Biggest Storylines Heading into LSU's Fall Camp
LSU head coach Les Miles wants to win more trophies, and despite being picked to finish third at SEC media days and having lost a multitude of talent to the NFL, Miles can see more titles in the future.
"We return 16 starters: six on offense, seven on defense, three on special teams. We're a team that's really on the cusp of an opportunity to win championships," he said.
LSU's much-anticipated fall camp begins in less than a week. The Tigers have gone an impressive 20-6 over the past two seasons combined, but neither resulted in a SEC championship.
A new era will begin in Baton Rouge with the arrival of the 2014 recruiting class, the best the head coach has ever put together in his career. Miles and the coaching staff have had limited interaction with them due to NCAA rules, but they will get the chance to practice at full roster strength once fall begins.
Here are five big storylines to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.
Who Will Start at Quarterback?
The biggest question mark at LSU this offseason surrounds the quarterback position. The college football world is waiting to see whether sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris is named the starter for the opener against Wisconsin.
Les Miles reiterated at SEC media days that he has yet to make a decision at quarterback. Miles has spoken highly of both Jennings and Harris and their ability to run offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's offense.
The buzz surrounding Harris has grown since he outperformed Jennings in the spring game, but Jennings' high school coach, Scott Burton, says the sophomore feels confident.
“He feels like he’s had an opportunity to turn this into his team,” Burton said, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate. “Anthony feels like this is his job, this is his team.”
Miles and Cameron will not rush to an announcement, which will only allow the anticipation to grow in Baton Rouge. The winner will be whoever performs better in the fall.
How Will True Freshmen Factor In?
LSU head coach Les Miles will not hesitate to play players from his highly touted 2014 recruiting class.
Then again, playing true freshmen is nothing new for him.
"We played 15 true freshmen this year, the year before we played 15 true freshmen and we will probably play 15 true freshmen again this year based on the fact there is going to be some great opportunities for guys to come in and fit into the two deep and compete," Miles said earlier this summer, per Terrance Harris of The Times-Picayune.
Miles mentioned 16 potential true freshmen by name in his opening statement at SEC media days. That number could be even higher considering LSU's lack of depth at critical positions.
No player on LSU's roster has more pressure to perform than 5-star running back Leonard Fournette, who is the most highly touted recruit Miles has ever had. Fournette should dazzle once the pads are strapped on for fall camp.
How Fournette, quarterback Brandon Harris and the rest of the incoming freshmen fit in will be a challenge for Miles that could ultimately decide the fate of the 2014 season.
Who Will Step Up at Receiver?
The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry cannot be understated. The duo accounted for over 70 percent of LSU's receiving yards last season. The Tigers must now find new wideouts to fill the gaping holes Beckham and Landry have left behind.
LSU will look to leading returnee Travin Dural to be the No. 1 option. Dural only caught seven passes last season, but he showed great improvement in the spring. The Tigers could use some help from other returnees such as John Diarse, Avery Peterson and Quantavius Leslie as well.
Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will need the 2014 class of receivers to help as well.
Malachi Dupre, the 6'3" 5-star talent out of New Orleans, could crack the starting lineup against Wisconsin.
The speedy Trey Quinn will probably be next in line.
Young or old, LSU needs playmakers on the outside to keep the defense honest. If not, the offense will likely be stagnant.
Who Will Make Plays on LSU's Defense?
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis needs to find playmakers on defense.
The team's defense accumulated 19 turnovers in 2013 after producing at least 30 in each of the two seasons prior. Last year's unit featured a porous secondary and an inconsistent pass rush, both of which are not normally associated with a Chavis-led defense.
The Tigers have potential All-SEC performers on all levels. Defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Tre'Davious White are just a few that have elite talent.
Fall camp will be a crucial time for Chavis to evaluate who should play where, especially in the secondary.
Will Jalen Mills Play?
John Chavis' job of piecing together the LSU secondary becomes tougher without Jalen Mills in the picture.
Mills is LSU's most versatile defensive back. He started games primarily at cornerback as a freshman and sophomore, but he made the permanent move to safety this offseason.
But Mills' future at LSU now remains uncertain.
Mills was arrested for second degree battery in early June and released less than 24 hours later, according to Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune. LSU suspended Mills indefinitely and his status with the team remains unclear.
Even if LSU reinstates Mills, it is doubtful he plays in the opener against Wisconsin. In Rickey Jefferson, Corey Thompson and Ronald Martin, the Tigers have three safeties with the starting experience to fill the two positions. Highly touted freshman Jamal Adams is another option.
Mills can do a little bit of everything at defensive back. While the Tigers have talent across the board to fill the void, they are more unpredictable with him on the field.