LSU football: 5 biggest holes to fill in 2021 starting lineup
LSU is losing just 4 starters from its 2020 team.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more holes to fill, important competitions for key positions.
The Tigers have a lot of improvement to do to get from their 5-5 record last season to where they want to be in 2021 – headed back to being a contender in the SEC West.
If that’s going to happen it’s going to require individuals providing upgrades in starting positions beyond just those vacated by players no longer in the program.
Here are the 5 biggest holes to fill in LSU’s 2021 starting lineup:
WR: Kayshon Boutte replacing Terrace Marshall Jr.
The receiving corps depth chart never fully stabilized last season.
The group was led by Marshall, who was followed by a committee approach. Then Marshall left the team late in the season and there was a scramble to redefine roles.
It was a cloudy picture at the end of last season, but it should be much clearer next season – especially at the top.
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Jaray Jenkins, Koy Moore, Trey Palmer and others will have useful roles next season, but Boutte, who set an SEC single-game record for receiving yards in the season-ending victory against Ole Miss, will by the clear-cut No. 1 receiver – just as Marshall was before leaving, just as Ja’Marr Chasse was before leaving last preseason.
LT: Dare Rosenthal replaces Cameron Wire
This will be a preseason battle.
Rosenthal is attempting to replace Wire just as Wire replaced Rosenthal last season. Rosenthal was the left tackle before being suspended. Ware filled in ably and held on to the position even after Rosenthal returned.
After flirting with leaving the program, Rosenthal decided to return for next season. He’s a potential star if he can stay focused.
Rosenthal is the favorite to win this competition, but the Tigers are happy to know that Wire is a part of that competition.
TE: Kole Taylor replacing Arik Gilbert
Gilbert showed flashes of what made him the highest-rated tight end to ever arrive at LSU but was never consistent before leaving the program and ultimately saying he planned to enroll at Florida.
Speaking of Florida, Taylor’s notoriety so far is limited to his shoe being hurled upfield by a Gators defender, drawing a penalty that was instrumental in LSU upsetting Florida in December.
But Taylor will have a much greater opportunity to make news in more conventional ways as the starting tight end next season.
LB: Navonteque Strong replacing Jabril Cox
Cox was one of the Tigers’ top defenders in his one season as a graduate transfer from North Dakota State. The hole he left behind is one of the most important ones for LSU to fill.
Strong, a JUCO transfer, is the newcomer who seems most likely to earn a starting position and fill that hole.
Cox was the top playmaker in a unit that didn’t make enough big plays last season. LSU is counting on Strong leading the way as the unit makes a lot more big plays next season.
S: Maurice Hampton Jr. replacing JaCoby Stevens
Stevens is leaving behind another significant hole to be filled on the defense.
Hampton showed his versatility by starting a handful of games at multiple positions in the secondary last season and that versatility and experience make him the favorite to ascend to Stevens’ former position.
The Tigers were talented but inexperienced and susceptible to big plays in the secondary last season.
LSU allowed more completions of 20+ yards (55), 30+ (31), 40+ (21) and 50+ (13) than anybody in the SEC. In 2018, the Tigers allowed just 1 completion of 50+ yards and just 4 completions that covered more than 40 yards. Last year, they allowed
They will again be talented in the secondary next season and Hampton is one of the players being counted on to provide maturity that makes LSU less susceptible to big plays.