For the first time since 2005, someone other than Les Miles will lead LSU into fall camp. Ed Orgeron isn’t the only new face, though, as the Tigers must replace 19 seniors and eight NFL draft picks.
Still, with Heisman candidate Derrius Guice pacing Matt Canada’s new offense and Arden Key as the big piece on Dave Aranda’s defensive chessboard, the Tigers will have as much talent as anyone in the conference.
Whether Orgeron and his staff can maximize that talent amid a brutal schedule that
includes five road conference games will determine how his rookie season as the head Tiger goes.
Here are three areas that the Tigers need to address in preseason camp, which opens Monday.
1. Find a No. 2 receiver … and a No. 3 … and a No. 4
The skinny: Even with veterans Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural on the field, D.J. Chark emerged as quarterback Danny Etling’s security blanket in 2016, leading the Tigers with nearly 18 yards per reception. Chark returns, but the rest of the receivers on the roster had a combined 10 catches a year ago.
Sophomore Drake Davis and senior Russell Gage are the best bets to break out, and freak athletes Dee Anderson, Stephen Sullivan and Derrick Dillon – all sophomores – are awaiting their turn.
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2. What about Arden Key?
The skinny: When talking about Key, Aranda said he “changes the math” for LSU.
Basically, LSU has two defenses: one with Key and one without. Key is back with the team after taking a leave during spring for “personal reasons.” The bigger issue now seems to be his surgically repaired shoulder. Orgeron has been noncommittal about having Key for the opener against BYU.
If he’s not on the field, a young pass rusher will have to emerge. Keep an eye redshirt freshmen Ray Thornton and Andre Anthony and touted true freshman K’Lavon Chaisson. There is no shortage of options, just not any proven ones behind Key.
3. Will special teams be special?
The skinny: A staple during the Miles Era, special teams were anything but in 2016.
One day after being named permanent coach, Orgeron fired special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto. Instead of hiring a full-time replacement, Orgeron brought aboard longtime NFL special teams guru Greg McMahon on as an analyst and divided the on-field duties among his staff.
Connor Culp and Jack Gonsoulin will battle to replace Colby Delahoussaye, who attempted every field goal for the Tigers in 2016. Josh Growden again will handle the punting duties but the return jobs seem to be up for grabs, with cornerback Donte Jackson and Chark likely to figure prominently.
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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