LSU Season 7 Preview LSU had a great season by all accounts last year, finishing with a 11-2 record and #3 in the final season poll. This was a surprise to me, as the roster was gutted after season 5 and the team was only a ‘B’ overall in season 6. The good news for this year is that the bulk of last years team returns for season 7, and with the experience and progression from last year, this could be a team that could contend for a national title. Offense – Mississippi St The spread offense was instrumental to the teams success last year, as the 4 and 5 WR looks helped to limit the gimmicks that defenses could utilize. With 10 returning starters, the offense should be better in season 7. QB – One of the few areas where a new starter will step in this year is at the QB position. Trey Jones graduated after two great seasons leading the team, which saw him set several school records. The early favorites to take over the starting job are redshirt freshman Adam Ward and true freshman Phillip Hodge. Ward is an average athlete with a good arm strength and accuracy, but Hodge has the wheels to allow me to use the entire playbook. I’d give the edge to the new kid, as the spread look with a mobile QB allows for much better diversity. HB/FB – Last year the plan was to have incoming JUCO transfer Kyle Hawkins shoulder the load, but an early injury to him vs Texas caused him to miss over half the season. Backup FB Mark Brown then became the primary ballcarrier, and he was effective enough to keep defenses honest. This year both return and should be the guys getting the bulk of the carries. Hawkins is a good all around back, but not spectacular at anything, which fits what I look for in this offense. WR/TE – The top 5 WR’s and starting TE return from last years team, and I’d be shocked if they don’t play well. They aren’t as high rated as some other teams receivers, but they made the plays last year when called upon. The receiving group is led by junior WR Scott Vinson, who is really developing into a solid weapon in the passing game. The only newcomer to the group is JUCO transfer WR Jeremy Charles, who is a 6’2” speedster (97 speed), who is projected to be the teams #3 WR. Get ready for some slot post cheese coming your way in season 7! OL – Every starter from last year is back this year, and the group should round into form with another year starting together. The strength of the line is at the T’s (senior RT Michael Mills – 95 OVR and junior LT Jeremy Wilson – 94 OVR) and the right side where RG David Little (95 OVR) will help protect the QB. Defense – 3-4 The move to a full time 3-4 had some growing pains, especially in the front 7, where youth really showed in some games as the team got pushed around at times and was inconsistent at getting to the QB. The team only lost 3 starters off the unit from last year, so the hope is that some improved play up front will enable the team to get enough stops to compete in each game. DE/DT – DE’s Greg Thomas and Brad Turner return to the team, and the hope is that a full offseason of bulking up to play the run will benefit them. Both kids have what you look for in 3-4 DE’s, with strength (Thomas – 87 STR, Turner – 89 STR) and the ability to get off blocks (Thomas – 93 block shedding, Turner – 91 block shedding). The nickel and dime packages will likely see DE Nathan Gray get some playing time, as he is a bit more of a pass rushing threat than either Thomas or Turner. At DT, sophomore Matt Jordan takes over as starter after an offseason move from DE. Jordan is a bit light for a 3-4 nose tackle at 275 lbs, but with the youth at the position (3 of the 4 DT’s were true freshmen last year) the coaching staff feels that Jordan’s athletic ability (74 speed, 80 acceleration, 89 block shedding) may allow him to cause some matchup problems inside. LB – 2 starters return from this unit, OLB Ben Graham and MLB Dwayne Pitts. Graham struggled at times last year after a move from DE to OLB, but the hope is that an offseason developing will assist him at playing in space in the 3-4. Pitts started all last season as a true freshman and showed flashes of being a playmaker behind the line of scrimmage. They’ll be joined by junior’s OLB Matt Brooks and MLB Tyler Spicer. Both have seen significant playing time in the past on special teams, and the expectations is that they can be effective in the defense, as all four guys can get after the QB and cover in space fairly effectively. CB – All of the top 4 CB’s return this year, but that may not be a good thing, as this unit really struggled at times last year covering in space. Not much to say here, the 4 top guys are pretty similar and none are great. FS/SS – Last years starters return, as FS Jason Seals and SS AJ Jackson will man the deep middle of the defense. Both guys are good in coverage and can tackle well, although Jackson is more of an in-the-box SS who can struggle when forced to man up in the deep part of the field with WR’s. K/P – Pedro Kelly is back for his senior season, and brings a cannon to the game (99 KPW, 99 KA). Expectations – I really think this is a team that can contend and win the SEC, and as we’ve all seen, the SEC champ is pretty much a shoe-in to the national title game.