Lindy’s Top 25 Countdown: No. 13 LSU Staff

August 31, 2015 at 4:22 pm.

Tailback Leonard Fournette (7) is a force for LSU. (Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports)

Tailback Leonard Fournette (7) is a force for LSU. (Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports)



2014 RECORD: 8-5 SEC RECORD: 4-4 (T-4th, West)

STADIUM: Tiger Stadium (102,321)

LOCATION: Baton Rouge, La.

COACH: Les Miles — At LSU: 103-29, 10 years; overall: 131-50, 14 years





RETURNING STARTERS: 16; 7 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Leonard Fournette, WR Travin Dural, LT Jerald Hawkins, RT Vadal Alexander, LB Kendell Beckwith, CB Tre’Davious White, SS Jamal Adams, FS Jalen Mills

PRIMARY STRENGTHS: As always, LSU will be able to run the ball. With Fournette, the Tigers will simply be able to do so to a heightened degree. Dural provides a real threat in the passing game. Beckwith is a formidable linebacker, and the well-stocked secondary — with veterans like Mills and White, and younger players such as Adams and Kevin Toliver — promises to provide vice-like coverage.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: There’s no escaping the fact the passing game must improve. If not, LSU could be in for another 8-5 record that matched the worst in Miles’ tenure. The defensive line, under the auspices of a new coach and coordinator, has been reworked and must improve its pass rush.


After losing five games last season, including three of its last four, LSU is out to revitalize a passing attack that ranked 114th nationally, averaging 162.9 yards per game.

Quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris remained locked in a battle for the starting spot this fall. But it’s still up in the air just who the starter will be against McNeese State, although Harris seems to be the leader.

Jennings started all but one game last year, but he completed just 49 percent of his passes (111 of 227). Harris misfired in his one woeful start against Auburn, but he has made tremendous strides this fall according to head coach Les Miles.

“I think there’s real competition there and I’m encouraging it,” Miles said when asked if Harris has separated himself following a recent scrimmage. “I think they’re both improving, and I think they need to improve.”

There are no worries about a running game that features sophomore Leonard Fournette, who rushed for a school freshman record 1,034 yards last season, getting better and stronger through the season. He capped his campaign by scoring three touchdowns, including one on a 100-yard kick return, in a Music City Bowl loss to Notre Dame.

LSU has a pair of capable receivers in junior Travin Dural and sophomore Malachi Dupre. They have the potential to complement Fournette and keep the Tigers from becoming too one-dimensional.

The offensive line, led by tackles Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander and center Ethan Pocic, will be a team strength. True freshman Maea Teuhema, 6-5, 327-pounder, has been a pleasant fall camp surprise and could in the mix for playing time at guard.


Two new coaches in coordinator Kevin Steele and line coach Ed Orgeron have been entrusted with seven returning starters.

Chief among those are junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and senior free safety Jalen Mills. But Mills suffered a broken fibula in fall camp that will keep him out of action early in the season.

The secondary is stocked, with sophomore cornerback Tre’Davious White, another returning starter, promising sophomore strong safety Jamal Adams and highly touted freshman cornerback Kevin Toliver. Safety Rickey Jefferson will also see an expanded role early in the season.

The hard-hitting Beckwith returns as LSU’s top tackler with 77 total stops. Experienced senior Lamar Louis will join Beckwith in the linebacking corps, along with senior Deion Jones.

There will be two new starting ends sophomore and junior Tashawn Bower is in line to take one of those two spots. Lewis Neal is competing for a spot as well.

The defense needs a better pass rush, and that figures to start with the ends. Big-time freshman signee Arden Key could quickly bolster a Tigers’ pass-rush that produced jut 19 sacks last season. He’s been a fall standout in camp.

Just as the competition has been fierce at end, so it has been at tackle. Junior Christian LaCouture and senior Quentin Thomas seemingly have emerged from a crowded field that will continue to compete for playing time.


As with the offense, talk here must begin with Fournette, who ran back 24 kickoffs for 625 yards, averaging 26.0 yards per return. White was equally as impressive in returning 25 punts for 273 yards, a 10.9-yard average that included a 67-yard touchdown return against Kentucky.

Junior place-kicker Colby Delahoussaye made 11 of 15 field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder with three seconds left to beat Florida. Australian-born senior punter Jamie Keehn is back after averaging 44.9 yards on 71 attempts. Keehn was a coaches’ All-SEC second-team selection.


LSU has plenty of speed, strength and athleticism to regain its place among the nation’s elite. That won’t happen, though, as long as the Tigers remain too one-dimensional offensively. Fournette, alone, as proven in the bowl loss to Notre Dame, is not enough. The quarterbacks must be more productive than a year ago, particularly since the defense doesn’t appear as rock solid.


CB Kevin Toliver: A five-star recruit from vaunted Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., Toliver has superior technique and footwork to go along with his 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash. The early enrollee is in the right place at the right time as the secondary has openings to fill.

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