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LSU Team Report
LSU lost 10 senior starters from its national championship team, including seven players who were selected in the NFL draft.
It will be tough enough replacing defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, the fifth pick of the draft, as well as wide receiver Early Doucet, running back Jacob Hester and cornerback Chevis Jackson, who went in the third round, and safety Craig Steltz, who went in the fourth round.
With the way spring practice concluded, though, the toughest player to replace might be a seventh-rounder, quarterback Matt Flynn.
Junior quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who started in LSU's victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship game, missed the spring after being suspended for the third time in a year. This time, he missed too many classes and required team meetings and weight-training sessions.
That left redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch competing for the job in the spring and plenty of questions about Perrilloux's future role with the team.
"I think Ryan's handling his business and doing right things," LSU coach Les Miles said. "If that continues, which we expect it would, when it comes to the fall, it'd be a three-way competition for who the starter is."
Whoever plays quarterback will be surrounded by talented skill players and an offensive line with four returning starters. The defense returns only five starters but the coaches remain convinced the Tigers have plenty of talent to fill most of the new holes.
Talent is one thing but the Tigers were loaded with leaders on both sides of the ball last season, which helped them overcome two three-overtime losses and come back to win the national title.
"We don't carry the burden of defending (the championship)," Miles said. "The 2007 team was the national champion, no question. We want to compete and see how good we can be in 2008. The experience we have will certainly benefit them. They understand how hard they have to work, that everyone will be playing their best against us, as they have for several years. The motivation should be a healthy one."
--OG Herman Johnson, a first-team All-SEC selection in 2007, leads an offensive line that returns four starters.
--LB Darry Beckwith often played under the public radar last season on a defense with so many stars, but he was a second-team All-SEC pick after recording 65 tackles with 6.5 for losses. Now he must take on a leadership role.
RB Richard Murphy -- The Tigers are deep and talented at tailback but no one player has stepped up to say he will be the go-to back with the loss of Jacob Hester to the NFL. Murphy came the closest with a huge spring game, with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and a 53-yard touchdown reception on a swing pass.
WRs Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell -- The Tigers also lost Early Doucet to the NFL and Byrd and LaFell spent the spring playing like go-to receivers.
OT Joseph Barksdale -- Sophomores Barksdale and Jarvis Jones spent the spring competing for the right tackle spot. Both players got a lot better but Barksdale came out on top.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I watched to see how the young guys would progress (in the spring), and I think they progressed extremely well. Both Lee and Hatch will play a lot of football at quarterback and have really improved. I like the two guys that I had in spring." -- LSU coach Les Miles, on the quarterback competition between redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch after would-be starter Ryan Perrilloux missed the spring due to his third suspension.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2008 OUTLOOK: The Tigers are talented enough to repeat as SEC West champs but anything else will require numerous young players to step up and become dependable leaders and playmakers. No position is a bigger concern right now than quarterback and that one spot could prove to be a major stumbling block for the Tigers.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense is loaded with skill players and the line returns two starters, but would-be starting quarterback Ryan Perrilloux missed the spring due to his third suspension and the other two quarterbacks -- redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch -- have a lot to prove.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Tigers lost six starters off one of the nation's top defenses, and while the coaches are confident the returning talent can fill those holes, the defense still faces some big concerns. The line should be strong despite the loss of first-round draft pick Glenn Dorsey at tackle. Beyond middle linebacker Darry Beckwith, the Tigers are uncertain at linebacker. The Tigers have four safeties they can count on but the new corners, Chris Hawkins and Jai Eugene, didn't do anything to secure starting jobs in the spring.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: K Colt David was a unanimous first-team All-SEC pick in 2007 but the Tigers have to get better on kickoffs. If the spring was any indication, the Tigers may have a tough time replacing P Patrick Fisher. WR Trindon Holliday is a dangerous asset on kickoff returns but FS Chad Jones has to make better decisions and hang on the football on punt returns.
--Junior QB Ryan Perrilloux led the Tigers to a victory over Tennessee in the SEC championship game last season but he now has more suspensions (three) than starts (two). The third suspension came before spring practice after Perrilloux missed classes and meetings and continued until after spring practice. Perrilloux has since been re-instated but coach Les Miles insisted Perrilloux still suffered a tough punishment by missing the spring. "The punishment that's still down here is one that instead of a returning starter and a guy that should be a starter and labeled a starter, he's going to have to be competing like heck for his job," Miles said. "So there's loss. And he certainly needs to put himself in a position to come back and compete."
--DT Charles Alexander started the 2007 season as a starter but went down with a knee injury after three games. He is expected to be ready to go in August.
--LSU's search for new outside linebackers took a hit in the spring when injuries limited Jacob Cutrera and Perry Riley from taking part in contact work.
Previous Report: 03/29/2008