Originally published on Saturday Down South July 27, 2018
LSU isn’t being touted as an SEC contender this season, but the Tigers do have significant talent on both sides of the ball.
If a series of young, promising players is ready to handle major roles and the team can successfully negotiate a challenging schedule, especially early, LSU could exceed expectations.
But if there are early growing pains and the breaks don’t go the Tigers’ way, they could find themselves in the vicinity of a .500 record with the hiring of Ed Orgeron being called into question.
With all that uncertainty in mind, here are the best and worst-case scenarios for the Tigers in 2018:
1. The offensive line is strong out of the gate: This group has more experienced players than any of the skill groups. If it can form a strong, cohesive unit from the start it will make it easier for the young skill players to grow into their roles. While the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are sorting out their roles in preseason camp, the line has a chance to build on the development it showed late last season and become a strength right away.
2. The QB wins the job early and never lets go: Most likely Joe Burrow, or possibly Myles Brennan, whoever wins the job needs to show the coaches and his teammates clearly he is the man for the job before game-week preparations start. Then he needs to confirm through his play that he was indeed the right choice so there aren’t any thoughts within the team that a change might be needed.
3. The defensive line dominates: With Rashard Lawrence, Ed Alexander, Breiden Fehoko and some talented backups, this group has a chance to dominate. A dominant defensive line would help an uncertain secondary contribute to a top-flight defense, and a top-flight defense would help an inexperienced offense.
4. Greedy Williams’ greediness is contagious: The cornerback shared the SEC lead with six interceptions last season, but that represented one-third of all of the defenses’ takeaways as the Tigers tied for 70th in the country. If the defense as a whole can take the ball away with regularity approaching Williams’ last season, the Tigers’ chances of success improve significantly.
5. The field-goal kicking is far less stressful: LSU made just 62.5 percent of its field goals last season and ranked 10th in the SEC. Cole Tracy was brought in as transfer after leading Division II with a percentage of 93.2. A 2018 percentage closer to Tracy’s last season rather than the Tigers’ last season could make a difference in the won-lost record.
1. A young team stumbles in early September: The Tigers don’t have the luxury of easing into a difficult schedule. They open against Miami in Arlington, Texas and visit Auburn in the SEC opener 13 days later. A split would be OK, but two losses could start a bad trend with consecutive games against Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama as well as the finale against Texas A&M coming later.
2. The QB spits the bit: The Tigers are confident that the new QB will provide more versatility than Danny Etling, but Burrow had limited experience at Ohio State before transferring, Brennan has almost no experience at LSU, Lowell Narcisse has no experience and Justin McMillan is liable to transfer before the start of camp. So LSU isn’t exactly sure of what it’s getting, and if no one is up to the challenge, the season could fall apart.
3. No running back emerges: LSU is hopeful that it will have an effective running games, whether it’s led by Nick Brossette, Clyde Edwards-Helaire or one of the freshmen – Chris Curry or Tae Provens – but much like the quarterbacks, none of the running backs has produced at the level that someone needs to produce at this season.
4. The secondary has an Achilles’ heel: The Tigers have some uncertainty in the secondary, especially at safety. This looks like a better-than-average year for SEC quarterbacks, which means opponents will be better able to exploit any shortcomings that emerge among the defensive backs.
5. Injuries test the depth of the defensive line and linebackers: The starting defensive line and starting linebackers could be outstanding groups, but both were hit with injuries last season and much of the depth is inexperienced. If injuries again test the depth, and the backups fail the test, that will make coordinator Dave Aranda’s job more difficult.