LSU Football: Les Miles' 5 Biggest Challenges for the Tigers in 2014

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LSU Football: Les Miles' 5 Biggest Challenges for the Tigers in 2014
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The 2014 season could be the toughest one yet for Les Miles.

Miles lost arguably his best quarterback, running back and pair of receivers he has ever had at LSU. Overall, the Tigers had nine players selected in the NFL draft and a few key starters that went undrafted. 

But the departed players are now in the rearview mirror. Miles is now focused on getting back to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. 

The roster turnover is a hurdle Miles must overcome. Here are five more challenges he will face this season. 

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
LSU head coach Les Miles (left) shares a moment with quarterback Anthony Jennings (right).

 

Who Will Play Quarterback

Miles has probably lost some sleep on whether to start sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris.

Jennings played sparingly as Zach Mettenberger's backup last season. He led LSU to a miraculous win over Arkansas, but he was below average, albeit in victory, in his only start against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. 

Harris had a spectacular spring, especially considering the short amount of time he had to learn Cam Cameron's offense. He shined in the spring game, combining for four touchdowns. Jennings was less than spectacular, throwing two interceptions returned for touchdowns. 

Miles and Cameron both said they are in no rush to name a starter. Expect both to play in 2014, but the decision to name a starter for the season opener against Wisconsin will be a tough one.

 

Managing True Freshmen

LSU fans can't wait to see Harris and the rest of the 2014 recruiting class in action, especially 5-star prospects Malachi Dupre, Jamal Adams and Clifton Garrett

Photo Credit: Geaux247

Oh yeah, and this dude named Leonard Fournette was the No. 1 prospect in the country. 

The four 5-star prospects headline Miles' most highly touted class ever. He had four 5-star prospects in the previous four seasons combined. 

Dupre, Adams, Garrett and Fournette aren't the only freshmen that will see the field next season. LSU will also look to 4-star talents Trey Quinn, Travonte Valentine, Ed Paris and others to play right away as well.

Miles has a tough task ahead of him. He must find the right mix of youth and experience for the team to be successful. 

 

The Schedule 

The SEC is the nation's undisputed toughest conference. The SEC West is the nation's undisputed best division. LSU belongs to both exclusive clubs. Thus, an argument could be made for the Tigers having the toughest schedule in the country. 

USA TODAY Sports

Bleacher Report's SEC Lead Writer, Barrett Sallee, ranked LSU the fourth-best team in the SEC West behind Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss in his post-spring rankings. The Tigers not only have to play them and the three other SEC West schools, but also a brutal permanent cross-divisional rival in Florida. Miles has let it be known how he hates the scheduling format.  

The Tigers are fortunate the only other SEC East school they must play is Kentucky, but that is offset by facing Wisconsin to open the season.

The depth of the Tigers will be tested. Fatigue and injury will require a multitude of players to play big. Miles and the rest of the coaching staff must have his team prepared for the tough road ahead. 

 

The Defense

LSU's defense finished a respectable fifth in scoring defense against conference opponents last season, holding them to under 25 points per game. But in their four road games, the Tigers allowed on average over 33 points per game. Three of those games were losses. 

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

LSU's secondary will be rejuvenated, led by super sophomore Tre'Davious White at cornerback. The pass rush should be better with experienced defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco.  

Defensive coordinator John Chavis will look to get his squad's swagger back. Miles knows his two national championship game appearances were spearheaded by dominant defenses. He will need them to return to elite form to help carry a young offense that will go through growing pains. 

 

Himself 

Miles had a good, but not great, year coaching the Tigers in 2013. 

Going 10-3 is never a bad thing. Miles has won at least 10 games in all but two years of his illustrious LSU career. But his performance last season was not his best. 

What is Miles' biggest challenge of 2014?

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The Tigers were underdogs in two games last season. In both games, LSU suffered defeats on the road against Georgia and Alabama. Miles was not expected to win either of the games, yet great coaches find ways to win some games they are not supposed to.

Miles had a forgetful game against Ole Miss. The Tigers were favored by more than a touchdown, and the Rebels were missing five defensive starters. LSU only lost by three but were certainly outplayed

Miles said after the defeat he deserved blame for the loss, per Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune. While that is respectable, the loss ranks amongst his worst.

But Miles was not done.

LSU was a 24-point favorite against Arkansas in the final home game of the season. The Razorbacks, who did not have a win in SEC play, outplayed the Tigers. It took an amazing 99-yard touchdown drive and a genius performance from Jarvis Landry to win it.  

There is no denying Miles is a championship-caliber coach. Yet with a rather young team next season, he, along with the rest of his staff, will have to be at their best. 

 

*Stats, rankings and game odds provided by 247Sports, LSU Sports Information, cfbstats.com and scoresandodds.com, and quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Carter Bryant on Twitter @CarterthePower.  

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