LSU Football: Les Miles' 5 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice
Les Miles has a job other coaches can only dream about. Talent-rich Louisiana is his own backyard, he wins 10 games annually in the nation's best conference and has become a celebrity by being his quirky self.
But to whom much is given, much is required.
Miles has a stressful, pressure-packed gig in Baton Rouge. Critics still bash him despite winning 95 games in nine seasons.
LSU has won 20 games in the past two seasons, which would satisfy most schools. But Tigers fans want more.
LSU's spring practice was officially completed with the spring game last Saturday. It could have left more questions than answers for the Tigers coaching staff.
Miles has much to ponder over the offseason.
*Stats provided by LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com and recruiting rankings from 247Sports. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
LSU has a serious quarterback controversy.
Sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris battled all spring for the starting quarterback role. Though Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said they will not name a starter anytime soon, Harris looked the better of the two at the LSU spring game.
LSU has not had a serious quarterback in battle since 2011. For the past two seasons, Zach Mettenberger was the unquestionable starter.
Miles values experience, so that should help Jennings' case. He has also never been afraid of running a two-quarterback system.
Nevertheless, Miles will have to name a starter eventually. No matter whom he chooses, a media firestorm will ensue.
Miles knows the incoming freshmen will be needed next season, especially at skill positions. LSU had a glaring lack of depth at receiver and running back this spring.
The Tigers have experienced Terrence Magee and Travin Dural as the current workhorse running back and No. 1 receiver, respectively. But 5-star talents such as Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre could be better options.
Miles must figure out the most efficient way to acclimate his new talent with the old in the offseason.
The Offensive Line
Les Miles' speciality is offensive line play. As a former mauler at Michigan, Miles loves to play smashmouth, ground-and-pound tackle football.
Next season, Miles' most experienced unit will be the offensive line. But there are a few unknowns up front for the Tigers.
Miles must develop chemistry with new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who replaces longtime coach Greg Studwara. Grimes brings a championship pedigree and years of experience to the table.
LSU returns four of five offensive linemen, with right guard being the only position open. The Tigers rotated Evan Washington and Hoko Fanaika during spring practice to fill the void left by Trai Turner.
Fanaika played with the white team, which consisted of the first unit, at the spring game. But Grimes said after the game that Fanaika and Washington have been rotating from practice to practice and that a decision will not be made anytime soon.
The biggest question will be if the offensive line can dominate games. LSU returns little productivity from its skill-position players, so Miles will look to rely on the big uglies up front to wear down opponents.
LSU's offensive line was good, but not great last season. La'el Collins, Vadal Alexander, Elliott Porter and Jerald Hawkins must take their game to the next level in 2014.
LSU's pass defense, like the offensive line, was good, but not elite the past two seasons. The Tigers gave up an average of 229 and 219 passing yards per game in the SEC in 2013 and 2012, respectively, which placed them middle of the pack.
The Bayou Bengals held conference opponents below 160 yards per game in both 2011 and 2010. LSU earned the reputation of "Defensive Back University," better known as "DBU," in these seasons.
LSU defensive back coach Corey Raymond has some tough decisions to make. Cornerback looks to be set with Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson. The starting safeties for the spring game were Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin.
Corey Thompson, Ed Paris, Dwayne Thomas, Rickey Jefferson, Jalen Collins and incoming freshman Jamal Adams will also be in the mix. The depth is a great problem to have for Raymond, but cohesiveness can be difficult to develop if there is a heavy rotation.
LSU should also have a better pass rush. Danielle Hunter's performance in the spring game displayed double-digit sack potential.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis should be salivating with the talent at his disposal. The SEC had a mass exodus of great quarterbacks this past offseason, which will make his exotic schemes more effective.
LSU's secondary led LSU to the national championship game in 2011. Miles hopes the unit can do the same in 2014.
White said after the spring game that the secondary will return DBU back to national prominence. Next season, there is no reason for them not to.
The Rest of the SEC
Coaches always speak of only worrying about what they can control, which is their own team. But there is little doubt that SEC coaches keep up with their conference competitors.
Les Miles has been in slugfests with Alabama and Auburn since he has been at LSU. But the rest of the SEC West has gotten better with the rise of Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
Miles sees how much stronger and deeper the SEC has become, which is partially why he justifiably bickers about having to play Florida as a cross-division rival every season.
Staying among the SEC's elite is tough. Miles has done just that, winning at least 10 games in seven of his nine seasons in Baton Rouge.
But even the most successful teams do not win forever. Miles wants to put off the inevitable drop-off as long as possible. With the deep talent of the SEC, that could happen any season.
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