2009 record: 9-4, 3-5 (2nd in SEC West)
2009 bowl: Lost to Penn State 19-17 in Capital One
2009 final AP/coaches' ranking: 17/17
Coach: Les Miles (51-15, 6 years; 79-36 overall, 9 years)
Offensive coordinator: Gary Crowton (4th year)
Defensive coordinators: John Chavis (2nd year)
Returning offensive starters: 6
Returning defensive starters: 4
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Stadium: Tiger Stadium (grass; 92,400)
2010 schedule: [view]
2010 roster: [view]
2009 statistics: [view]
Offensive: The skill-position lineup has thinned a bit, but LSU returns junior Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. In his second full season as the starter, Jefferson must step up and emerge as one of the SEC’s best players at his position. He will need assistance from the running game, although there isn’t a clear go-to back. Expect senior wide receiver Terrence Tolliver (53 receptions) to be Jefferson’s top target. Also watch for sophomore Russell Shepard, a converted quarterback who could settle into a do-everything role. Two starters return to the offensive line.
Defensive: Only four starters return to this unit, entering its second season under coordinator John Chavis. The secondary figures to be a major strength. Junior cornerback Patrick Peterson, an All-America candidate, already has a lockdown reputation. Senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, the team’s leading tackler (110), will play a prominent role while the others weather a learning curve. Up front, senior defensive tackle Lazarius Levingston is a major building block — and LSU will need to build around him until the other linemen prove their mettle.
Specialists: Senior place-kicker Josh Jasper is one of the nation’s best (17 of 20 on field-goal attempts). Senior punter Derek Helton had a 40-yard average, although Jasper is often employed as the “pooch punter.’’ The return game will miss lightning-quick Trindon Holliday.
Coaching: Les Miles has a national championship on his resume (from the 2007 season), but the last two seasons have been generally unfulfilling.
Heisman hopefuls: No one at LSU will have the necessary preseason buildup to sustain a serious campaign for the Heisman.
Overview: It is essential for LSU to perform better in November, when the SEC West championship will likely be on the line. Overall, the Tigers have been 17-9 in the last two seasons. Not bad. But not enough to satisfy Tigers fans. LSU desperately needs a bounce-back season, although it’s never a bargain to operate in the SEC West.
The Fighting Irish have a promising future based on coaching, current talent, recruiting, title path, and program power.
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
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