Even without the recently departed (his name shall not be muttered due to his off-the-field stupidity) heir apparent under center, it's hard to pick against the Bayou Bengals in the SEC West this fall.
First off, LSU head coach Les Miles believes in running the football. And oh, does Myles have a bevy of talented running backs, with a depth chart stacked with size and speed as follows (thanks to Dandy Don's LSU website):
No. 32 Charles Scott, 5'11", 223, Jr.
No. 26 Richard Murphy, 6'1", 198, So.
No. 5 Keiland Williams, 5'11", 223, Jr.
No. 08 Trindon Holliday, 5'5”, 159, Jr.
None of the aforementioned tailbacks averaged under a staggering 6.6 yards per tote last season. A 6.6 average would have been an exceptional feat for one back, let alone four, heading into last season.
Yes, the Tigers are young at quarterback, but redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee is no slouch. A highly touted prep prospect, Lee will not have to carry the offense on his back. Instead, Lee will need to be consistent and not attempt to do too much. If he stays away from costly interceptions and miscues, Les Miles and Tiger fans will watch the LSU offense score more than its fair share of points.
And do not sleep on the LSU wide receivers. Remember the name Brandon LaFell. His penchant for making game-breaking plays down the field via the "home run" ball will be well known around the country after the 2008 season is complete. SEC folks already knew LaFell. Now you do too.
Then there is Demetrius Byrd, and the next superstar to excite the Tiger faithful—Terrance Tolliver. The sophomore caught 10 passes last season, but that number will likely grow to 40-plus this season. Tolliver has an NFL future if he continues to develop. His 6'5" frame and leaping ability are going to cause many problems for secondaries.
As for the defense, this is LSU—is it necessary to really go all that in depth? The two names to remember are for completely different reasons, however, and will likely determine if the Tigers are to be more than SEC West favorites.
Tyson Jackson, the All-American defensive end, will not see many one-on-one matchups this season. It shouldn't matter, as defensive tackles such as Al Woods, Marlon Favorite, and Charles Alexander will wreak havoc upon opposing offensive fronts, plus Ricky Jean Francis and Kirston Pittman manning the defensive end position opposite Jackson.
Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Goodness! If Jackson stays patient and continues to draw double teams, the LSU defensive front will be one of the best in all the land.
LSU has its traditional speed at linebacker, but no headliner has emerged. That is the one potential weakness of the LSU defense, making Jackson's play all the more important.
Cornerback is the spot where the other key component lies—Jai Eugene, one of the more highly recruited cornerbacks to play high school football in Louisiana during the past decade, will be a sophomore this fall. Welcome to the SEC, young man.
He's an NFL talent, but there is no "ease your way in" game plan for an SEC cornerback. It's turn it loose or go home. The other cornerback slot will be manned by Phelon Jones, a redshirt freshman. Thus, Eugene must grow up in a hurry.
LSU will not likely return to the National Title Game, but the Tigers will be a tough out each week, especially in Death Valley, where possible No. 1 Georgia will travel to play the Tigers on Oct. 25. And then there's the anticipated return of a certain former head coach that will lead the Crimson Tide to Tiger Stadium on Nov. 8.