LSU is heading into the spring practice session with a number of questions hanging over the program.
The Tigers lost a ton of talent to the NFL draft and they need to find replacements this spring if they want to challenge for a title in 2013.
Another question facing the program is quarterback. Zach Mettenberger was expected to be a Heisman contender for the Tigers last season, but he was far from award worthy last year. Can he meet expectations this season?
Looking ahead to spring, here are five storylines to watch for the LSU Tigers.
The Tigers were looking for Zach Mettenberger to step in and become a championship quarterback in 2012, but he failed to meet expectations.
LSU is in need of a strong quarterback that can guide this offense past tough defenses like Alabama, and help outrun offenses like Texas A&M. So far, Mettenberger hasn’t proven that he has those skills.
It isn’t just big games that Mettenberger struggles in. Last season he was mediocre against non-conference opponents Idaho and North Texas.
For this program to take the next step, back into championship games, Mettenberger has to have a huge spring with the Tigers.
The Tigers lost two running backs to the draft in Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, but LSU returns leading rusher Jeremy Hill and the second leading rusher in Kenny Hilliard. Hill took over the starting job around mid-season.
Hill rushed for 755 yards and 12 scores, while Hilliard added 464 yards and six touchdowns.
This program also returns Alfred Blue to the fold, and lead blocker J.C. Copeland.
LSU has one of the most talented backfields in the country again, heading into 2013. Splitting time between the talent will be the only problem the Bayou Bengals will have from the backfield.
LSU is losing four defensive linemen to the NFL draft this spring and the Tigers will be looking to fill those empty slots immediately. This program can’t miss a beat upfront defensively or it will lose its edge in the SEC.
The Tigers have been strong along the defensive line, consistently over the past few seasons, but this year there is a huge loss that may be too large to overcome in just one season.
Guys like Ego Ferguson, Anthony Johnson, Jermauria Rasco and Quentin Thomas are hoping that this spring they can prove that the losses aren’t too great to overcome.
Without a powerful defensive front, LSU can’t win championships. The backups are unproven, but they are talented. This spring will show whether they are ready to step into the starting roles left behind.
The Tigers have been overwhelmed with talent in the secondary lately, and it has become a strongpoint for the defense. The defensive leadership has come from the secondary, but this year there is no clear leader that has stepped in.
Craig Loston took the first step to taking a leadership role by staying for his senior season. He is returning as a senior to the strong safety position and will be the cornerstone of the Tigers defense.
For LSU to be dominant on defense, it needs a leader to guide alignments and deliver calls.
Loston has to become that player this spring.
Kevin Minter is off to the NFL and the Tigers are looking for a rising star to anchor the middle of the defense this fall.
LSU is in need of a strong presence in the middle as their defense is reliant on a linebacker that can play zone, cover man and stop the run at the line. Kevin Minter was that guy; now the Tigers will look to Ronnie Feist and Trey Granier to fill the void.
This spring will be a tryout for both players as they try and take over a position that was owned by a NFL-ready player last fall. It is a tough hole to fill, but both players are talented enough to handle the expectations.
This is the key to the LSU defense next fall. How quickly they settle in the middle will determine how ready this team is to dominate the college landscape next year.