LSU Football: 5 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason
A makeover will inevitably occur on the LSU Tigers offense in 2014. Understandably, the new parts installed in the offensive system could provide Tiger fans with plentiful concerns.
No, the Tigers won't have Zach Mettenberger slinging the rock next season, and if Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill join him in the 2014 NFL draft, the Tigers will have to look toward multiple freshmen, both redshirt and true.
Anthony Jennings, who will be a sophomore next season, is the favorite to replace Mettenberger, but does his Outback Bowl performance against Iowa suggest he can fill that void properly?
And though much experience was gained on defense in 2013, junior and senior departures have defensive coordinator John Chavis looking toward his bench for eventual substitutes. Should LSU fans worry about any particular position?
You betcha. Come on inside and embrace the panic.
Replacing Zach Mettenberger
Following Anthony Jennings' struggles in the 2014 Outback Bowl, the quarterback position becomes the biggest worry among LSU fans.
Zach Mettenberger was phenomenal in 2013, becoming the third LSU quarterback in school history to pass for 3,000 yards.
With his senior departure, fans now look to Jennings and Brandon Harris to fill the void. Are they capable of providing the same type of offensive flair?
That remains to be seen. Jennings' stats (completed 37 percent of his passes for 82 yards and an interception) against Iowa, Harris' true freshman title and the lack of experience at wide receiver hints at a more ground-friendly offense in 2014.
Still, the Tigers have to be able to sling it, and it's still unknown whether Jennings or Harris can showcase the poise and accuracy demonstrated by Mettenberger last season.
Filing the Void at Defensive Tackle
How painful was Gerald Willis' decision to play for Florida over LSU?
With no 5-star defensive tackles committed to the Tigers and only one 4-star defensive lineman (as rated by 247Sports) giving LSU his verbal, the Tigers desperately needed Willis to choose the Tigers.
Now that he hasn't, the Tigers will look to Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore, Maquedius Bain and Mickey Johnson to be the cornerstones in the middle.
The reason for that is the Tigers will be lacking one Freak and one big Ego. With Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson declaring for the NFL draft, the Tigers will be without their top two defensive linemen in 2014. Because both players are going pro, the Tigers have magnified their aggression in pursuing recent Miami decommit and 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine.
Considering the backups made a very insignificant splash in 2013, defensive tackle will be one of the biggest question marks heading into 2014.
The Inexperience Showcased at WR
Call Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Patrick Swayze, cause they're ghosts.
Landry and Beckham announced Sunday afternoon that they will both make the jump to the NFL.
Assuming Jeremy Hill joins them, four of the Tigers' top five wide receivers will no longer be available for the offense.
Travin Dural is the lone returner. With 145 yards and two touchdowns, he's the most prolific returning receiver for the Tigers. Excluding tight ends and running backs, the only other receiving target set to return that produced a catch in 2013 is Quantavius Leslie.
Players such as John Diarse, Trey Quinn, Avery Peterson and Kevin Spears need to break out in 2014. If they don't, Dural will be the Tigers' only deep threat. Unless, of course, 5-star wide receiver and New Orleans native Malachi Dupre finds his way to Baton Rouge.
An Improvement at Linebacker
The linebacker position gives defensive tackle a run for its money on this whole worrying about 2014 thing.
D.J. Welter got off to a slow start in 2013, but he finished the season well. Kwon Alexander had his fair share of hurdles to overcome, but his athleticism allowed him to still make remarkable plays for the Tigers.
Both linebackers should be better off with the gained experience in 2013, but here's where the problems come to fruition—Lamin Barrow is gone, baby, gone.
Seeing that LSU slowly progressed as a linebacker corps without Kevin Minter to begin 2013 brings about a worrisome scenario with the absence of Barrow.
Can Clifton Garrett step in as a true freshman? Will Deion Jones carry the momentum of his Outback Bowl performance into next season? Keep an eye on these questions, folks. It could make or break the Tigers' year.
Finding a Capable Returner/Offensive Line Departures
Here's an obvious tidbit for you—as far as returning kicks goes, hands are more important than athleticism.
It certainly wouldn't hurt to have a man return kicks with an applicable ability to take the ball to the end zone; however, fielding punts and kicks without turning the ball over is far more valued.
LSU's roster suggests the Tigers will have plenty of playmakers capable of filling in for Beckham, but you still have to worry about the inexperience at the position.
And speaking of inexperience, the Tigers could possibly have to replace Trai Turner and La'el Collins on the offensive line, as Turner is set to train in the Athletes' Performance facility and Collins' future remains a mystery. Collins' possible jump to the pros is one that's been foreseen, but Turner turning pro—couldn't resist the pun—would come as a bit of a shock.
It's a good thing LSU had one of its best recruiting classes for offensive linemen in 2013 because youngsters like Fehoko Fanaika, Ethan Pocic and Josh Boutte could have to contribute greatly in 2014.