After a four-year run with 10 or more wins, LSU saw a drop off in 2014. While the young team was never viewed as a real threat to make the inaugural College Football Playoff field, the results were disappointing nonetheless as the Tigers finished with an 8-5 record.

Despite some of those frustrating losses, as well as the loss of defensive coordinator John Chavis, LSU appears to be in a good spot, ready to rebound from a down year in a big way.

Let’s take a look at the State of the Union in Baton Rouge, taking into account the last five years on and off the field.

On-field performance

SEC Standing: At or near the top of the divisoin

Grade: B+

Even with a year in which they finished unranked, the Tigers are still averaging better than 10 wins per season over the last five. Les Miles’ team has compiled a 52-16 record in the last half decade, including winning 10 or more games from 2010-2013.

While the team has had some big-time wins in that span, there have been several meaningful and disappointing losses as well. The 2011 BCS title game is one of the low points of Miles’ tenure, as the Tigers were shut out in the championship game against division rival Alabama. LSU is just 2-3 in its last five bowl games, including this past season’s defensive meltdown against Notre Dame.

Miles has developed a clear identity as a power football coach, with an exception in 2013, when he had an NFL-caliber quarterback in Zach Mettenberger and two superstar receivers in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. For the most part, you know what you’ll get from LSU: a heavy dose of between-the-tackles runs and a hard-hitting defense. And, for the most part, it’s worked out pretty well.


SEC Standing: At or near the top of the conference

Grade: A

Sitting in one of the biggest talent hotbeds in the country, LSU takes full advantage. The Tigers own Louisiana, pulling in the majority of the state’s top-10 prospects each year. They also fare pretty well stacked up against the rest of the country, finishing in the top 10 in the 247sports industry composite rankings in four of the last five years, with an average finish of No. 7 nationally.

The last two classes are a group that should open up a title window for the Tigers. In 2013 and 2014, LSU pulled in the Nos. 2 and 5 classes in the nation, respectively, groups that include a bevy of potential stars and several that have already made their mark on campus.

In college football, having talent is the No. 1 prerequisite for contending. LSU has talent in bunches, and with the recruiting-oriented hires the program made this offseason that’s not likely to change.

Player development

SEC Standing: At or near the top of the conference

Grade: B+

When you send as many players to the NFL as the Tigers do, you’re clearly doing something right. LSU had the most alumni in the pros this past season, and from 2011-14 there were 29 Tigers selected in the NFL draft. While that has plenty to do with the caliber of player LSU brings in, it has just as much to do with the coaching staff developing those players’ skills and putting them in positions to succeed.

There is one flaw with LSU’s player development: the coaching staff can’t seem to get the quarterback position straightened out. Mettenberger is the lone exception, but he came to LSU already far along in his development after spending a year at Georgia and another at a junior college. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron even copped to not doing a good enough job in bringing along current quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris in a lost season for QB development. That simply has to change if this team is to contend over the next few years.


SEC Standing: Near the top of the conference

Grade: B+

In the never-ending arms race, LSU is more than keeping pace. In the last year alone, the school completed construction on an expansion of Tiger Stadium’s south end zone, upping the intimidating stadium’s capacity to more than 102,000 seats. LSU also announced plans for an athlete nutrition center, an athletics-only dining hall set to open in 2016. Between the two projects, the school will spend upwards of $90 million. The school already has an indoor practice facility, something several SEC rivals are still working to finance.

While team offices aren’t necessarily a top selling point, we got a glimpse of Miles’ digs this past fall thanks to ESPN, and they’re spectacular — certainly the kind of offices that would impress a recruit’s parents.


SEC Standing: Near the top of the division

Grade: B+

For as good as he’s been more than a decade, Miles still seems to catch a lot of flak. Yes, he can be very stubborn, and he does occasionally have some on-field gaffes (what coach doesn’t?), but the alternatives to Miles are much dicier than what the Mad Hatter provides in Baton Rouge.

We’re about to see how well Miles and the Tigers function without Chavis this coming year. The Chief had led LSU’s defense to five straight top-15 finishes nationally. The Tigers went away from Chavis’ scheme-oriented style and hired Kevin Steele, known more as a recruiter than a tactician. With so much talent already on hand, we’ll see how much of a factor Steele is.

Cameron has had mixed results in his two years as OC, overseeing a downfield passing attack in year one, then struggling when he didn’t have a pocket passer in year two.

The rest of LSU’s staff is quite talented. Frank Wilson, the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, excels at both positions, as evidenced by LSU’s annually high recruiting rank and the slew of NFL-caliber running backs the team has produced. Ed Orgeron, another new hire this offseason, brings just as much recruiting prowess and the promise of ramping up defensive line performance. Others, like defensive backs coach Corey Raymond and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, are among the best at their positions in the country.