LSU Football: Top 10 Players for the 2012 Season
The LSU Tigers return 13 starters and hope that it is enough talent to return to the national championship and take care of unfinished business.
But if you add to pick one player off of this 2012 roster, which is the most important?
Would it be a player like Tyrann Mathieu, somebody who makes plays in different ways and is on many Heisman ballots entering the season? Or would it be one of the many running backs the Tigers have that ware down the opposing defense and puts the game on ice?
As we get closer to the college football regular season, here are the top 10 most important LSU Tigers for the 2012 year.
10. Defensive Tackle: Bennie Logan
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Logan started in 12 games last year and played well, but was often overshadowed by the great play of the other defensive tackle, Michael Brockers. Now that Brockers is in the NFL, it is Logan's time to shine. He finished his first year as a starter with 57 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He is not only quick off the line and able to disrupt plays in the backfield, but can also play a factor in effecting the passing game as well.
With a year under the junior's belt, expect Logan to become a star and take that next step in his game.
9. Wide Receiver: Russell Shepard
Russell Shepard is a valuable piece to this offense, who may be in for his best season yet at LSU. With an improved passing game, we must see the senior wide receiver take full advantage of his playmaking abilities. He is 6'1", and runs like the wind, but only has 52 career catches in three seasons. If the passing game is going to improve, talented players such as Shepard must step up and become more involved in the offense.
Shepard was named a top 150 player this season in the SEC.
8. Cornerback: Tharold Simon
Simon has the ability to become the next lock-down corner on this football team and will have his chance with Morris Claiborne now playing for the Dallas Cowboys. Simon is 6'4", 187 pounds, which automatically gives him an advantage over most receivers. When you add his athleticism and speed to the equation, you have yourself a fine young player who will be key to this defensive backfield.
Despite only starting two games last season, Simon finished his sophomore season with 42 tackles, 10 broken-up passes and two interceptions. The junior corner was named a top 150 player in all of college football heading into this season.
7. Defensive End: Barkevious Mingo
Mingo is one of the many defensive players on this team that you will eventually see playing on Sundays. He has the ability to play defensive end or linebacker and is fantastic at creating plays in the backfield. He is so fast coming off that edge and can chase down the fastest of running backs (just watch the video to see his impact in the victory over the Oregon Ducks).
Mingo led the team last season with 13.5 tackles for loss and had seven sacks as well. Expect nothing less this year as he heads into his junior season.
6. Punter: Brad Wing
A lot of times you wouldn't consider the punter a most important player on the football team, but when he is as great as Brad Wing, you have to make an exception. Wing finished the season ranked 11th in the country, averaging 44.37 yards a punt. He pinned 27 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line and kicked 20 of them over 50 yards. (He also can make plays with his feet, as you can see in the video)
It is bad enough trying to move the ball on this defense, but when the punter makes you travel 80-plus yards to score, it becomes nearly impossible. Wing is a huge weapon the Tigers have that not too many talk about.
5. Safety: Eric Reid
Eric Reid finished his sophomore season tied with Tyrann Mathieu for the most tackles with 76. He also added a couple of interceptions and forced two fumbles. Reid really is not the type of player that will blow you away with his stats, but you won't find a safety that hits harder than him and creates a physical presence as he does.
At 6'2", 208 pounds, he can play both safety positions and is a leader on and off this football team. He was recently named to the Lott Impact Trophy watch list.
4. Right Tackle: Alex Hurst
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If you are looking for a great offensive lineman, look no further than Tigers right tackle, Alex Hurst. He is one of the biggest linemen you will ever find at any level at 6'6", 340 pounds. He is a big reason the Tigers' running game has been successful due to him bullying opposing defensive linemen. He is also versatile, being able to play the guard positions as well.
Hurst made the first team All-SEC last year, and will have a great chance to do so again this time around. He is also one of two seniors on the line, so he will provide leadership to some of the younger and less experienced guys.
3. Cornerback: Tyrann Mathieu
The Honey Badger was not even the best corner on his team last season and that may still be the case this season as well. So why is he this high on the list? Simple; he simply has a nose for the football and makes plays on defense and special teams.
Mathieu finished last year with 76 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, four fumble recoveries and that doesn't count everything he did returning punts. (421 punt return yards and two touchdown returns) The junior corner may be sub-par in pass coverage, but he has the ability to change the momentum of a football game, and that is why he is so high on this list.
2. Quarterback: Zach Mettenberger
In the last three years, the best this Tigers passing game has been ranked in the SEC was ninth. That stat alone goes to show just how valuable the running game has been to this LSU offense, and how more dangerous it can become if it actually develops a true quarterback. Zach Mettenberger hopes to be that guy as he is projected to be this year's starter.
Head coach Les Miles loves what he has seen from the junior quarterback and thinks he can really put this offense over the top. Mettenberger has all of the tools to be successful, the strong arm, great size and is accurate with the football from the little we have seen.
We know this team can run the ball and play great defense, but if LSU can pass the ball as well, look out.
1. Defensive End: Sam Montgomery
Montgomery is just a relentless player on the defensive line and somebody that you will see in the NFL as early as next season. He led the Tigers in sacks last season with nine and finished seventh in the SEC with 13.5 tackles for loss. The junior has a ridiculous motor and is probably the best defensive lineman from a unit that is absolutely loaded.
Look for Montgomery to have another productive year and help make this once again one of the best defensive lines in all of college football.