Scouting LSU: the Season Opener
Posted Aug 27, 2008

Here are a few things that informed fans and observers of can look for in Saturday's matchup between the defending BCS National Champs and defending FCS National Champs.

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This weekend will be one of celebration, intoxication and general revelry for college football fans everywhere. And after we shake off the hangover of our weekend pigskin binge, we'll all hope to have questions answered about our favorite team.

For LSU fans, there's one obvious question that most of America will be looking for an answer to, but there are also a few others to keep an eye on .

Who is the starting quarterback

Of course it's the most obvious question, the one that's been rehashed again and again (and again), but it's still there. As of today, the word in Baton Rouge is still mum as to whether Andrew Hatch, Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson will take the first snap against App State. Most will tell you the smart money is still on Hatch to start, but it's a virtual certainty that Lee will get in. Don't expect an answer to this question on Saturday, and maybe not even until the conference opener at Auburn. LSU may well use all three in a situational quarterback-by-committee approach until one player separates from the pack.

How will the new defensive backfield look?

Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon are gone, but don't look for much of a drop off here. Chris Hawkins and Jai Eugene are ready to step in with a platoon of four- and five-star recruits behind them. But all eyes will be on true frosh Patrick (don't call him Johnson) Peterson. The top-ranked corner coming out of high school last year, Peterson has, by every report, wowed the coaches with his athleticism and ripped 6-1, 205-pound physique. Behind the corners, the Tigers have four quality safeties in Curtis Taylor, Harry Coleman, Danny McCray and Chad Jones. All four will see significant playing time, especially Jones, a Sean Taylor-like talent at 6-3 and 220 pounds. Les Miles has made it clear that Jones is too talented to keep off the field, and fans can expect to see some modified multi-DB packages that will give LSU some interesting flexibility with blitzing and zone coverage.

Who will carry the load at running backs?

For all the ink LSU's quarterback situation has gotten, for the fans, the real controversy is at running back. Who will get the lion (tiger?)'s share of the carries? Fans and pundits are divided between Keiland Williams, Charles Scott and Richard Murphy, and each one has their own skill set and playmaking ability. But for the coaching staff, it's about finding somebody who can replicate the Swiss-Army skill set of Jacob Hester, both his tough running between the tackles and his hands in the passing game (as a receiver and a blocker). The pecking order is anybody's guess, but Scott has shown the most versatility in camp, lining up occasionally as a fullback, shades of Ronnie Brown at Auburn. He's a tough runner between the tackles with plenty of speed, but has shown a tendency to put his head down and charge into piles in short yardage situations. Williams has dazzling and tantalizing big-play speed, but has struggled with pass protection, an alleged work-ethic problem in practice, and a tendency to try and break everything outside despite a chiseled frame that looks made for inside running. Murphy has breakout speed, but at 6-1 and 195 pounds there are questions as to whether he can handle a 20-carry workload in the SEC. Through fall camp, nobody has been able to get a good bead on which back will be the bell-cow. The opener may begin to provide a clue.

How will LSU's new co-defensive coordinator setup work?

Bo Pelini's move to Nebraska is rarely-discussed when people talk about LSU's offseason losses. Maybe that's because with linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto and defensive backs coach Doug Mallory simply promoted to co-coordinators, there won't be much, if any, change to LSU's overall defensive scheme. There has been talk that the two will be more aggressive play-callers than Pelini, who seemed all too content to back off of pressuring quarterbacks last season. Early reports from camp had the defensive backs working more on press coverage, which would be a welcome sight to most fans. Teams that spread LSU out had tremendous success late in the year and continued to find ways to match up wide receivers on linebackers. Armanti Edwards and Appalachian State should provide a good early test as to whether those issues are resolved.

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