LSU Football: Projecting Who Will Win Tigers' Open Starting Positions
LSU head coach Les Miles' annual replacing of players that were selected in the NFL draft during the offseason has become as certain as death and taxes.
Miles has the arduous task of finding new starters to step in and be productive right away. He will be aided this season by a talented incoming class of freshmen, but he does not have much time to determine who is best fit to play right now.
LSU has a number of talented players returning from last year's team as well. The Tigers will need them to come into their own next season.
Here is a quick of preview of who will be asked to fill open vacancies from last year's team.
Winner: Brandon Harris
The LSU quarterback battle between freshman Brandon Harris and sophomore Anthony Jennings has been one of the most intriguing storylines in the SEC.
Jennings is the more experienced signal-caller of the two. He served as the backup to Zach Mettenberger last season and showed some flashes of brilliance.
But despite his youth, Harris will win the job because he is the more talented player. He worked with quarterback guru George Whitfield this summer, who has had a high success rate with his clients.
Winner: Terrence Magee; Connor Neighbors (fullback)
There is no LSU player facing more pressure to produce next season than 5-star freshman Leonard Fournette. Despite never playing a college down, Fournette is expected to make big plays right away.
Miles will get the ball to Fournette in the season opener against Wisconsin, but expect senior Terrence Magee to be the starter. Magee finished as the second-leading rusher last season behind All-SEC performer Jeremy Hill. Fellow senior Kenny Hilliard will also get touches.
Connor Neighbors is one of the most underrated fullbacks in the country. Neighbors is not flashy, but he is an effective lead blocker and reliable receiver out of the backfield. Sophomore Melvin Jones will serve as Neighbors' backup.
Winners: Travin Dural, John Diarse
Replacing Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. will not be easy. The duo combined for 2,345 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns and were both selected in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
Travin Dural will be the likely No. 1 candidate guy. Dural only caught seven passes in 2013 but showed promise in the spring game with five catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, one from Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings each.
John Diarse redshirted last year due to injury and had more issues staying healthy during the spring. Diarse has great ball skills but lacks separation ability.
Diarse will start against Wisconsin, but, much like at running back, expect a true freshman sensation to take over the starting role. Malachi Dupre, a 5-star talent out of New Orleans, has the potential to lead the Tigers in receiving.
Winner: Evan Washington
First-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has a tough task ahead of him. Grimes must make a difficult decision between seniors Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington for the only void remaining on the offensive line.
Fanaika ran with the first-team offensive line in the spring game, but Grimes said after the game it in no way indicated who will eventually be the starter. Washington rotated with Fanaika and played admirably.
Washington has been with the program longer and also filled in for former starter Trai Turner when he went down with an injury against Auburn. His tenure alone could win him the job.
Grimes will be fine with either player, but expect him to go with the more experienced player in Washington.
Winners: Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture
LSU lost both starters at defensive tackle in Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson. The duo played below expectations, but they also played a high volume of snaps.
LSU's backups were Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture, who played sparingly. Expect them to be the starters this season, but they will also be rotated out more often. Redshirt freshmen Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore could both have breakout seasons and eventually be the starters.
Winner: Lamar Louis
LSU lost leading tackler Lamin Barrow this offseason. Barrow's production will be missed, but the Tigers have had to replace their top tackler every offseason since 2009.
The Tigers shifted returning starter Kwon Alexander from strong-side to weak-side linebacker to fill in Barrow's void. Junior Lamar Louis looks to be the likely candidate to be the new starter on the strong side. Louis accumulated 20 tackles in limited snaps last season.
Similar to defensive tackle, defensive coordinator John Chavis will substitute at linebacker. Debo Jones, Kendell Beckwith and Ronnie Feist will all see the field next season.
Winners: Jalen Mills, Ronald Martin
The safety situation for LSU was thrown through a loop earlier this week when Jalen Mills was arrested for allegedly punching a female, according to RedStickNow.com. LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette told WAFB that Mills has been suspended indefinitely.
It is hard to predict whether Mills will remain with the Tigers. If he does, expect him to start alongside senior Ronald Martin. The duo ran with the first-team defense at the spring game.
LSU does have talented replacements to take over for Mills if need be. Corey Thompson and Rickey Jefferson both have starting experience and would be bona fide starters at most schools across the country. Also keep an eye out for 5-star incoming freshman Jamal Adams.
*Follow Carter Bryant on Twitter @CarterthePower.
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