5 offseason priorities for LSU
The 2014 regular season is in the books for LSU, leaving them to await their bowl fate this weekend. The 8-4 season can be viewed in a variety of ways. On one hand, LSU overcame youth and inexperience to scrap its way to a 4-4 conference record in the toughest division in the sport. On the other, there’s a sense that this season could have been much more. Regardless, 2014 is in the books and 2015 will be here before you know it — and we’re already looking ahead. What can LSU improve on for next season?
- Sort out the quarterback situation. Anthony Jennings sure didn’t look like the answer this season. LSU had a touted freshman, Brandon Harris, who rode the bench for the last six weeks of the season after falling flat in his only start against Auburn. Harris has all the talent necessary to be a top-flight SEC quarterback, but didn’t seem to know the playbook in too many instances. The coaching staff needs to get that right and get him on the field, or hope they can develop Jennings.
- Continue to diversify. How awesome was it watching LSU bust out read-option plays and jet sweeps all over Texas A&M? Now, why can’t LSU do that all the time? The strong offensive line and power running game — led by Leonard Fournette, who should be a monster next season — are a given under Les Miles, but teams in this era of college football need to be able to score points to keep up. If LSU can develop either Harris or Jennings into a better decision maker with a mastery of the playbook, maybe the Tigers can pick up the pace next year while maintaining their ball-control identity.
- Get back to creating turnovers. A big part of LSU’s success during Les Miles’ tenure has been the defense’s ability to create turnovers in droves. The Tigers had turnover margins of plus-20 and plus-16 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, then regressed to even in 2013. The Tigers created just 20 turnovers this season after averaging nearly 28 the three years prior. Picking up fumbles is luck, forcing them is not; LSU will need to get aggressive going after the ball. The interception numbers should rise as LSU’s young secondary continues to develop.
- Let the youth continue to develop. LSU started a bevy of freshman and sophomores this season, with half of the starting 22 being either a first- or second-year players, and the majority of backups were young players as well. That inexperience caught up to the Tigers, especially on offense. Many of the young players— like MLB Kendell Beckwith and WR Malachi Dupre – will be expected to take big leaps forward next season, as several key seniors are graduating and other juniors will be tempted by the NFL draft.
- Fix whatever is ailing the special teams. Colby Delahoussaye caught a major case of the yips at the end of the season, missing 4-of-8 field goals down the stretch. The Tigers also put a kickoff out of bounds against Alabama, gifting the Crimson Tide the field position to snatch the game away. On top of that, LSU was 101st in the nation in opponent punt return average, negating the good work that Jamie Keehn does on that end. That’s unlike a Les Miles team — LSU was sixth in the country in punt coverage and fifth in field goal percentage last year — so they should be able to bounce back.