As part of our pre-season coverage, we've asked our fellow SB Nation bloggers to give us the low-down on their teams' prospects for the season (we're pretty sure that Bobby Petrino and his staff are reading these previews religiously to determine game strategy). Yesterday we presented the scoop on Alabama, and today it's LSU's turn in the spotlight.
2008 was a disappointing season for the Tigers, but all indications are that they're ready to bounce back in a big way this fall. With that in mind, we now turn the floor over to Richard Pittman of the excellent LSU blog, And the Valley Shook (many, many thanks to Richard for his time in putting this together):
Anyone paying attention to LSU last year knows exactly what went wrong with this team: quarterback play and pass defense. We were still at least half-decent in 2008 primarily because every team's quarterback was terrible, except Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss. If you don't believe me, check out the statistic I invented and then used to prove it. Or you could, you know, just look at their numbers yourselves.
Anyway, Les Miles acknowledged by deeds rather than words that the experiment with promoting two position coaches to defensive co-coordinator was a failure, and the notorious gambler went out and made the safest defensive coordinator hire you can imagine. He hired a guy who had done the same job in the same conference for over a decade, and who did it well. The situation on the defensive side of the ball is sure to improve, if for no other reason than because we will finally have players like Chad Jones and Harry Coleman playing in the correct positions. Jones will be a safety instead of a rover/safety/nickelback/linebacker, and Coleman will be a fast linebacker instead of a slow safety.
We will definitely be closely watching the defensive line play early in the season, because we lose an inordinate amount of our two-deep rotation on the defensive line from last year. It looks like none of our opening night starters at defensive line for the 2009 season opener will have previously started a game. With our recruiting juggernaut in full swing, we expect these guys to be talented, but they're inexperienced and will have to become playmakers quickly. We know Rahim Alem is a player, as he was a sack artist off the bench last year, but the other guys have a lot to prove.
On the offensive side of the ball, we are hoping our quarterback situation is stabilized. Jarrett Lee takes a lot of heat for how the end of last season went, but I maintain to this day that he was better than a handful of other SEC quarterbacks last year. People forget just how awful Wesley Carroll, Chris Todd, Mike Hartline, and others were last year. But we are probably going to start the season with Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, who adds a running dimension that Jarrett Lee just did not have, and who seems to have the moxie to be a real player. The cast surrounding our quarterback is as good as it's ever been, with a legitimate #1 wide receiver in Brandon Lafell, and a legitimate #1 running back in Charles Scott carrying the load for the offense, along with a very good tight end, and what is shaping up as maybe the best offensive line we've fielded in a while.
If we get good quarterback play and if we get a #2 (and if we're lucky, a #3) receiver to develop along with a change of pace running back, this could be one of the best offensive teams in the conference.
As for predictions, I don't make them. The game of football is chaotic and unpredictable and anyone who thinks they know what will happen is a fool. Mama didn't raise no fools.