There is one thing that is for certain heading into LSU's 2013 spring practices:
This team is going to look very different than it did in 2012.
Les Miles' LSU football program will have the challenge of replacing 10 total starters from last season, seven of which are on the defensive side of the ball.
So who is in line to replace those starters?
Let's go ahead and find out as we hand out grades to every starter's likely replacement.
2012 Starter: Zach Mettenberger
2013 Starter: Zach Mettenberger
2012 Starter(s): Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill
2013 Starter(s): Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill
2012 Starter(s): Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry
2013 Starter(s): Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry
2012 Starter: Chase Clement
2013 Starter(s): Logan Stokes, Travis Dickson or DeSean Smith
Chase Clement was a solid blocker, but the Tigers' pass-catching production from the tight end position took a huge hit in 2012.
Now, LSU has three good options, all of whom could start at some point in 2013. Stokes and Dickson will get the first crack at it in spring camp, but when Smith arrives in the summer, he will add a dynamic pass-catching option, which should help the offense thrive in the passing game.
This already looks to be a solid upgrade from 2012.
2012 Starter(s): Alex Hurst, Vadal Alexander
2013 Starter: Vadal Alexander
2012 Starter(s): Chris Faulk, Josh Dworaczyk
2013 Starter(s): La'El Collins, Ethan Pocic
This position can really go a number of ways in 2013, but the best bet here is to believe that Collins is going to make the move over from guard to tackle. At 6'5", 321 pounds, Collins has the size and skill set of a starting left tackle. He is a force on the line and arguably the top offensive lineman on this roster.
If he does stay at guard, look for true freshman Ethan Pocic to battle for the starting spot. He is a highly sought after recruit who should impress coaches early on this spring and into the summer and fall. Either way, this is a change, but the Tigers appear to be in good hands here.
2012 Starter: P.J. Lonergan
2013 Starter: Elliot Porter
Lonergan was one of the top centers throughout all of college football last season, so of course, it will be tough to replace a guy with that kind of skill set.
However, Porter has been deemed Lonergan's successor and has stayed the course, now in line to take over that starting center spot. It will take some time for him to adjust, but this kid should be a solid starter by the time the SEC season begins.
2012 Starter(s): Josh Williford, Trai Turner
2013 Starter(s): Josh Williford or Trai Turner
2012 Starter: La'El Collins
2013 Starter(s): La'El Collins, Trai Turner or Josh Williford
2012 Starter(s): Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery
2013 Starter(s): Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco
This is the spot where the Tigers are probably going to be hurting the most in 2013. Both Mingo and Montgomery opted to leave school early and head for the NFL, which leaves a huge void at defensive end for this LSU team.
There could be a number of ways this plays out, but as of now, I see Hunter and Rasco securing the two spots heading into the 2013 season.
Hunter is a young, talented kid who is loaded with potential. He has good size, comparable to Mingo, but he just lacks in-game experience.
Rasco is more filled out, like Montgomery, and has been waiting patiently for his chance to start over the years. He has the most experience of any of the other defensive end candidates, although it is still very limited.
2012 Starter(s): Bennie Logan and Josh Downs
2013 Starter(s): Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson
This is another spot where the Tigers were hit hard, losing both starting defensive tackles from a year ago.
However, Johnson and Ferguson both have in-game experience and both are extremely talented.
In fact, in can be argued that Johnson is an upgrade over both Logan and Downs, even though he was technically a starter last season. Despite the losses, this unit should be just fine, and perhaps even better in 2013.
2012 Starter(s): Lamin Barrow, Kwon Alexander and Tajh Jones
2013 Starter(s): Lamin Barrow, Kwon Alexander, Tajh Jones, or Deion Jones
2012 Starter: Kevin Minter
2013 Starter: Lamin Barrow or Ronnie Fiest
Kevin Minter was one of several Tigers who made the choice to bolt early for the NFL draft. However, unlike some other players, he was probably ready and made the right decision.
Minter's absence leaves a pretty big void in the middle of this defense and a decision for this coaching staff.
Do they move Lamin Barrow over to the middle, or do they go with one of their talented sophomores, such as Ronnie Fiest?
I think in the end, Barrow makes the move to the middle and Alexander and Jones take the two outside spots, giving the Tigers a talented and experienced linebacking group in 2013.
2012 Starter(s): Tharold Simon and Jalen Mills
2013 Starter(s): Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins
Simon was one of those players who probably made a mistake by bolting early for the NFL draft.
With his departure, Jalen Mills takes over the No.1 corner role and Jalen Collins should grab the other starting spot. Both of these guys had plenty of playing experience last season and should do just fine as the Tigers' new starting cornerback duo.
Also, don't forget about talented incoming freshman Tre'Davious White. He should vie for playing time as well once he arrives on campus.
2012 Starter(s): Eric Reid and Craig Loston
2013 Starter(s): Craig Loston, Micah Eugene, or Ronald Martin
Eric Reid left early for the NFL, which now leaves Craig Loston as the leader of the safety group.
Loston had a solid 2012 season and should be even better in 2013, but who will win the other starting safety job?
Micah Eugene and Ronald Martin both have in-game experience, which is a plus, but neither are anywhere near as talented and well-rounded as Reid was at the safety position.
This is a group that needs to play above expectations next season if this is going to be another dominant LSU Tigers defense next year.
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