Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
2013 Record: 10-3 (won Outback Bowl; finished No. 14 in AP poll, coaches poll)
Key Returning Players: T La’el Collins, DE Danielle Hunter, CB Tre’Davious White, DE Jermauria Rasco, LB D.J. Welter, LB Kwon Alexander, S Jalen Mills, QB Anthony Jennings
Key Losses: QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham, DT Anthony Johnson, DT Ego Ferguson, G Trai Turner, S Craig Loston, LB Lamin Barrow
Perhaps no team took a harder hit from players leaving for the NFL draft than LSU. Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Trai Turner, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson all skipped their senior seasons rather than returning to Baton Rouge.
As a result, young talent must mature quickly for the Tigers to contend for the SEC championship.
It’s a good thing four of five offensive linemen—including tackle La’el Collins—return, because the offense will see new faces at every skill position.
LSU ran for 2,945 yards last year. Hill and Blue combined for 1,777 of them. Tailbacks Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are proven, capable runners. They will both have to hold off tremendous incoming competition to earn the lion’s share of the carries in 2014.
Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw for 3,082 of the Tigers’ 3,263 passing yards.
Departed players also accounted for 2,619 of LSU’s 3,263 receiving yards.
At least quarterback Anthony Jennings got a taste for what’s to come, having started—albeit with mixed results—against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
Travin Dural is the leading returning receiver. He caught seven passes for 145 yards.
LSU always seems to have talent waiting to replace players going to the NFL. However, the Tigers have now had 18 players in the past two seasons make their exodus from the program to the pros, several on defense. Don’t be confused, though. Tremendous defenders are still numerous in Baton Rouge.
Defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco could be the best duo in the conference.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jalen Mills seem to be budding superstars. D.J. Welter, the team’s leading returning tackler, isn’t spectacular but he gets the job done. He should have plenty of support at the position with Kwon Alexander back and Kendell Beckwith moving to his more natural position after spending 2013 at defensive end.
Remember, for this set of power rankings, only returning talent is considered. That means incoming players, such as running back Leonard Fournette, rated by 247Sports as the No. 1 prospect in the nation, don’t count toward this countdown.
LSU will lean heavily on incoming talent to help avoid a 2014 fall. Fortunately for coach Les Miles’ team, the expecting signing class should be a tremendous haul.