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LSU Team Report
LSU lost more than just 10 talented senior starters from its 2007 national championship team. The Tigers also lost some of their best leaders, character guys who showed the way as LSU overcame two three-overtime losses and an early 10-0 deficit in the 38-34 win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.
The best example was defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. It's impressive enough that Dorsey swept the Lombardi, Outland and Nagurski awards and earned consensus All-America honors, but Dorsey also won the Lott Trophy, given annually to the defensive player with the best combination of athletic excellence and personal character.
Now Dorsey is gone, along with proven players such as running back Jacob Hester, quarterback Matt Flynn, receiver Early Doucet, linebacker Ali Highsmith, safety Craig Steltz and cornerbacks Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon.
"It's a different team, and to pretend that it's not is a mistake," said Les Miles, who enters his fourth season at LSU. "The good fortune of that is there are members on that team who have had great experience, who understand what a run is about, who understand playing in tight quarters, tight games and looking to make plays in those situations. But it's going to be a new cast."
At the same time, the Tigers do return 44 letter winners and 12 starters, led by linebacker Darry Beckwith, defensive ends Kirston Pittman and Tyson Jackson, defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, center Brett Helms, receivers Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd, offensive tackle Ciron Black, offensive guard Herman Johnson and tight end Richard Dickson.
The most significant area of concern is at quarterback, with heir apparent Ryan Perrilloux suspended indefinitely for violating team rules and no other quarterback on the roster with any game experience.
"When you come off a year where you achieved what we have, it is really an advantage," Miles said. "It is not the same team, but the experience was certainly a tremendous one. The attitude has been great. The weight room attendance has been good and the work there is as good as it has ever been. The guys understand what they just achieved. I think this team is very hungry to build off of the success that we were just a part of."
SPRING OBJECTIVES: With so much uncertainty surrounding the return of QB Ryan Perrilloux, LSU has to move on as if he's not coming back. The Tigers have a lot of big holes to fill, including both starting cornerback jobs with the departures of Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon.
BUILDING BLOCKS: Even with the loss of 10 key senior starters, the Tigers still return proven players such as linebacker Darry Beckwith, defensive ends Kirston Pittman and Tyson Jackson, center Brett Helms and offensive tackle Ciron Black. The strongest area is the offensive line with the return of four starters.
SCHEDULE SITUATION: Early games against Appalachian State and Troy could be dangerous for a team in transition, but the real tests start with road games at Auburn, Florida and South Carolina in a four-week period. The good news is that Georgia and Alabama have to come to Baton Rouge.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're exactly in the same position. Guys have to step forward every year and make their mark, and it's their opportunity to play for victory. That's where we're at, and I look forward to this team. It'll be a lot of fun. I have to be real honest. We are about building on the success that we just had. There is nobody in the building that will look forward to anything else but a championship." -- LSU coach Les Miles.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
STARS OF 2008:
QB Ryan Perrilloux -- It remains to be seen if he will do what it takes to earn his way back on the team, but if he does return from his third suspension, he's shown plenty of signs of his considerable talent in a part-time role. Perrilloux has made some poor decisions in his personal life in the past year so he still has a lot to prove on and off the field.
WR Brandon LaFell -- The departure of leading receiver Early Doucet creates an opening for someone to become LSU's go-to receiver. He's shown the speed and raw talent to be that receiver. Now he needs to show the hands and consistency.
RBs Keiland Williams and Charles Scott -- Williams and Scott, as well as Trindon Holliday and Richard Murphy, also showed hints of what they can do in limited roles behind starter Jacob Hester. Will one of these players step up as the main man in the backfield or will LSU rely on tailback-by-committee?
DB Chad Jones -- Jones did some impressive things in a part-time role as a true freshman, often in nickel and dime situations, but the LSU coaches are convinced he has the talent to be a real star at one of the safety spots.
DTs Marlon Favorite and Ricky Jean-Francois -- With consensus All-American Glenn Dorsey moving on to the NFL, Favorite and Jean-Francois must grow into consistent players in the middle of LSU's defense.
QB Jarrett Lee -- Perrilloux's suspension is giving Lee, a redshirt freshman, an excellent opportunity to show what he can do this spring.
CB Patrick Johnson -- With starters Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon completing their eligibility, Johnson has a chance to come in and make an immediate contribution this fall.
WR DeAngelo Benton -- The Tigers also lost leading receiver Early Doucet, providing an opening for Benton, a big receiver (6-3, 205) who spent the 2007 season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy.
DL Chancey Aghayere -- Aghayere is ranked as high as third among the nation's defensive ends. At 6-4, 243 pounds, he has the speed to rush off the edge and the frame to add more size.
--LSU coach Les Miles said there is a chance suspended QB Ryan Perrilloux will be able to return to the team if he meets certain standards. "I really don't want to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about him," Miles said. "His responsibility is to do everything right and get back on this team. ... He could rejoin the team, but I don't know exactly what dates are significant there. You know, middle of spring, after spring, that's not the issue. The issue is to make sure we're doing the right things -- going to class and doing well in the classroom." Miles suspended Perrilloux indefinitely on Feb. 18 for team rules violations such as missing team meetings, classes and other team functions.
--With defensive coordinator Bo Pelini leaving to become the head coach at Nebraska, coach Les Miles promoted returning assistants Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto to co-defensive coordinators and hired Joe Robinson from Arizona as special teams coordinator so Peveto can make the move.
--DT Charles Alexander, who was a starter before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game last season, has returned to practice this spring.
--While Alexander returned, junior OLB Perry Riley sustained a broken bone in his foot. "He'll be fine," Miles said. "It's a four-week issue, and he'll be fine after that." With Riley out and the Tigers looking to replace departed starters Ali Highsmith and Luke Sanders, players such as sophomore Kelvin Sheppard, converted redshirt freshman safety Shomari Clemons and 2008 signee Kellen Theriot are seeing extra practice time.
Previous Report: 02/18/2008