LSU Football: Projecting Who Will Win Tigers' Open Starting Positions

Carter BryantContributor IJune 13, 2014

LSU Football: Projecting Who Will Win Tigers' Open Starting Positions

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    LSU quarterbacks Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings
    LSU quarterbacks Brandon Harris and Anthony JenningsUSA TODAY Sports

    LSU head coach Les Miles' annual replacing of players that were selected in the NFL draft during the offseason has become as certain as death and taxes.

    Miles has the arduous task of finding new starters to step in and be productive right away. He will be aided this season by a talented incoming class of freshmen, but he does not have much time to determine who is best fit to play right now. 

    LSU has a number of talented players returning from last year's team as well. The Tigers will need them to come into their own next season.

    Here is a quick of preview of who will be asked to fill open vacancies from last year's team. 

     

    *Stats and rankings via 247Sports, LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

     

Quarterback

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    Winner: Brandon Harris

    The LSU quarterback battle between freshman Brandon Harris and sophomore Anthony Jennings has been one of the most intriguing storylines in the SEC. 

    Jennings is the more experienced signal-caller of the two. He served as the backup to Zach Mettenberger last season and showed some flashes of brilliance

    But despite his youth, Harris will win the job because he is the more talented player. He worked with quarterback guru George Whitfield this summer, who has had a high success rate with his clients. 

Running Back

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    Winner: Terrence Magee; Connor Neighbors (fullback)

    There is no LSU player facing more pressure to produce next season than 5-star freshman Leonard Fournette. Despite never playing a college down, Fournette is expected to make big plays right away. 

    Miles will get the ball to Fournette in the season opener against Wisconsin, but expect senior Terrence Magee to be the starter. Magee finished as the second-leading rusher last season behind All-SEC performer Jeremy Hill. Fellow senior Kenny Hilliard will also get touches. 

    Connor Neighbors is one of the most underrated fullbacks in the country. Neighbors is not flashy, but he is an effective lead blocker and reliable receiver out of the backfield. Sophomore Melvin Jones will serve as Neighbors' backup. 

     

     

Wide Receiver

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    LSU receiver Travin Dural celebrates a game-winning touchdown catch against Arkansas.
    LSU receiver Travin Dural celebrates a game-winning touchdown catch against Arkansas.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Winners: Travin Dural, John Diarse

    Replacing Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. will not be easy. The duo combined for 2,345 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns and were both selected in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL draft. 

    Travin Dural will be the likely No. 1 candidate guy. Dural only caught seven passes in 2013 but showed promise in the spring game with five catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, one from Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings each. 

    John Diarse redshirted last year due to injury and had more issues staying healthy during the spring. Diarse has great ball skills but lacks separation ability. 

    Diarse will start against Wisconsin, but, much like at running back, expect a true freshman sensation to take over the starting role. Malachi Dupre, a 5-star talent out of New Orleans, has the potential to lead the Tigers in receiving. 

     

     

Right Guard

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    LSU guard Evan Washington
    LSU guard Evan WashingtonPhoto Credit: 247Sports

    Winner: Evan Washington

    First-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has a tough task ahead of him. Grimes must make a difficult decision between seniors Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington for the only void remaining on the offensive line. 

    Fanaika ran with the first-team offensive line in the spring game, but Grimes said after the game it in no way indicated who will eventually be the starter. Washington rotated with Fanaika and played admirably. 

    Washington has been with the program longer and also filled in for former starter Trai Turner when he went down with an injury against Auburn. His tenure alone could win him the job. 

    Grimes will be fine with either player, but expect him to go with the more experienced player in Washington. 

     

Defensive Tackle

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    LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCouture
    LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCoutureRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Winners: Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture 

    LSU lost both starters at defensive tackle in Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson. The duo played below expectations, but they also played a high volume of snaps. 

    LSU's backups were Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture, who played sparingly. Expect them to be the starters this season, but they will also be rotated out more often. Redshirt freshmen Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore could both have breakout seasons and eventually be the starters.    

Strongside Linebacker

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    LSU linebacker Lamar Louis
    LSU linebacker Lamar LouisUSA TODAY Sports

    Winner: Lamar Louis 

    LSU lost leading tackler Lamin Barrow this offseason. Barrow's production will be missed, but the Tigers have had to replace their top tackler every offseason since 2009.

    The Tigers shifted returning starter Kwon Alexander from strong-side to weak-side linebacker to fill in Barrow's void. Junior Lamar Louis looks to be the likely candidate to be the new starter on the strong side. Louis accumulated 20 tackles in limited snaps last season. 

    Similar to defensive tackle, defensive coordinator John Chavis will substitute at linebacker. Debo Jones, Kendell Beckwith and Ronnie Feist will all see the field next season.

     

     

Safety

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    LSU safety Ronald Martin
    LSU safety Ronald MartinUSA TODAY Sports

    Winners: Jalen Mills, Ronald Martin

    The safety situation for LSU was thrown through a loop earlier this week when Jalen Mills was arrested for allegedly punching a female, according to RedStickNow.com. LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette told WAFB that Mills has been suspended indefinitely. 

    #LSU SID Michael Bonnette tells @wafb Jalen Mills "has been indefinitely suspended from the football team".

    — Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) June 11, 2014

    It is hard to predict whether Mills will remain with the Tigers. If he does, expect him to start alongside senior Ronald Martin. The duo ran with the first-team defense at the spring game.

    LSU does have talented replacements to take over for Mills if need be. Corey Thompson and Rickey Jefferson both have starting experience and would be bona fide starters at most schools across the country. Also keep an eye out for 5-star incoming freshman Jamal Adams

     

    *Follow Carter Bryant on Twitter @CarterthePower.  

     

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