|ESPN.com: NCF Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
On further review, LSU made out as well as anybody in the SEC when it came to holding onto top underclassmen.
Imagine the smile on offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's face when he got the news Sunday that receiver Brandon LaFell was returning to school after he initially declared for the NFL draft. LaFell took advantage of the 72-hour rule that's in place for juniors to change their minds as long as they don't sign with an agent.
Earlier, running back Charles Scott and offensive tackle Ciron Black had already announced that they were coming back. With LaFell joining them and signing on for another year, that means the Tigers will return their three top offensive players next season.
LaFell led the Tigers in catches (63), receiving yards (929) and receiving touchdowns (8). Scott was among the SEC's rushing leaders with 1,174 rushing yards and an SEC-leading 18 touchdowns. Black will be the top returning left tackle in the league next season.
LSU also returns dependable tight end Richard Dickson. So the pieces are in place for the Tigers to make a run in the Western Division if they can solidify the quarterback position. Jordan Jefferson will be the favorite to win that job, but count on incoming true freshman Russell Shepard being a factor at some point next season. He's on campus and will go through spring practice.
The Tigers did lose tackle Ricky Jean-Francois to the draft on defense, but Jean-Francois had a disappointing junior season. There's still plenty of talent on defense for first-year coordinator John Chavis to work with, as LSU's defense tries to shake off what was a forgettable 2008 season.