Les Miles and the LSU Tigers find themselves in an unfamiliar position heading into 2015. Instead of being “the hunted”, the Tigers have become “the hunters” thanks to a dip in the win column; LSU failed to reach the 10-win mark for the first time since 2009.
Yet, if Miles can resolve his QB issues and maintain his already-stingy defense, the Tigers will undoubtedly be a contender for the West – and perhaps the Playoff, too.
Fast, pass-happy offenses have become the norm in college football – just not in Baton Rouge.
Miles has relied on the I-formation power back to direct his offenses ever since he’s taken over at LSU.
Expect no drastic changes this year.
Leonard Fournette returns for his sophomore season along with a feisty fullback and an experienced offensive line, including Ethan Pocic, Vadal Alexander, and Jerald Hawkins (73 combined starts).
Even if LSU decides to open up the playbook to diversify last year’s one-dimensional threat, the ground game will still be Miles’ go-to call when yards are needed; Fournette was responsible for nearly a quarter of the
Tigers’ offensive production in 2014 (1,161 total yards and 54 first downs).
The biggest deficiencies LSU faced a year ago were its inconsistencies at quarterback. And if neither sophomore Brandon Harris nor junior Anthony Jennings made any progress during the offseason, the Bayou Bengals may find themselves in a similar rut.
Harris only logged one start in ’14 and Jennings – despite earning the starting spot – struggled to establish a decent aerial attack (162.9 ypg, No. 114 in the country).
Both will contend for the starting role again in 2015, knowing that dependable quarterback play is the only piece missing from an otherwise proficient group.
On the other side of the ball, defense has always been a strong suit for the Tigers.
Opponents may have found success running up the gut against LSU early last season. But once Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux settled into their positions at defensive tackle, that was the end of it.
After allowing Auburn to run all over them on Oct. 4 (298 yards), the Tigers held remaining SEC foes to a paltry 102.7 ypg on the ground – none totaled more than 137 in any given outing. The emergence of the pair also helped LSU contain the long runs.
Yards weren’t easy to come by through the air against the Tigers, either (5.5 ypa, No. 3 in the nation).
If there was success to be had, though, it was through short, quick passes.
Alabama was able to string together a four-play, 12.5 ypa drive that resulted in game-tying points. Notre Dame managed to dominate the time of possession 37-23 despite averaging three fewer yards per play. And lastly, Arkansas found success over the middle, hitting tight end after tight end for 90 yards on eight catches.
So, although the Tigers had success preventing big plays, a patient quarterback could still manage to find success underneath.
LSU enters this fall as the trendy dark horse of the West.
We just don’t know what kind of progress Miles has made at quarterback yet to deem the Tigers a credible division challenger.
If Harris/Jennings can develop into a steady leader and successfully march the offense up and down the field, LSU will likely be the team to beat; anything less than efficiency under center could be the Tigers’ downfall in 2015.