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2009 LSU Preview - Offense
LSU WR Brandon LaFell
LSU WR Brandon LaFell
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 29, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - LSU Tiger Offense

LSU Tigers

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN LSU Preview | 2009 LSU Offense
- 2009 LSU Defense | 2009 LSU Depth Chart
- 2008 LSU Preview |
2007 LSU Preview | 2006 LSU Preview

What you need to know: The big question going into last year was at quarterback, but it was generally acknowledged that everything was going to turn out to be fine in the race between Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch. Hatch got hurt and Lee couldn't stop throwing the ball to the other team. Call it a step back to take a big leap forward as the problems forced Jordan Jefferson to be thrown to the wolves over the last month of the season. Now he's the quarterback, and appears ready to be the man for the next three years. There are some terrific pieces to work around with Charles Scott leading a veteran group of running backs, Brandon LaFell working for LSU as a No. 1 receiver instead of as a highly paid first round draft pick, and OT Ciron Black anchoring a nice line. The Gary Crowton offense will revolve around Scott and the running game as much as possible, but there's too much speed at receiver to not have a few deep plays here and there. This should be one of the SEC's better offenses, but it might not be consistent. Even so, when the points come, they'll come in bunches.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jarrett Lee
143-269, 1,873 yds, 14 TD, 16 INT
Rushing: Charles Scott
217 carries, 1,174 yds, 18 TD
Receiving:
Brandon LaFell
63 catches, 929 yds, 9 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Brandon LaFell
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Jordan Jefferson
Unsung star on the rise: Senior OG Lyle Hitt
Best pro prospect: LaFell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) LaFell, 2) OT Ciron Black, 3) RB Charles Scott
Strength of the offense: Speed, Running Backs
Weakness of the offense: Backup Offensive Linemen, No. 2 Receiver 

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Last year, all the focus was around Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch and which one would be the better game manager for the offense. After Lee's interceptions proved too much to take, the coaching staff threw in Jordan Jefferson to the wolves as a true freshman and he completed just 49% of his throws for 419 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Unfairly, he shouldered some of the blame for losses to Ole Miss and Arkansas, going 9-for-21 against the Hogs wasn't a plus, though, but he responded with a mistake-free game against Georgia Tech in the bowl win. The 6-4, 210-pound sophomore has a nice arm, but not an elite one, and he has good running skills, with 134 yards and a touchdown, but he wouldn't necessarily be considered dangerous. However, he has nice speed and was far more accurate this offseason than he ever was during last year. To say he stepped up his game is an understatement.

Projected Top Reserve: The Andrew Hatch part of the equation is gone, he transferred back to Harvard, but Jarrett Lee is still in the mix. The 6-3, 210-pound sophomore threw for 1,873 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he killed the team with soul-crushing 16 picks. It wasn't just that he threw lots and lots of interceptions, it's that they always seemed to lead to horrible things or were returned for scores. LSU would've beaten Alabama with better quarterback play, and while it's not fair to totally blame Lee for the team's mediocre year, he didn't help. The 6-3, 210-pound sophomore has a live arm and has good skills, but the coaching staff can't live through the mistakes to make him the starter.

Superstar recruit Russell Shepard will likely end up working at wide receiver early on, but he proved this spring that he was good enough to be used at quarterback, his real position. The 6-1, 179-pounder isn't exactly JaMarcus Russell size-wise, but he's a devastating runner and an accurate enough passer to not make a slew of big mistakes. If he's in, he's running and will be trying to get the short to midrange passing game going. He's not going to push the ball deep on a regular basis early on.

Watch Out For ... Jefferson to be the main man and for all talk of Lee and Shepard to stop in a big hurry. There might be times when Shepard steps in to add a curveball to the mix, but Jefferson will be allowed to make the job his. He should be up over 55% passing and he's not going to throw any killer interceptions.
Strength
:
Talent. Lee is good. He made mistakes in his first year in the mix, and while he had to be pulled because of his killer interceptions, if he was able to see more action, he'd turn out to be a good one ... and he's the No. 3. Jefferson isn't going to be a superstar, but he has the tools to do a little of everything, while Shepard will make defensive coordinators freak out.
Weakness
:
Throwing the football. Lee's interceptions are going to be tough to overcome, and Jefferson, while great in spring, has to prove he can do it on a consistent basis and make the passing game more dangerous. Shepard is a big-time talent, but he'll never complete 60% of his throws on a regular basis.
Outlook: Last year the idea was for Hatch and Lee to be "game managers" and keep the chains moving, run here and there to come up with a big play when absolutely needed, and not screw up. Lee kept screwing up, Hatch had concussion issues, and Jefferson was thrown into the fire. This year, the quarterbacks will be expected to be playmakers. Jefferson can do that.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Senior Charles Scott broke free from the running-back-by-committee backfield to rush for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The 5-11, 233-pound senior is extremely quick with a great burst and excellent power. He ran for 95 yards or more in eight of the first ten games, and then everyone loaded up on him and the production tailed off. Even so, he's plugger who's always falling forward and is unstoppable around the goal line. He can also catch a bit with eight grabs for 67 yards, and he's not a bad blocker.

Sophomore Stevan Ridley is more like a big tailback than a Jacob Hester-like fullback, but he'll be used in the backfield to open up holes and to be a power runner. The 5-11, 222-pounder suffered a knee injury this offseason and had to undergo surgery, but he'll be back this fall and he should be a big part of the attack after rushing for 92 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

Projected Top Reserves: Originally, the idea was for senior Keiland Willams to be the lead runner in the pack, but he quickly gave way to Scott. Even so, he finished second on the team with 417 yards and two touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry, while catching 11 passes for 124 yards and a score. At 5-11 and 229 pound he has excellent size and he can cut on a dime. Now he has to do more to use his 4.4 speed when he gets into the open, and he has to prove he can be a workhorse back if needed.

Junior Richard Murphy has all the tools to be a superstar, but it hasn't happened yet. Lost in the shuffle last year, the 6-1, 196-pound speedster, who was one of the team's top recruits a few years ago, only ran for 186 yards seeing most of his time in mop-up duty. Extremely fast with excellent cutting ability, he's a home run waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. Now he just needs the ball.

Walk-on Richard Dugas is the hammer of a fullback the running game needs and can be used as a backup for the line. The 6-1, 275-pounder is smart, tough, and ready to become a big part of the power running game. He'll never get the ball, but that's not his job. He'll be a crushing blocker once he's back from a knee injury.

Watch Out For ... Scott to score 25 times. While there's enough talent in the backfield to keep a steady rotation going, Scott is the star of the show and he's the proven producer who can can control games and take the pressure off the passing game. He's also tremendous when it comes to getting into the end zone, and he'll be one of the nation's leading scorers. 
Strength
:
Options. Scott will be the main man, while Williams and Murphy are good enough to carry the ground game on a regular basis. Throw in receiver and return specialist Trindon Holliday and the mobile quarterbacks into the mix and the LSU ground game will keep defenses guessing. 
Weakness
:
Home runs. With all the speed and quickness in the backfield, and with Holliday getting a little bit of work, there should be more big runs. Averaging 4.4 yards per carry for a team is fine, but it's nothing special, while the longest run of the year was a 56-yarder from Scott. Holliday's longest run was 39 yards, Williams only ran for a 25-yarder and Murphy, inexplicably, didn't run for more than a 16-yard dash.
Outlook: Scott will have a long, solid career as a serviceable NFL back and he'll come up with a big senior year with huge touchdown numbers. Being able to throw in Williams and Murphy into the equation and LSU has one of the nation's most dangerous backfields. Now there has to be more production considering the improvement at quarterback and the line that will pave the way.
Rating: 8.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: Senior Brandon LaFell put off multi-millions for a year to be one of the nation's best receivers. He led the team with 63 catches for 929 yards and eight touchdowns, earning first-team All-SEC honors, highlighted by a 12-catch, 126-yard, one score day against Troy and was consistent throughout the season. At 6-3 and 194 pounds he has tremendous deep speed, averaging 14.7 yards per catch, and will make the tough catch. The outside playmaker will be a certain first rounder next year and has a shot at being the top receiver taken.

Taking over for Demetrius Byrd will likely be Chris Mitchell, a 6-0, 179-pound speedster who was a big part of three-wide sets last year catching eight passes for 115 yards and two scores seeing time in every game and getting four starts. The senior is a typical LSU speedster, but he'll need to produce big early on to hold off several other good prospects. Known mostly for a big touchdown grab against Auburn, he has the talent to make the big plays and become a great running mate on the  other side of LaFell at the Z.

There have been more talented tight ends in LSU history, but Richard Dickson, a 6-3, 246-pound senior might end up as the team's all-time top pass catching tight end. He has 69 career catches for 795 yards and ten scores, highlighted by his four-catch, 44-yard, two touchdown day against Ohio State in the 2007 national championship that made him an LSU fan lifetime favorite. He's a smart, tough player who's a decent blocker and a better receiver. He's like a big wide receiver with excellent hands and smooth route running ability. He finished third on the team last year with 31 catches for 324 yards and five scores.


Projected Top Reserves: While super-recruit Russell Shepard is a quarterback, he's way too good a player to sit on the sidelines and watch Jordan Jefferson. The 6-1, 179-pound speedster can be used in a variety of way lining up under center as a change-of-pace runner, as a running back, or most likely, as a dangerous playmaker in three and four wide sets. He can do it all.

As good as recruit as Shepard was, Reuben Randle might have been better. Arguably the nation's top receiver prospect, the 6-3, 195-pound true freshman has all the tools and all the ability to be the next LSU first round NFL draft pick. Used as both a quarterback and a receiver in high school (no, he didn't throw to himself), he threw 20 touchdown passes and ran for 683 yards and 12 scores, and as a junior he caught 55 passes for 1,058 yards and 11 scores. It's all there with size, toughness, athleticism and deep speed to become the starter on the other side of LaFell or the No. 2 option on the X.

Junior Terrance Toliver finished fourth on the team with 22 catches for 257 yards and a touchdown after not making a grab in the first three games of the year. Considered by many to be the nation's top receiver prospect two years ago, he's big with 6-5, 194-pound size and all the talent in the world, but he regressed a bit after averaging 24.9 yards per catch in 2007. He'll work behind LaFell at the X, but he could see time in a variety of spots in three and four-wide sets. With his home run hitting ability and next-level athleticism, he's too good not to do more.

Senior Trindon Holliday is one of the nation's elite all-around playmakers with some of the best wheels in college football and a knack for coming up with the big play. While he's only 5-5 and 164 pounds, he's a flash of lightning who returns kicks, runs the ball, and can be used as a home-run hitting receiver. However, he only caught two passes for 33 yards last year and needs to get the ball in his hands on a more regular basis. A star on the LSU track team who can't be caught on the field, Holliday needs the coaching staff to do a better job of getting the ball in open space. 

6-5, 261-pound sophomore Mitch Joseph is a tough blocker who didn't get any passes thrown his way. Mostly a special teamer, he'll be in the mix in two tight end sets to be more physical than Richard Dickson, and now he has to use his size and his good speed to be a part of the passing game.

Watch Out For ... the freshmen. The receiving corps is solid as is, thanks to LaFell, but to be fantastic, the freshmen have to shine right away. Randle would've been drafted if he was eligible out of high school and he has so much talent that he could be the team's second-leading receiver. Shepard will work mostly as a backup quarterback, but he'll make some huge plays in the passing game. 
Strength
:
LaFell. Even with a tremendous NFL prospect in Demetrius Byrd in the mix, LaFell was by far the star of the passing game. He's a top ten-caliber talent who can make the passing game shine one his own and take away the safeties' attention. The rest of the speedy targets should be able to blossom in one-on-one coverage.
Weakness
:
The No. 2. It's time for Toliver to step up and play up to his prep hype. Mitchell is good, but he didn't produce too often with all the time he saw last season. If it's not Randle early on, Byrd will be desperately missed.
Outlook: Having a tight end like Dickson is a huge plus and there's more than enough speed and quickness to keep defensive backs on their heels, but it's LaFell that makes this group. It's LSU, so there's a track team in the receiving corps, and with the expected improved play from the quarterbacks, this should be a better, more consistent group.
Rating: 8

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: In a major shocker, senior Ciron Black came back for his senior season after finishing second-team All-SEC and after a strong season as the steady 13-game starter at left tackle. There have been varying reports on his draft stock with some scouts projecting him as a late first rounder and others questioning his all-around athleticism as a possible NFL left tackle. No matter what his future at the next level, the 6-5, 325-pounder is a dominating run blocker who hasn't been bad against the SEC speed rushers. He's a smart, tough blocker who should be on the short list for All-America consideration.

With massive Herman Johnson gone, there's a huge hole to fill at left guard. 6-6, 286-pound sophomore Josh Dworaczyk isn't anywhere near the same type of run blocker, but he's smart, tough, and far more athletic. Able to play tackle if absolutely needed, and after seeing work as a third tight end, he should add a different element to the guard spot.


Brett Helms is gone after starting every game at center, but Patrick Lonergan showed this offseason that he's ready to step in and grow into a leader over the next four years. A tremendous, tenacious run blocker, he's strong for his age and didn't look this spring like a redshirt freshman who should become the quarterback of the line. At 6-4 and 288 pounds he has good size and isn't bad on the move.

Returning to his starting spot at right guard for a third year is senior Lyle Hitt, a very smart, very steady producer after moving over from the defensive line. He gets lots in the spotlight with so many other good linemen getting all-star honors, but he's a tough, physical, 6-2, 289-pounder who's one of the team's strongest players.

6-5, 315-pound junior Joseph Barksdale started every game at right tackle last year and is still emerging as a steady all-around blocker. The former defensive tackle is fantastic for the running game, but he has to be more consistent in pass protection. He's good, athletic, and long, with a ton of upside and the potential to be a left tackle next year when Black moves on.


Projected Top Reserves: Very smart and very promising, 6-3, 282-pound sophomore T-Bob Hebert, son of former New Orleans Saint QB Bobby Hebert, will be a part of the rotation at center once he's back from a knee injury. A top prospect, he has the ability to be the starter in the middle unless Lonergan continues to shine. He could play anywhere on the inside and he'll be a key backup, if nothing else.

Redshirt freshman Alex Hurst will be a key backup at both tackle spots. At 6-6 and 332 pounds he has great size and he's good enough to step in and start on the right side if something happens to Barksdale. He has a non-stop motor and he's great at finishing his blocks.

Looking to show what he can do as a possible option at left tackle for next year is Thomas Parsons, a smallish 6-5, 276-pound blocker who can play guard if needed. He'll work behind Black at left tackle, but he'll only see time in a disaster. He has talent and he's a good athlete, but he's not a mauler.

Watch Out For ... the battle at center. Lonergan was great this spring and looks the part as a leader and quarterback of the front five. However, Hebert will need to find a space when healthy. It's a good problem to have, considering either one can move to guard, but it should end up being a good battle for the job this fall.
Strength
:
Durability. LSU didn't have to change its starting five once, with all the starters going from pillar to post. While it's asking a lot to get the same injury luck two years in a row, Black, Hitt, and Barksdale are rocks to build around. However, because of the durability of last year's front five ...
Weakness
:
Proven depth. This was supposed to be a problem two years ago, and last year, and it wasn't. There are a slew of redshirt freshmen needing to shine and players like Hurst and Parsons have to be productive, but there's a massive drop-off from the ones to the twos.
Outlook: Disappointing last year, the pass protection was mediocre and the run blocking was fine, but nothing special. This year's line has plenty of talent with Black and Barksdale a nice tackle pair, and Hitt a great blocker who should get more attention. This might not be a dominant front five, but it'll be great at times.
Rating: 8