part in winning 13 games last season.
After losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship 21-0, the Tigers have unfinished business, and this is what their depth chart should look like come the fall.
Starter: Zach Mettenberger
Finally, the Tigers will be able to open the offense up with a prolific-style quarterback. The Tigers should maintain their ground-and-pound mentality, but Zach Mettenberger will keep safeties from loading the box against the Tigers.
Mettenberger has a strong arm, and with this gunslinger taking the reigns at quarterback, the SEC will have to respect the Tigers' passing attack.
Backup: Stephen Rivers
Should Mettenberger go down with an injury, look for Stephen Rivers to step in and take control of the offense. Rivers is Phillip Rivers younger brother, and after spending one year under quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, Rivers should be primed to step in and contribute when necessary.
Starting Rotation: Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard
Tiger fans can expect to see Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard getting the majority of reps at the running back position next season.
Both backs are physical, and they proved last season that they're capable of breaking tackles and sprinting into the end zone. Ware had 707 rushing yards last season with eight touchdowns, while Hilliard had 336 rushing yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman.
Backups: Michael Ford, Alfred Blue, Terrence Magee and Jeremy Hill (if he doesn't redshirt)
The running back position is by far the deepest position for the Tigers on offense, as they have quality backups in Michael Ford, Alfred Blue, Terrence Magee and Jeremy Hill.
They're so deep at running back that I believe Hill will redshirt as an incoming freshman. Ford led the Tigers in rushing last year with 756 yards and seven touchdowns, and Blue led the Tigers in average yards per carry with 6.9 and had 539 yards rushing with seven touchdowns.
With limited carries, Magee finished the season with 133 yards and a touchdown. This is easily the deepest running back rotation in the country.
Starters: Russell Shepard, James Wright and Odell Beckham
Though the Tigers lost their top receiver in Rueben Randle, and they lost out on Cordarrelle Patterson to Tennessee, the Tigers still have quality receivers.
The bunch will primarily be a group full of speed and lack height, which is why I believe Wright will be a starter. Wright provides them with a 6'2" frame, and he's had some playing experience.
Odell Beckham was the Tigers' second leading receiver last season behind Randle with 475 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while Russell Shepard was third on the team with 190 yards and four touchdowns.
Backups: Jarvis Landry, Avery Johnson and Kadron Boone
Tiger fans are anxiously anticipating a breakout at the wide receiver position by Jarvis Landry. Landry looked great on special teams and delivered one big hit after another, but he only had four catches last season. Look for Landry to benefit from a brand new passing attack under Zach Mettenberger and become a starter by the time SEC play rolls around.
Look for true freshman and Patrick Peterson's younger brother, Avery Johnson, and Kadron Boone to receive playing time as well.
Starter: Chase Clement
Chase Clement did a great job for the Tigers last season, when he stepped in for Deangelo Peterson. He had a few drops throughout the season, but he managed to catch seven passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Just like the receivers, Clement will benefit from Zach Mettenberger's style of play.
Backups: Travis Dickson and Tyler Edwards
If the last name rings any bells, it's because Travis Dickson is former great tight end Richard Dickson's little brother.
Dickson was a top recruit coming out of Mississippi in high school, and Dickson could provide the Tigers with a quality backup at tight end.
Starters: P.J. Lonergan, Josh Dworaczyk, Alex Hurst, Chris Faulk and Josh Williford
Tiger fans received great news this week when it was announced that Josh Dworaczyk would receive his sixth year of eligibility.
He missed the 2011 season with a knee injury, and heading into the season, Dworaczyk was thought to be LSU's top offensive lineman. The return of Dworaczyk, who has 26 career starts on the offensive line, plus the return of P.J. Lonergan, Alex Hurst, Chris Faulk and Josh Williford will provide the Tigers with one of the best offensive lines in the nation.
Between the five linemen, they total 105 career starts, with Lonergan starting 26 games, Hurst starting 24, Faulk starting 15 and Williford starting 14. Experience is key on the offensive line, and the Tigers certainly have that.
Backups: La'el Collins, Vadal Alexander, Ben Dominique and Chris Davenport
As for the backups at offensive tackle, La'el Collins and Vadal Alexander have the potential to be two of the best offensive linemen in the SEC, but they're young. As they continue to develop, look for these two hog-mollies to fight for a starting position and step up when players are injured.
Ben Dominique and Chris Davenport are expected to be the other backups.
Starters: Bennie Logan, Anthony Johnson, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery
While the secondary was the strength of the team last season, the defensive line will be the strength this season. They lost Michael Brockers to the NFL draft, but Bennie Logan, Anthony Johnson, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will hold down the fort.
Mingo and Montgomery are quick and athletic defensive ends, while Logan and Johnson can provide a wall on the inside. Montgomery had nine sacks with Mingo totaling eight in 2011.
This could very well be the best defensive line in the country.
Backups: Chancey Aghayere, Jermauria Rasco, Josh Downs and Ego Ferguson
As if the four starters weren't good enough, they have quality backups in Chancey Aghayere, Jermauria Rasco, Josh Downs and Ego Ferguson.
Rasco could be a future superstar in the middle, and his 17 tackles as a freshman were better than the heavily recruited Johnson.
Starters: Kevin Minter, Kwon Alexander and Tahj Jones
The linebacker position looked to be a weakness of the team before the season, but then the Tigers picked up the third-best linebacker in the nation with Kwon Alexander.
I think this guy is going to be a fantastic addition at linebacker, and I look for this 6'2", 212-pound linebacker that runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash to make an immediate impact.
Kevin Minter will return to the team after recording 56 tackles last year, and Tahj Jones should get the start at the other linebacker spot.
Backups: Lamin Barrow, Josh Johns and Lorenzo Phillips
The Tigers have some strong backups at linebacker with Lamin Barrow, Josh Johns and Lorenzo Phillips.
Phillips is another true freshman that could start right away if he impresses in camp, while Barrow and Johns will provide for solid backups. Barrow should receive a good amount of playing time, as he shares playing time with Jones.
Starters: Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, Craig Loston and Tharold Simon
Brandon Taylor and Mo Claiborne are gone, but this unit is still incredible. Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon all return, and Craig Loston should replace Taylor quite nicely.
Loston came to LSU as the top-rated safety in the nation, and this could be the year he finally breaks out. Look for this secondary not to miss a beat, and the Honey Badger to create havoc just like he did in 2011.
Backups: Ronald Martin, Jalen Collins, Jerqwinick Sandolph and Micah Eugene
The Tigers will have inexperience as backups, but they're talented nonetheless. Ronald Martin, Jalen Collins and Micah Eugene possess speed, and Collins was a heavily recruited safety that could make some noise come 2012.
As forJerqwinick Sandolph, well he's an incoming freshman that could become another freshman sensation for the Tigers.