The 2019 national champion LSU football team will go down as one of the greatest teams in college football history. Led by Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow and his star-studded cast of weapons in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, the offense burned defenses alive with an inferno of pace and playmaking. The defense was stout, with Grant Delpit, Patrick Queen and K’Lavon Chaisson controlling the play-by-play movements.
Now, every name previously mentioned has left the team. The household names Tiger fans across the state grew to love are gone, leaving the purple and gold faithful with one question as the Tigers get ready to begin the 2020 season:
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of who Ed Orgeron will work with to reload and keep the momentum his team built last year:
Jr. Myles Brennan
Fr. TJ Finley
Fr. Max Johnson
Unless something disastrous happens, Brennan will be the starter come Sept. 26 in LSU’s first game against Mississippi State. The junior has waited his turn behind Burrow, and Orgeron has had nothing but compliments for him.
“You know, I think he played the role of the second-team quarterback very well, that was Joe’s team,” Orgeron said. “Everybody knew it. So he just stood in the background. Now, he’s not in the background. He’s leading.”
Both incoming freshmen Finley and Johnson have impressed in camp. Finley has put his touted arm strength on display, while Johnson has developed a reputation for being mobile in and out of the pocket to make plays when necessary. They should be expected to be Brennan’s primary backups, but neither has emerged over the other thus far through camp.
RSo. Chris Curry
So. Tyrion Davis-Price
So. John Emery Jr.
Fr. Tre Bradford
With the loss of breakout star running back Edwards-Helaire, the Tigers will look to replace a lot of touches left behind in his absence. Curry and Davis-Price will look to be the ground-and-pound backs designed for an interior run game, while Emery Jr. has shown his great ability to make plays in space. All three should be expected to serve equal amounts of time in the backfield. However, each back brings a unique skill set to the table, which contrasts with Edwards-Helaire’s jack-of-all-trades style.
“Are they going to be like Clyde? Probably not,” Orgeron said. “But can we do the same things? Yes.”
Freshman Bradford has received many compliments throughout fall camp and should be expected to contribute to the backfield, as well.
Jr. Terrace Marshall Jr.
Sr. Racey McMath
Sr. Jontre Kirklin
Fr. Kayshon Boutte
Fr. Koy Moore
So. Trey Palmer
So. Jaray Jenkins
Fr. Alex Adams
A wide receiver group that was extremely deep coming into the fall was dealt a heavy blow with the opt-out of the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase. But even so, the Tigers still will have plenty of options at receiver. 2019 standout Marshall Jr. will be a key cog in the Tigers sustained production, and seniors McMath and Kirklin have given valuable experience to the Tigers’ receiver rotation. Orgeron has been very fond of Boutte and Moore thus far.
“Racey’s doing a great job for us,” Orgeron said. “Racey’s going to be a starter for us. Kirklin is doing good, Boutte’s doing a good job. All those are doing a great job. I feel like we are really, really talented at the wide receiver position.”
Fr. Arik Gilbert
Fr. Kole Taylor
RJr. Aaron Moffitt
The key here is Gilbert. The 6’5 athlete will be expected to contribute significantly to the pass game, filling a Thaddeus Moss-like role in helping spread defenders out and helping his teammates get open. He’s a big redzone target, so expect him to be a favorite of Brennan’s this year.
Behind him, the job is open for a lot of people, but the standout is fellow freshman Taylor. At 6’7, he’s also shown receiving prowess and could see the field next to Gilbert.
LT: RSo. Dare Rosenthal
LG: Jr. Ed Ingram
C: Sr. Liam Shanahan
RG: Jr. Chasen Hines
RT: Sr. Austin Deculus
Reserves: RFr. Anthony Bradford, RFr. Kardell Thomas, Fr. Charles Turner, RFr. Thomas Perry, Fr. Xavier Hill, Fr. Marcus Dumervil, Fr. Marlon Martinez
While every starter has had experience playing college football in each position, only one of them was a starter on last year’s team, right tackle Deculus. Rosenthal, Ingram, and Hines have all seen significant playing time in the last two years here, and Shanahan is a seasoned graduate transfer from Harvard. However, none of these four players have been an everyday starter in the SEC.
Behind them, none of the reserves have played any significant SEC football. The talent is there, but growing pains will be necessary. Joseph Evans, who was becoming the Tigers first-off-the-bench offensive line reserve, was moved to the defensive line last week, so it will be interesting to see who will be the first to jump in should someone miss time with an injury or a case of COVID-19.
RE: RSr. Andre Anthony
DT: Sr. Glen Logan
DT: So. Siaka Ika
LE: Sr. Travez Moore
DE Reserves: Jr. Ali Gaye, Fr. BJ Ojulari, Fr. Phillip Webb, Fr. Ray Parker, Fr. Dylan Thompson, So. Jarrell Cherry
DT Reserves: Fr. Jacobian Guillory, Fr. Jaquelin Roy, Fr. Evans, Fr. Eric Taylor,
RSo. Nelson Jenkins III
The most notable thing out of the defensive line room (aside from the opt outs of Tyler Shelvin and Neil Farrell Jr. and the permanent absences of Justin Thomas and TK McLendon), is the emergence of Anthony and Moore to the defensive ends.
Orgeron has been extremely impressed with performances from the two seniors so far.
“I really like Andre,” Orgeron said. “I really like the work that he’s doing. Travez Moore is starting at left end right now. It’s Travez’s senior year, and he’s done a good job.”
In the middle, LSU will have Logan and Siaki “Apu” Ika returning and two very talented five star recruits behind them in Guillory and Roy. We’ll have to wait to see if one of them overtakes one of the starters once the season starts.
Sr. Jabril Cox
Jr. Damone Clark
Jr. Micah Baskerville
Reserves: RSr. Ray Thornton, So. Devonta Lee, Fr. Josh White, Fr. Antoine Sampah
The standout linebackers have been Cox and Clark. Expect them to be every-down players and very vocal leaders on the defense. Baskerville has emerged as the third linebacker option, but he will be in and out as LSU switches from its 4-3 base to its nickel coverages
So. Derek Stingley Jr.
Fr. Elias Ricks
Nickel: So. Cordale Flott
Reserves: So. Jay Ward, Fr. Raydarious Jones, Fr. Dwight McGlothern, Sr. Lloyd Cole
The best cornerback in the country returns for his sophomore campaign, and while Stingley Jr. will have his own normal responsibilities to take care of, he has also gained one more: mentoring the next great member of DBU, freshman Ricks. The two should make for one of the best cornerback duos in the SEC.
Flott has jumped ahead for the nickel spot, where he played well last season. Ward has been complimented, as has newcomer McGlothern. Expect them all to play some time in LSU’s reputable secondary.
Orgeron has said that the Tigers have one scholarship remaining and that fans should expect them to use it on a transfer cornerback to fill up some more depth if possible.
Sr. JaCoby Stevens
So. Maurice Hampton Jr.
Reserves: RJr. Todd Harris Jr., RSr. Cameron Lewis, Fr. Jordan Toles
Stevens will serve as the captain of the defense, as LSU’s most versatile defender returns for his senior year. He, Cox, and Stingley Jr. have named to the Chuck Bednarik watchlist. The special athlete will play every down and will be the voice for this defense.
Behind him is sophomore two-sport athlete Hampton Jr., who has impressed in fall ball to the point where he will start opposite Stevens. This is a position of depth for the Tigers, who have veterans Harris Jr. and Lewis behind him, as well as talented freshman Toles.
So. Cade York
Jr. Avery Atkins
Sr. Zach Von Rosenburg
LSU’s specialists will remain the same from last year. York returns as the Tigers’ field goal kicker, coming off a season of 21 field goals and 146 total points scored, while Atkins will continue to handle the Tigers’ kickoff duties. Von Rosenburg is back for one more year as the Tigers’ punter and will also serve as the placeholder for York.