The Bayou Bengals celebrated their dominant victory over Ohio State in chilly fashion at Tiger Stadium Saturday afternoon, with 15–20 MPH gusts blowing and the temperatures in the upper 30s.
That didn't dampen the celebration one bit.
The Tigers' coach, Les Miles, congratulated his team and thanked the 30,000 or so fans that had come out from their warm homes or dorms to celebrate the crystal trophy's return to Baton Rouge.
Now, the question undoubtedly becomes: Do the Tigers have enough firepower, tenacity, and strength to make it back? The odds are stacked even higher against them this year, but in all reality, it is possible.
Obviously, this is too early to predict anything about college football, with the National Signing Day still two weeks away and the spring game not even on the horizon, but I'm going to try to put together a little something.
In a couple of weeks I will come out with an extended, position-by-position estimated starting lineup, providing that national signing day gets here quickly and the days are still short.
Here's my first crack at it. It is an overall report on the defensive and offensive sides of the football. Hopefully, it will give a little boost to Tiger fans who think that the next "run" will be a while from now.
The Tigers will have arguably the best and most explosive offense in the SEC next year, led by run-pass threat junior Ryan Perrilloux, one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation before he chose LSU. Perrilloux is big, has a strong arm, and can run the option or quarterback sneak when needed.
His targets will be plentiful. The Tigers have talented wideouts in senior Demetrius Byrd, junior Brandon LaFell, sophomore Terrance Toliver, and will have quick young wideouts in freshmen Deangelo Benton and Chris Tolliver, along with one of the best tight ends in the SEC in junior Richard Dickson. Dickson's backup, Jordan Corbin, will also get some playing time and is a tremendous blocker.
On the offensive line, protecting Perrilloux will be the job of seniors Herman Johnson, Brett Helms, and Will Arnold; junior Ciron Black; and sophomores Jarvis Jones and Joseph Barksdale.
At running back, the Tigers have a stable of runners to supplement a strong, fast offense. Juniors Keiland Williams and Charles Scott will take turns pounding the ball, while sophomore Richard Murphy will provide a burst of speed to the outside.
But the real speed will be shown when and if junior Trindon Holliday returns. At 5'5" and 165 lbs., Holliday can make defenders miss, and is almost impossible to catch once he gets by an opposing player.
The backup to quarterback Ryan Perrilloux will be strong-armed redshirting freshman Jarrett Lee from Brenham, Texas.
The Tigers will be returning six starters from the 2007 defensive front this year, including explosive defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman. Both cornerbacks will depart to the NFL, but athletic sophomore Jai Eugene will likely lock down one side of the ball and it will be a toss up between Chris Hawkins, Phelon Jones, and Ron Brooks for the other spot.
Also vying for quick playing time will be the number-one cornerback prospect in the nation, Patrick Johnson. Johnson is a hard hitting, lockdown corner with the potential to easily become an All-American before he leaves LSU.
At strong safety, hard-hitting sophomore Chad Jones should secure this spot. Jones, a player in the mold of Laron Landry, is great in coverage and hits as hard as a veteran linebacker or defensive end on blitzes—as some teams, like Alabama, already know.
As for free safety, senior Curtis Taylor should start at this position and is a very good, hard-hitting football player. His backups will be sophomores Stefoin Francois and Shomari Clemons.
At linebacker, the most questionable position this year, Darry Beckwith should hold down the middle, and lead a group of young, yet very talented LBs into 2008. By his side will be juniors Jacob Cutrera and Perry Riley—who is a very good tackler. Overall the linebacking should be thin but good, with new recruits, such as freshman Ryan Baker, coming in to help in certain packages.
At defensive end, I assume that big Tyson Jackson will take one spot and reshirt senior Kirston Pittman will take the other. Pittman was injured for much of 2006 and is a very talented football player. In addition, sophomore Sidell Corley, senior Rahim Alem and junior Pep Levingston will push for some playing time.
At defensive tackle, the Tigers will have a star in junior DT and sometimes DE Ricky Jean-Francois. Jean-Francois is a driving force in the middle and will be hard to handle this year. Backing him up should be sophomore Drake Nevis, a fast, bowling ball of a defensive lineman who loves contact and can plug up the middle or run down a ball carrier.
The other DT spot should either go to highly-regarded junior Al Woods, senior Charles Alexander, or junior Marlon Favorite. All should see significant playing time for a very young but ferocious defense in 2008.
The Tigers' toughest opponents in-conference will be Georgia (at Tiger Stadium), and Florida and Auburn—both on the road. I think all these games are winnable, and by no stretch of the imagination should LSU not be in the title race this year.
Hopefully, through some strange set of events, LSU can play USC for the crown and settle the score with our powerhouse friends in the west.
Until then, which is seemingly light-years away, I will stick to hoping that this year's Tigers have what the 2007 team had—strength, character, respect, and a great work ethic.
Again, I will come out with a position-by-position report in about two and a half weeks, once we get more information about the players who have signed with LSU.
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