LSU Football: 6 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expanded in 2014
LSU will need players to step up now more than ever.
The Tigers lost their starting quarterback, running back, right guard, weak-side linebacker and safety. They also saw their two best receivers and defensive tackles leave despite having eligibility remaining.
Fans point to the Tigers' elite recruiting class as a saving grace. But the truth is that only a handful of incoming freshmen will make an impact next season.
Les Miles needs his returning players to lead the charge and take their game to the next level. Here are a few that will be called upon to do so.
Anthony Jennings will more than likely be the starting quarterback next season. Needless to say, moving from backup to starter is a monumental expansion of responsibility.
Jennings was able to get one start under his belt in the Outback Bowl to close last season. He was victorious against Iowa, but his poor completion percentage and his interception left plenty to be desired.
LSU lost its best running back, Jeremy Hill, and two record-setting receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, in the offseason. This will make it even tougher for Jennings to be productive as a first-year starter.
Zach Mettenberger, who threw for over 3,000 yards as a senior, will be a tough act to follow. But even Mettenberger would struggle with all of the talent LSU lost on offense.
Jennings, or whoever wins the quarterback battle, will have immense pressure to perform at a high level despite a depleted supporting cast.
Travin Dural was LSU's third wide receiver last season in one of its most prolific passing seasons ever. Yet that title sounds better than his actual performance.
LSU had never had its third wide receiver catch less than 10 passes in a season under Les Miles until last season. Dural finished with seven, and he never had a multiple-reception game. He did save his best for last, however, catching a game-winning 49-yard touchdown against Arkansas from Anthony Jennings. But he broke open because of Jarvis Landry's physical dominance and football IQ.
Dural could rarely get separation from defenders. Most of his receptions happened because of Mettenberger's pinpoint accuracy and the respect defensive backs gave to Landry and Beckham Jr.
Now, Dural must take his game to the next level. He needs to learn how to create separation without the aid of Mettenberger, Landry and Beckham Jr.
Terrence Magee's role increased last season, but nobody expected it. He was slated to be fourth on the running back depth chart but finished second only to Jeremy Hill in rushing yards.
This offseason, Magee has been running with the first group. Kenny Hilliard is the only other scholarship running back currently on the spring roster.
Prized recruit Leonard Fournette is expected to be a star next season. But Fournette, like all freshmen, will be mentored by older teammates.
Magee is a veteran leader and playmaker that Fournette and the Tigers desperately need. The senior must improve on making tacklers miss in the open field. It may not fit his skill set, but it would make him a more complete back for next season.
Christian LaCouture has huge shoes to fill. LSU lost its two starting defensive tackles in Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson. LaCouture often served as a backup to both players. He was serviceable in the snaps he played.
LaCouture was overwhelmed at times during SEC play, however. He could hold the point of attack but rarely made plays. This offseason, he needs to work on shedding blocks and making tackles.
LaCouture has been running with the first group alongside Quentin Thomas. They will have help in Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain.
Ferguson and Johnson underperformed last season. Nevertheless, they were solid contributors who were forces. The defense must be able to stop the run next season, and it starts at defensive tackle.
LaCouture, with a year of playing experience under his belt, should lead the charge.
Rashard Robinson was one of LSU's surprising late-season contributors in 2013. He gradually earned more snaps as the year went along, earning his first start against Texas A&M.
Robinson squared off against elite Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans and dominated in his starting debut. Evans only registered four receptions for 51 yards, as Robinson's physicality matched that of the 6'5" All-American.
Now, expectations are higher for Robinson. He will begin 2014 as a starter alongside fellow sophomore Tre'Davious White. Robinson and White are expected to bring "Defensive Back University" back to old form next season.
Lamar Louis must be ready to take his game to the next level in 2014.
LSU lost its leading tackler in Lamin Barrow. Returning starter Kwon Alexander shifted from strong-side to weak-side linebacker to fill in Barrow's void., and Louis now must step into a starter's role.
He led all reserve linebackers with 25 tackles last season and showed flashes of brilliance, including a six-tackle performance against Ole Miss.
Louis is a vicious hitter who has the athleticism to be a starter. He should be a solid contributor next season when his snaps increase dramatically. If not, Deion Jones will be waiting to take his place.