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LSU Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

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LSU Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons
USA TODAY Sports
LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White

One of the toughest parts about LSU head coach Les Miles' job is reinventing his team on a year-to-year basis.

Miles has seen plenty of his talent head to the NFL with eligibility remaining. When that happens, he has to restructure different aspects of his team.

Last season, LSU had one of its best passing seasons ever. Miles relied heavily on new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.

That will change next season, as Mettenberger, Landry and Beckham Jr. departed for the NFL.

Because of the changing roster, strengths and weaknesses of a team can change on a yearly basis. Here is a look at what the Tigers might look like next season.

 

Offensive Strength

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LSU center Elliott Porter, left guard Vadal Alexander and left tackle La'el Collins

Miles will have to rely on his offensive line next season to carry the offense, especially early in the season. As a former offensive lineman himself at Michigan, he has no problem with that.

The Tigers return four of five starters up front, led by left tackle and coveted 2015 NFL draft prospect La'el Collins. Left guard Vadal Alexander, center Elliott Porter and right tackle Jerald Hawkins will all be seasoned veterans next season.

The only position that needs to be filled is at right guard. First-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will make a decision between seniors Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington for the starting spot.

Last season, the offensive line was above average. Miles will need it to be superb as the young offensive weapons gain experience.

 

Defensive Strength

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LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson (right) makes a tackle against Furman

On the defensive side of the ball, college football fans across the country will know the names of Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson by the end of the season.

White and Robinson form arguably the best cornerback duo in the country. They both showed All-SEC potential when they became starters as the 2013 season went along. They will also have talented backups in junior Jalen Collins and freshman Ed Paris.

Will Jalen Mills play next season for LSU?

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LSU had its first major off-the-field incident of the offseason when RedStickNow reported on June 11 that senior safety Jalen Mills was arrested for second-degree battery.

There is no telling if Mills will play next season, but the Tigers have Ronald Martin, Corey Thompson, Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams at their disposal to form a solid safety pair.

The Tigers also have athletic linebackers in Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis and Debo Jones that are superb in pass coverage. Alexander and Jones each returned an interception for a touchdown in the spring game.

The LSU pass defense was porous at times last season. Expect the unit to be improved next season.

 

Offensive Weakness

Following the footsteps of Mettenberger is not an easy task. The two quarterbacks battling for that opportunity are freshman Brandon Harris and sophomore Anthony Jennings.

According to The Advocate's Scott Rabalais, Les Miles said he is not opposed to playing both quarterbacks. Nevertheless, Miles will eventually have to make a decision between Harris or Jennings for the starting role.

The bigger question mark, however, might be at wide receiver.

Will Travin Dural lead LSU in receiving yards next season?

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Travin Dural, the leading returnee at wide receiver, only caught seven passes last season. The only other wide receiver returning that caught a pass last season is Quantavius Leslie. Miles will look to John Diarse, Avery Peterson and Rob Bolden to step up.

LSU did sign four receivers in its talented 2014 class, headlined by 5-star Malachi Dupre. Expect Dupre to crack the starting lineup at some point.

The LSU passing attack will go through growing pains this season with young and inexperienced skill position players. But expect offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to find ways for his offense to be productive through the air.

 

Defensive Weakness

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LSU defensive ends Danielle Hunter (left) and Jermauria Rasco (right)

LSU's pass rush was below average last season. The Tigers' defensive ends combined for fewer than 10 sacks. For perspective's sake, 18 players had double-digit sacks last season.

Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco both return with starting experience and should form a solid duo. Hunter showed off his speed at the spring game, as he raked in two sacks. Backups Frank Herron, Lewis Neal, M.J. Patterson and Tashawn Bower should help as well.

The Tigers need more push up the middle as well. Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture, Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore will be the players to keep an eye on at defensive tackle.

There should be some improvement in the pass rush next season. With that said, until the Tigers prove they can do a better job of getting after the quarterback, it should be a concern.

 

Offensive Secret Weapons

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LSU tight end DeSean Smith

Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana, has produced two 4-star receiving threats over the past two recruiting cycles. Luckily enough for Miles, they both chose LSU. 

Tight end DeSean Smith only caught one pass as a true freshman last season. But after a solid showing in the spring game, expect Smith to revitalize a position that has been below average at making plays through the air over the past two seasons.

Wide receiver Trey Quinn is a dark-horse candidate to be one of LSU's leading playmakers as a true freshman. Quinn was one of the four wide receivers LSU signed in the 2014 class. He broke national records at the high school level and could be a factor as a special teams returner.

Smith and Quinn will both undoubtedly be productive performers in their LSU careers.

The only question remaining is if they break out this season. If at least one of them does, the Tigers' passing attack will be stronger than expected.

 

Defensive Secret Weapon 

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis is known for his exotic defensive schemes. Chavis' best might be the 3-2-6 "Mustang" package. The defense calls for six defensive backs to be on the field at once.

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The most effective season of the "Mustang" package was in 2011, when LSU had lockdown defenders across the field.

Morris Claiborne and Tharold Simon played as traditional corners on the outside while Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor were the traditional safeties. However, the players who made the defense special were Tyrann Mathieu and Ron Brooks as the nickelback and dimeback, respectively.

If White and Robinson play at a high level on the outside, look out for Dwayne Thomas to be a productive playmaker in the role of either Mathieu or Brooks. Thomas played spectacularly at times at the position last season, highlighted by the game-clinching sack and forced fumble against Arkansas.

Expect Thomas to surpass his three sacks from last season and be a constant pest for opposing quarterbacks.

 

Recruiting information, stats and additional information provided by 247Sports.com, cfbstats.com and LSU Sports Information. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower 

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