USA Today 2012 Preseason Poll: The Case for LSU as the Top Team in the Country
When the USA Today preseason coaches' poll was released today it didn’t surprise many that LSU landed at the top of the list.
The Tigers are coming off of a very good season, winning the SEC championship and finishing 13-1. It was a bitter pill to swallow to lose to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game, but the Tigers are set up to be better than they were in 2011.
The biggest question mark surrounding the team is quarterback, but the Tigers look to have a significant upgrade at the position with rising sophomore Zach Mettenberger.
With all the positives that follow the Tigers into the 2012 season, here are the five obvious reasons they landed in the No.1 spot in the preseason poll.
Rising Star at Quarterback
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
The biggest concern for the Tigers heading into the 2012 season is having an inexperienced quarterback. For LSU, that is a great problem to have.
The Tigers welcome Zach Mettenberger to his second year on campus and are very excited to get him on the field. Mettenberger is a transfer who started his career at Georgia, but after an arrest and his subsequent departure, he landed at LSU.
Mettenberger does not bring the running ability to the position that Jordan Jefferson has in the past, but his arm strength and accuracy are better than both Jefferson's and Jarrett Lee's.
With the talent the Tigers will field at the skill positions offensively, Mettenberger could become one of the best signal callers in the SEC by seasons end.
Solid Offensive Line
Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
The LSU offensive line may be the strongest position group on the team. The Tigers will return five starters on the line and experience at every position behind those starters.
Guys like Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk return after All-SEC seasons in 2011, with La’el Collins and Chris Davenport pushing for playing time.
Top to bottom, this offensive line group may be the most talented and deepest group in the country. Add to this group a returning Josh Dworaczyk—Dworaczyk was granted a sixth year after an injury in 2011—and the Tigers will have a formidable offensive line that should be the standard for the college football world this fall.
Elite Defensive Line
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive end will be the strength of this squad when it takes the field with Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery both back for their junior seasons—they combined for 17 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss a year ago.
Behind them will be Lavar Edwards and Jermauria Rasco—both proved to be extremely talented backups during the 2011 season.
The Tigers did lose Micheal Brockers to the NFL, leaving a void on the defensive line, but there is talent lined up to take his place heading into 2012. Players like Josh Downs, Ego Ferguson and Mickey Johnson will be ready to take the place that Brockers left behind.
This defensive line will be scary good again this year, and will stand the chance to top last season’s numbers.
Playmakers All Over the Offense
Crystal LoGiudice-US PRESSWIRE
LSU has been heavy with offensive playmakers the last few years, but the Tigers lacked a quarterback that could help jumpstart positive production.
This season the Tigers will have Zach Mettenberger leading the offense and the early assumption is that he will be able to get the ball to the playmakers. The Tigers lost Rueben Randle to the NFL, but they return Odell Beckham Jr. and Russell Shepard as threats on the outside.
In the backfield the Tigers return all four leading rushers from a season ago. Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard all bring unique traits to the field and churn up yards on the ground consistently. Don’t sleep on sophomore Jarvis Landry either—he has the skills to be a dangerous outside threat.
J.C. Copeland will be back as the lead-blocking fullback for the Tigers, so the rushing lanes will undoubtedly be there.
With all that talent scattered around, LSU will be a very dangerous offensive team this coming season.
Defensive Secondary is Loaded
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Sure, the Tigers lost Morris Claiborne and Brandon Taylor to the NFL Draft, but is anyone really going to notice?
LSU has arguably the best secondary in college football for the second season in a row. Tyrann Mathieu is a returning starter, and Tharold Simon returns at the other corner position. The Tigers have juniors Eric Reid and Craig Loston opening the season at safety.
Guys like Jalen Collins and David Jenkins have the chance to step in and make impacts this fall as well after both guys received positive reviews from head coach Les Miles at the conclusion of spring practice.
The secondary may miss the shutdown abilities at corner that Claiborne brought for three seasons, but overall this will be a virtually impenetrable secondary.