No. 14 LSU: Can Leonard Fournette lead the Tigers back to SEC glory? (Dr. Saturday)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

No. 14 LSU: Can Leonard Fournette lead the Tigers back to SEC glory? (Dr. Saturday)

Dr. Saturday will unveil its preseason Top 25 team-by-team during the next 25 days. This list is based on returning starters, schedule and prospects. However, we all know that once the games begin, things can change very quickly. Still, we thought we’d give our best guess heading into the 2015 season. No. 14 LSU 2014 record: 8-5, 4-4 SEC Returning starters: 9 offense; 6 defense 2015 Outlook:   No matter if you blame it on youth or blame it on players lost to the NFL, LSU’s five-loss 2014 campaign fell short of the yearly standard set by Tigers teams in the Les Miles era. Miles’ bunch is still a young one in 2015, but LSU lost just three players to the NFL and have a bevy of returning talent on both sides of the ball, including bruising 230-pound sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette started off slow in his true freshman campaign, but finished on a high note with back-to-back 140-plus yard performances in the Tigers’ final two games. Expect a lot more of Fournette this year, no matter whom Miles picks to man the quarterback position. The candidates in that position battle – Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris – are familiar names, and Miles has voiced his confidence throughout the summer that play from the position will improve this season. Jennings, who started 11 games last season, spent the offseason mired in legal trouble, but the senior has been back in action during preseason camp. He has the experience edge over the sophomore Harris, but local reports indicate that the youngster may have the upper hand in the competition at this point. Don’t expect Miles to tip his hand until the Tigers open against McNeese State on Sept. 5, however. Whoever ends up starting has a talented corps of wideouts to throw to, led by junior Travin Dural and sophomore Malachi Dupre. Defensively, the Tigers lost coordinator John Chavis to Texas A&M. The unit was best in the SEC in total defense last season, but struggled to cause turnovers (only 20 for the season) to help its scuffling offense. Former Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele will lead the unit, with former USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron coaching up the defensive line. They’ll have plenty to work with – especially in the secondary. Jamal Adams and Jalen Mills make up one of the country’s best safety duos while Tre’Davious White, Ed Paris and true freshman Kevin Toliver II man the cornerback slots. That crew should give the front seven plenty of time to get in the quarterback’s face. The team is extremely talented across the board and it will be put to the test with games at Mississippi State and at home against Auburn early in the year. If the Tigers can make it through those two unscathed, it should set up a heck of an SEC West matchup at Alabama on Nov. 7 for a chance to make the 2015 season a special one. Player to watch:   Leonard Fournette, RB Running behind a veteran offensive line and with beefy freshman fullback David Ducre joining the mix, SEC defenses are going to get a heavy dose of Fournette week in and week out. Even after a somewhat slow adjustment from the high school game, Fournette showed as a true freshman why he was rated as the fourth-best player in the 2014 recruiting class by putting up 1,034 yards (a program record for a freshman) and 10 touchdowns in only six starts. With Terrance McGee and Kenny Hilliard off to the NFL, there will be no splitting carries this time around. Miles is ready to let Fournette loose, and there's no reason to believe the sophomore isn't up for the challenge. Breakout player:   Malachi Dupre, WR Fournette and the running game have to be the focus of opposing defenses, leaving chances for big plays in the passing game. If the quarterback play improves like Miles expects it to, this young group of explosive receivers can finally show what it is capable of.  The Tigers return leading receiver Travin Dural and sophomore Malachi Dupre, another five-star 2014 recruit, has a chance to lock up the other starting spot. As a true freshman, Dupre showed his big play ability by averaging 22.7 yards per catch and scoring five touchdowns. Dural is going to attract a lot of attention, so Dupre should see plenty of opportunities in single coverage. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Dupre can use his size to out-duel smaller defensive backs in the red zone as well. Known as a solid route runner, Dupre should be the beneficiary of an improved passing attack.  Miss one of our Top 25? No. 15 Georgia Tech , No. 16 Arkansas , No. 17 Ole Miss , No. 18 Arizona State , No. 19 Oklahoma , No. 20 Arizona , No. 21 Tennessee , No. 22 Missouri , No. 23 Stanford , No. 24 Boise State , No. 25 Wisconsin . For more LSU news, visit . - - - - - - - Sam Cooper is a writerr for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter! Follow @SamDCooper

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