What are some of the major position battles going on within your team?
Since Jacob Hester exited to the NFL, the Tigers will have a three headed monster at tailback. Keiland Williams, Charles Scott, and Richard Murphy are all promising runners. Look for Les Miles to rotate the trio and play the hot hand. Williams is seen as the most athletic, while Scott brings the best mix of speed and power. Murphy has had the least amount of playing time of the three but had a great spring including a great spring game.
Corner will be another battle as both Jonathan Zenon and Chevis Jackson have graduated. The race is on as super frosh Patrick Johnson; Jai Eugene (sophomore); Ron Brooks and Phelon Jones (RS freshmen); and Chris Hawkins (junior) will battle it out for two spots.
Last but not least, with the dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux, the quarterback position becomes a race between redshirt freshman Jarret Lee and junior Andrew Hatch. Lee remains the early favorite but is more of a pro style quarterback. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has run a spread hybrid offense which suited a mobile Matt Flynn and would have suited an even more mobile Perrilloux.
Who are some players on each side of the ball that you see emerging as stars this year?
If you didn't hear of WR Demetrius Byrd in ’07, then you will definitely know his name in ’08. The senior JC transfer stepped up last year after the injury to Early Doucet and will probably be the primary target in the passing game.
Even though DT Glenn Dorsey was drafted, the Tigers are overrun with riches on the defensive line, highlighted by senior DE Tyson Jackson. In case you missed the BCS National Championship Game though, don’t sleep on Ricky Jean-Francois. The guy is simply a freak of Jevon Kearse proportions. He can play end or tackle and has size, strength, and athleticism. Another nasty on the line to watch out for is DT Drake Nevis. He will make the most of the playing time he gets.
Sophomore FS Chad Jones will continue to terrorize offenses. Jones is probably the best athlete on an already athletic defense.
Are there any injuries your team is worrying about?
The offensive line’s injury status will be a concern. Senior center Brett Helms' health will be essential, especially with a new starting QB. Guard Ryan Miller, who may fight for the starting RG spot with Lyle Hitt, will need to stay healthy to provide depth on the O-line.
LB Darry Beckwith has had nagging injuries that hopefully won’t carry over to ’08.
What do you think your team’s major strengths and weaknesses will be?
On offense the strength will be the offensive line and the running game. Inexperience and inconsistency may plague the QB and WR positions but a good ground game could be the saving grace for LSU. However, WRs Brandon Lafell and Terrance Tolliver could wind up being game breakers in the passing attack. The glaring weakness on offense will be inexperience under center.
LSU will be great up the middle on defense. With Jean-Francois, Nevis, Marlon Favorite, and Al Woods at DT, the Tigers have plenty of depth on the line. Senior Darry Beckwith will be great at MLB and safeties Chad Jones and Curtis Taylor will be solid. The weaknesses on the D will be inexperience at corner and OLB.
Finally, kicker Colt David found his groove as the season progressed in ’08, but with Patrick Fisher graduating, LSU has a big hole to fill at punter. Also, LSU’s return game last year was atrocious and the coaches will look to improve upon it in ’08. Speedster Trindon Holliday is great as a kick returner but doesn’t have the hands to return punts.
What games are you most looking forward to watching this year?
Every year in the SEC produces great match ups. The four games the Tigers have circled though are Auburn and Florida on the road and Georgia and Alabama at home. There will be no need for motivation for the fans on November 8th as Nick Saban returns to Baton Rouge, only this time on the opposite sideline than before. (Actually he came to Tiger Stadium when the Saints played the Dolphins after Hurricane Katrina but who’s counting?)
Revenge will be on the menu the day after Thanksgiving in Little Rock as the purple and gold look to avenge the 3 OT loss to Arkansas from last season. It would be wise not to overlook the Gamecocks as the Tigers travel to Columbia this season.
What record do you think your team will end the regular season with?
If there was a Vegas line on this, it would be OFF because of the QB situation. I would like to think the defense and running game would be good enough to produce an 8- or 9-win regular season, with the Tigers hopefully in the thick of the SEC West title race. Looking at recent history though, usually someone else besides LSU ends up in Atlanta on even years.
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