Les Miles' Ability to Reload LSU Roster Will Once Again Be Tested

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 7, 2014

LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les MilesChris Graythen/Getty Images

Different verse, same as the first for LSU head coach Les Miles.

Or, to be more specific, the first nine verses.

Now entering his 10th season as the head coach of the Tigers, Miles has made a habit of filling holes created by roster attrition during spring practice and keeping the Tigers at a competitive level in the SEC West.

LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les MilesCrystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

This year will be no different.

Miles only gets 12 returning starters back from a team that finished the 2013 season 10-3, including just five on offense. Several of those were early entrants to the NFL draft, including wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Jeremy Hill.

Defensively, the Tigers will be without defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson—both of whom left early for the NFL draft—as well as linebacker Lamin Barrow.

Over the last five years, LSU has averaged just 12.4 returning starters combined on offense and defense. Despite a revolving door of talent coming in and walking out of Baton Rouge, the Tigers have produced double-digit win seasons in each of the first four of those seasons.

LSU Returning Starters - Last Five Years
2010641011-2 (6-2 SEC)
2011871513-1 (8-0 SEC)
2012751210-3 (6-2 SEC)
2013851310-3 (5-3 SEC)

It's a cliche, but it holds true for LSU—it doesn't rebuild, it reloads.

Miles has reeled in top-15 recruiting classes in each of the last four seasons, according to 247Sports, and has the cupboard stocked to make a run at his first SEC West title since 2011.

The biggest issue is at quarterback, where Zach Mettenberger left a gaping hole after a stellar 2013 campaign.

LSU head coach Les Miles (left) and QB Anthony Jennings
LSU head coach Les Miles (left) and QB Anthony JenningsAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Anthony Jennings came in for an injured Mettenberger against Arkansas and promptly led the Tigers on a 99-yard game-winning drive in the closing seconds of the regular-season finale against Arkansas. Jennings went 4-of-6 on that drive, had a 21-yard rush to midfield and hit Travin Dural for a 49-yard touchdown that ended up being the game-winner.

But Brandon Harris enrolled early to get a chance to battle Jennings for the job. Like Jennings, Harris is a dual-threat quarterback who's a dynamic playmaker on the ground but has a big arm and can stretch the field.

LSU WR Travin Dural
LSU WR Travin DuralBill Haber/Associated Press/Associated Press

Dural is back at wide receiver, along with talented yet inexperienced youngsters Avery Peterson, John Diarse and Quantavius Leslie. They'll vie for playing time this spring, with hot shot prospect Malachi Dupre joining the battle this summer.

On defense, the departure of Johnson and Ferguson leaves a monstrous hole—literally and figuratively—in the middle of that defensive line. It's absolutely imperative for defensive coordinator John Chavis to fill those holes as soon as possible. Whether it's Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture, Frank Herron or somebody else, Chavis' defense is predicated on those big men up front taking up blocks and letting the rest of the defense filter around them.

Don't be fooled by the number of returning starters for LSU. Sure, it returns the fourth fewest in the SEC, according to PhilSteele.com, but this is old hat for the "Mad Hatter." 


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.