SEC spring football forecast: LSU Tigers

NCAA Football: LSU-Spring Game

With the offseason officially underway, SDS will examine what’s next for spring football for all 14 teams. Next up LSU.

LSU opens up spring ball Saturday, and the Tigers look to rebuild some key pieces of the overall roster. The spring game is set for April 5th.

RELATED: See where LSU ranked in SDS’ final 2013 rankings

What’s changing?

LSU has the luxury of being one of the few teams in college football that can absorb the loss of star players and reload. That’s two years in a row the NFL Draft has wiped out LSU’s roster, but the Tigers have recruited well. It was the first time in Tiger history they had a 3,000-yard quarterback, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back. And none of the four return next season. Couple that with losing two defensive tackles, the leading tackler and the starting safety. There’s much changing for LSU, who enters spring ball on the heels of another 10-win season.

Position of concern

With both defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson heading to the NFL, the teeth of the Tigers’ defense needs replacing. Christian LaCouture is one player who should emerge, and he made 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack last season. Rising junior Quentin Thomas also returns; he made nine tackles last season. Mickey Johnson will also garner playing time next season. LSU is known for NFL defensive tackles, and replacing Johnson and Ferguson won’t be easy.

RELATED: SEC Pre-Spring Power Rankings

Position of strength

LSU will lean on the strong offensive line, which returns four starters. Only guard Trai Tuner entered the NFL Draft, and the line returns tackle tandem La’El Collins and Jerald Hawkins, along with guard Vadal Alexander and center Elliot Porter. Watch for Fehoko Fanaika to step in for Turner. The Tigers will lean on a strong offensive line and running game in 2014.

Three signees who will get you excited

1. Leonard Fournette, RB: This is a no-brainer, right? Fournette will be handed playing time, but could he possibly win the starting job ahead of week one? He won’t get to LSU until the summer.

2. Malachi Dupree, WR: Dupree enters LSU as one of the best players in the country at a major position of need. With Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry both gone, Dupree will earn playing time as a freshman.

3. Trey Quinn, WR: Dupree gets all the pub as the Tigers’ premier wide receiver, but Quinn has rare explosive athletic ability and has a chance to earn playing time this season.

MORE: LSU National Signing Day recap

Spring’s primary position battle

For me, it starts at the head of the offense, meaning the quarterback. With Zach Mettenberger gone, LSU has options with two dual-threat quarterbacks in returner and projected starter Anthony Jennings, redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig and early enrollee Brandon Harris. There are options, and there are more options with Jennings and Harris to help bolster the running game. Jennings enters spring as the starter, but exiting 2013, there are legitimate questions about which direction the LSU offense will take in 2014. Les Miles hopes to answer some of those questions this spring. It starts with the quarterback.

Emerging spring player prediction

It’s time for linebacker Kendell Beckwith to makes waves. Beckwith is a linebacker by trade, but he could excel as a pass rusher. LSU finished 6th in sacks and 8th in tackles for loss in 2013, and an emerging Kendell Beckwith could help make John Chavis’ defense nasty.

Offseason’s burning question

Which player will be the toughest to replace from last year’s team?

Tigers’ offseason crystal ball

Looking into the crystal ball, Anthony Jennings will exit spring the starter for the Tigers, but there will be questions. It wouldn’t surprise me if Harris, Rettig and Jennings all see playing time next season, and each brings a different aspect to the offense. LSU’s defense should actually improve upon last year’s unit, led by a strong secondary.

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