Despite the loss of Ryan Perrilloux, the 2008 LSU offense will not be all that dissimilar from what it was in 2007. While Perrilloux was the only quarterback with any real experience (Andrew Hatch did see some mop-up duty a time or two last season), the rest of the offense is loaded with experience and talent at every other position.
Coming off of a national championship year is never easy—just ask the 2004 LSU football team. Doing so with little, to no experience at quarterback is even tougher. Again, cite the 2004 squad.
Andrew Hatch, the Harvard transfer, enters his junior year with the only in-game experience the quarterback position can boast of.
Jarrett Lee, the highly-touted recruit from Texas, enters his redshirt freshman year ready to compete for the starting job.
The positive thing is that both Hatch and Lee have the same amount of experience in offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's system. The other positive is that Perrilloux had the same amount of experience.
It remains to be seen whether Hatch or Lee, or both for that matter, will excel in Crowton's offense. However, one thing is certain—the skill players surrounding these guys are not without experience, or talent for that matter.
As much as I don't want to, I would be remiss not to mention the cliche that rings true with so many new quarterbacks. You know the one. All Hatch or Lee has to do is manage the game and not make mistakes.
I would not say it if it wasn't true. Granted, LSU's road schedule is tough, and at some point one of these guys will have to make a play somewhere. But for the most part, managing the game will be the main priority.
Who gets the start to open the season? Hatch would be the easy choice, but Lee will get every opportunity to become the starting quarterback once practice starts in August.
Either way, I expect both guys to rotate in and out of games, much like Matt Flynn and Perrilloux did a year ago.
I spoke of the other skill positions that look to aid in the maturing process of both of these young quarterbacks. Where LSU lacks in experience at quarterback, they more than make up for it at just about every other offensive position on the field.
To start, look no further than the guys who will be lining up in the backfield. The LSU rushing attack netted 3,000 yards rushing for the season in 2007, and all but one of the guys responsible returns in 2008. LSU will have to replace Jacob Hester, but the guys returning are more than capable.
Keiland Williams is LSU's leading returning rusher, having rushed for 513 yards and six TDs in 2007. Williams is a power rusher with a slashing-type mentality. He looks to round the corner more than take it up the gut, but when he gets the corner, watch out, because his speed is lights out.
A perfect contrast to Williams is Charles Scott. Scott is a straight-ahead runner who no doubt will be looked upon to pick up the tough yards that Hester did so many times last season. Both Scott and Williams showed versatility as well, combining for 21 receptions and three TDs a year ago.
The two guys who complement the guys listed above are Richard Murphy and Trindon Holliday.
Murphy is perhaps LSU's most versatile running back. He can run between the tackles, split out as a wide receiver, and catch the ball out of the backfield. His talent did not go unnoticed in 2007, as he was used more and more as the year progressed.
Holliday is not your prototypical running back. Standing at only 5'5'' and weighing in at 159 pounds, Holliday will be used primarily in end arounds and reverse plays. Expect a trick play or two with him as well, like the well known "hidden Holliday trick."
LSU's wide-receiving corps will once again be among the best in the SEC. While running the ball figures to be LSU's main focal point for 2008, this group of receivers will be ready to make plays when called upon.
Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell combined for nearly 1,300 yards, 85 receptions, and 11 TDs in 2007. Terrance Toliver had a solid freshman campaign in 2007, hauling in three TDs and averaging 25 yards per catch. He and Byrd will look to make big plays down the field, while LaFell will be looked upon to make the tough catches over the middle.
A perfect safety valve for both Hatch and Lee will undoubtedly be TE Richard Dickson. LSU's best-known secret is no more, especially after his performance in the BCS National Championship Game.
However, with the speed on the ends, Dickson should still be able to find some very favorable matchups over the middle of the field in 2008.
Rounding up my look at the 2008 LSU offense is the men in the trenches. LT Ciron Black and LG Herman Johnson may be the fiercest left side LSU has seen in quite some time. Black has been a starter since his freshman season and should be a preseason All-America candidate.
Brett Helms returns at center in 2008. His experience, leadership, and toughness will be key this season. Rounding up the right side of the offensive line is RG Lyle Hitt and RT Joseph Barksdale. Together these five guys look to pace another solid rushing attack and protect the two young, inexperienced quarterbacks.
The 2007 LSU offense was good. It was Gary Crowton's first year. The 2008 version could possibly be better. It won't be easy. But, as an LSU fan, it should be a fun year to watch on the offensive side of the ball.
Join me next time (whenever that may be) for a look at the 2008 LSU defense.
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