Tyrann Mathieu arrived in Baton Rouge as a undervalued prospect who many considered lucky to even receive a scholarship offer from an SEC program such as LSU.
Now, less than two years later, Mathieu is considered to be the most electrifying player in all of college football, and certainly one guy who the Tigers need to stay on the field in order to be successful in 2012.
After a perfect regular season and an SEC Championship in 2011, expectations will be big yet again for this LSU team in 2012. But just like any college football team, the Tigers will rely on their experienced veterans if they are going to continue that success this fall.
Mathieu is certainly one of the most important pieces to this team, but who else will LSU rely on heavily in the upcoming season?
Let's break down five players who need to stay both healthy and out of trouble if LSU is going to have another memorable season in 2012.
There are plenty of lofty expectations surrounding LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger heading into the 2012 college football season. And while Mettenberger will be entering his first season as a starter for LSU, make no mistake about it, he is one guy that the Tigers are really counting on.
Mettenberger is expected to bring new life to the Tigers' passing game in 2012, which is something they have been lacking with Jordan Jefferson under center for the past three seasons. He showed great promise in this year's spring game, completing 14-of-25 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he showed a nice connection with sophomore wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who is expected to take over as the Tigers' No.1 receiving option this season.
Another reason while Mettenberger is expected to be so valuable to this LSU team in 2012 is because the Tigers don't have a ton of depth behind him. While Mettenberger does indeed have limited playing time at the college football level, his replacement options have even less.
Stephen Rivers, the brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, is listed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Mettenberger. While Rivers was indeed a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, he has yet to throw a pass in a live college football game up to this point.
The bottom line here is that Mettenberger needs to on the field if the Tigers are going to be successful next season.
LSU's defense should be its strength once again in 2012. And while Tyrann Mathieu is certainly the biggest name on that unit, Sam Montgomery could be the most meaningful player to this defense.
Montgomery was an absolute menace to opposing quarterbacks in 2011. He led the Tigers and ranked third in the SEC with nine total sacks, which ranks fourth in school history for most sacks in a single season.
If LSU's defense is going to have similar success to last season, they need to continue to apply heavy pressure to opposing quarterbacks, and that all starts up front with Montgomery coming off the end. He is the leader on this dominant defensive line, and without him in they lineup, they instantly go from great to 'pretty good.'
Les Miles and his LSU coaching staff need Montgomery on the field in 2012.
LSU's 2012 football team certainly won't be lacking talent at the linebacker position, but they will be lacking experience.
With Stefoin Francois, Ryan Baker and Karnell Hatcher all lost to graduation, the Tigers will return just one starter from that 2011 unit, that being middle linebacker Kevin Minter.
Minter ranked fifth on the team with 56 tackles last year and began to blossom into a leader on the defense in the second half of the season. He will be looked upon to be a full-time leader this season and provide guidance to younger players such as Tahj Jones and Lamin Barrow, both of who are expected to fill the openings at outside linebacker.
The Tigers also brought in several highly-touted freshman at the linebacker position, but again, they all lack college football playing experience.
If this group is going to stay elite in 2012, Minter needs to stay on the gridiron.
The most electrifying player in college football will return to LSU this season after putting together a memorable campaign in 2011 where he was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Tyrann Mathieu anchors a secondary that is considered amongst the best in all of college football, assuming he is in the lineup.
Remember, this is a secondary that lost All-American Morris Claiborne and All-SEC performer Brandon Taylor to the NFL.
Mathieu is the lone returning starting cornerback on this LSU team, so his value will be even greater than before. Behind Mathieu is Jalen Collins and David Jenkins, a pair of freshman cornerbacks who have yet to get their first taste of college football.
Let's also not forget how valuable Mathieu is on special teams. He is hands down the top punt return man in college football, which means one thing.
He needs to be on the field for LSU this fall.
Eric Reid might not be the most talked-about player on LSU's football team, but make no mistake about it, he is certainly one of the best.
Reid is one of the most feared safeties in college football, with a motor like Troy Polamalu and the hard-hitting style of Ed Reed. With the departure of Brandon Taylor, Reid will be looked upon to play a huge role in this secondary in 2011.
Of the four expected starters in LSU's 2012 secondary, all are juniors, and only Reid and Mathieu were starters last season.
In order for this secondary to remain among the best not only in the SEC, but throughout all of college football, they need Reid to step up big. This is one guy who absolutely needs to stay on the field in 2012.