- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Despite what LSU's quarterback situation looks like, the Tigers have a lot going for them this season. Whether those good traits shine brightly this season is up to the Tigers, but to totally ignore LSU as an SEC Western Division contender is lazy.
LSU has a solid defense returning, a hulk at running back and a lot of speed/athleticism at wide receiver. Don't forget about an experienced offensive line and a live tiger mascot running things in Death Valley.
LSU isn't perfect, but expect the Tigers to be a more formidable foe than they were last season.
Here's a look back at the rest of this series from the SEC.
Why LSU will win 10 games in 2015:
Leonard Fournette: After of Georgia's Nick Chubb, Fournette (also a sophomore) might be the SEC's next most talented running back. Now, Fournette still has a ways to go with his on-field maturation, but you saw signs of tremendous growth during the latter part of his freshman season. Fournette averaged 5.2 yards per carry in November and then ran for a season-high 143 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Fournette didn't explode onto the scene, like everyone expected, but he grew into a better player as the season progressed and he's carrying a mighty chip on his shoulder in 2015. He's an elite athlete, who can plow over defenders or sprint past them with track-star speed. Better play from Fournette will take a lot of pressure off of whomever lines up under center at quarterback.
Solid base at receiver: LSU's quarterback issues are well documented, but the Tigers do have a solid crop of receivers. Travin Dural proved to be one of the SEC's best deep threats last season, averaging 20.5 yards per catch (37 receptions), but sophomore Malachi Dupre could be a special, special talent. He had a solid spring and should improve on the 14 catches and 318 yards he had as a freshman. Fellow sophomore D.J. Chark also had a pretty good spring, along with Trey Quinn and John Diarse. ESPN 300 member Tyron Johnson should also make an early impact for the Tigers. Just get them the ball and watch good things happen.
"DB U": The debate shall run throughout the season about who has the top secondary in the SEC, but with some questions residing in the Tigers' front seven, LSU's secondary will be the backbone of this defense. Cornerback Tre'Davious White is a budding star, who should get more recognition this season, and safeties Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams are a fearsome duo. The dismissal of cornerback Rashard Robinson hurts, but the Tigers can make up for it with a wealth of young talent, including sophomore Ed Paris and true freshman Kevin Toliver II. This unit should help keep the Tigers near the top of the SEC (164.2 passing yards allowed per game in 2014) when it comes to pass defense.
Why LSU won't win 10 games in 2015:
Instability at quarterback: Last season, Anthony Jennings started 12 games, but the offense never took off. He averaged 110.4 yards and completed just 48.1 percent of his passes in SEC play. Though he's a decent athlete, Jennings is limited as a passer and we just don't know how much higher his ceiling is. His recent arrest and suspension could throw a wrench into his plans to be the starter again, which means sophomore Brandon Harris has to be light years better than he was last season. Harris, who was a top recruit in the 2014 class, has the tools to be a true SEC starter, but he has to keep his focus. In his lone start last season, Harris completed 3 of 14 passes for 58 yards before getting benched. Harris has shown flashes, but couldn't separate himself from Jennings this spring. If LSU is going to have a chance at competing in the West, its quarterback play has to be threatening, something it wasn't close to being last season.
Phantom pass-rush: Think about this for a second: LSU managed just 19 sacks last season, 11 coming in eight SEC games. Yes, we're talking about a John Chavis defense. The Tigers owned the SEC's top statistical defense, but in LSU's five losses, the Tigers managed just five sacks. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has to find an adequate pass-rush unit or this defense won't live up to its potential. Tackle Christian LaCouture is the team's top returning sack man after he registered 2.5. LSU returns just 2.5 total sacks from other defensive linemen -- defensive tackle Greg Gilmore and defensive end Sione Teuhema. Les Miles likes what LaCouture and Davon Godchaux can do in the middle, but there is concern at both end spots. No real playmakers have emerged, and with Steele running more of a 3-4 scheme, the Tigers desperately need to find edge rushers who can help this defense have more bite.
6dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough