- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Tigers enter the 2011 season with some of the best defensive talent in the country:
Biggest reason for hope: Talented defense and The Hat
LSU's defense might be a bit young, but it could be the most athletic in the country. Cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu showed that they each have the ability to make big plays in the secondary now that Patrick Peterson is gone. Senior safety Brandon Taylor should be a force in the defensive backfield as well. Linebackers Ryan Baker and Stefoin Francois look like they'll be be even better this fall. On the defensive line, Sam Montgomery is coming back from injury at defensive end and if he's totally healthy, he'll be chore for opposing tackles to handle. Newcomer Anthony Johnson had a really solid spring at defensive tackle and should contribute this fall. But more than anything, Les Miles has Lady Luck on his side. Toss in some mighty tasty grass, and Miles is in hog Heaven (or Tiger Heaven). The way he defied logic to win games last season amazed everyone and I'm not sure his luck has run out.
Biggest reason for concern: Quarterback and middle linebacker
Jordan Jefferson might have directed the offense more smoothly and improved his passing mechanics, but we need to see how he does against players not wearing purple and gold. Jefferson was one of the worst statistical passers in the SEC a season ago, but somehow managed 11 wins. This season, a slip up by Jefferson will leave Miles contemplating benching his senior for transfer Zach Mettenberger, who is probably the best pure passing option the Tigers have. However, Mettenberger doesn't have the experience Jefferson does. The Tigers also have a gaping hole at middle linebacker now that Kelvin Sheppard is gone. Safety Karnell Hatcher and Kevin Minter, who was Sheppard's backup last year, got reps at middle linebacker this spring, but the spot has yet to be solidified, which has LSU's coaching staff a little worried heading into summer.
3dSam Khan Jr.