LSU Football: Power Ranking the Strongest Positional Units for 2013

Jake Martin@JakeMartinSECCorrespondent IIIJuly 5, 2013

LSU Football: Power Ranking the Strongest Positional Units for 2013

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    The defensive line and defensive backfield have been staple positions for the LSU Tigers since the new millennium.

    The year 2013 will bring about change. One position is still one of the team's best positions, while the other is left immensely depleted from last year's junior departures.

    That's not the only alteration in 2013. Rather than being a primarily defensive club, the Tigers offense may boast more talent this season. Up is down. Left is right.

    So when it comes to power ranking which unit is the strongest in 2013, will the offense boast the strongest unit? Will the defense be overshadowed by the offense?

8. Tight End

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    Grade: C+

    Count it, folks—16. That's how many catches LSU tight ends had in 2012. 

    Though we can all agree that it wasn't all on the tight ends, we can also agree the Tigers' tight end position is undeniably the weakest position on the team.

    Names like Travis Dickson, Chase Clement and Nic Jacobs have made very little impact other than blocking. The three tight ends have combined for 330 career receiving yards.

    But with the addition of the highly touted DeSean Smith and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the tight end position could have a larger impact in the passing game this season. Until proven otherwise, the tight ends remain the weakest position on the roster.

7. Defensive Line

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    Grade: B-

    Yep, this is the biggest difference between last year's LSU team and this year's squad.

    Last year, the defensive line was occupied by Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. This group was undoubtedly the best positional unit on the football field.

    This year, only Johnson remains, and though the Tigers still have talent, that talent is unproven.

    Incoming talents like Kendell Beckwith, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Maquedius Bain could all develop into superstars on the defensive line, but what's the timeline on that birth of superstardom? For the first time in 15 years, the Tigers are unsure if they will dominate the line of scrimmage from the defensive line.

6. Quarterback

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    Grade: B

    Zach Mettenberger has a strong arm. Stephen Rivers knows the system. Anthony Jennings is quick. Hayden Rettig has great fundamentals.

    All in all, these quarterbacks have talent. Thankfully, we're past the redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee days and the entire career of Jordan Jefferson.

    While Mettenberger wasn't overly impressive in 2012, he showed signs of being an explosive quarterback for the Tigers, throwing for 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Mettenberger should feel more comfortable dropping back in the pocket with experience under his belt, especially with Cameron helping him along the way.

5. Linebacker

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    Grade: B+

    The loss of Kevin Minter will be visible early, but the combined speed and athleticism of these linebackers should jell with John Chavis' scheme and make it less noticeable by SEC play.

    Chavis loves quick, athletic linebackers that can move swiftly from sideline to sideline. He has that with Kwon Alexander, Lamin Barrow and Deion Jones. He also has experience returning with Tahj Jones.

    What makes this group better than it appears on the surface is the depth. Though the Tigers have four strong linebackers mentioned above that are capable of starting, they also have D.J. Welter contending for the starting Mike position to go along with great spell linebackers.

    Players like Lamar Louis, Ronnie Feist and Lorenzo Phillips made noise in the spring but have yet to earn a starting position.

    The linebacker position for LSU is deep and talented, to say the least.

4. Wide Receiver

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    Grade: A-

    Don't get it twisted—this isn't your Dwayne Bowe and Early Doucet or Michael Clayton and Josh Reed receiving tandem.

    Don't disrespect either—Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are the leaders of a dynamic receiving corps.

    Beckham and Landry combined for 1,286 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season, and each has made jaw-dropping plays—OBJ's Ole Miss punt return and Landry's one-handed touchdown.

    Though Beckham and Landry are seasoned vets, it's still unknown how special Travin Dural and Quantavius Leslie will be for the Tigers this season. If they break out like many LSU fans believe they will, this could be the most talent-rich position on this football team.

3. Running Back

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    Grade: A

    The potential absence of Jeremy Hill subtracts a plus sign next to the running backs grade.

    Still, the running backs are one of the most talented positions on the roster. With three capable starters (Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee), the Tigers have experience, explosion and durability all in one backfield.

    But another takeaway from this unit could be the possible lack of depth should Hill not be cleared to play in the fall.

    However, this group remains elite because of one name—J.C. Copeland. The halfbacks have the best fullback in college football to line up behind, and that has proven time and time again to be a game-changer.

2. Offensive Line

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    Grade: A

    Does it really matter who lines up at running back?

    Forget everything that these naysayers have been saying about LSU this season for just a second. Instead, think about one unit that has not been talked about much this offseason—the offensive line.

    Between La'el Collins, Josh Williford, Elliot Porter, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander, the Tigers return an offensive line on which every man has played in at least 12 games. Because of injuries that occurred last season, players like Turner, Alexander and Porter were all forced into starting for the Tigers. Each had great performances.

    Now, with experience gained and the depth added by Les Miles' best offensive line recruiting class to date, this unit is nasty, experienced and borderline bottomless. Names like Ethan Pocic, Josh Boutte, Andy Dodd and Fehoko Fanaika should be future All-SEC lineman at LSU, and they are backing a solid, experienced offensive line this season.

    Deepest position on the team? You betcha.

1. Defensive Back

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    Grade: A

    They don't call LSU "DBU" for nothing.

    Here's what we do know—Jalen Mills and Craig Loston will be starters next season.

    Mills locked down just about every man he covered for the Tigers last year, and he'll be LSU's top cornerback. Loston, who has gained experience at LSU since 2009, is a hard-hitting safety and just may be one of the best in the country.

    Here's what we're not completely sure of—Ronald Martin is expected to start at safety alongside Loston, but Corey Thompson and Micah Eugene are talented enough to push for playing time. As for the corner position opposite of Mills, Jalen Collins has the edge because of experience, but Tre'Davious White is building quite a reputation with his athleticism.

    This secondary might have lost Eric Reid and Tharold Simon, but Mills, Collins and Loston will give experience to another talented secondary. DBU remains a staple for LSU.