SEC: Brett Helms

LSU spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

LSU Tigers
2008 overall record: 8-5

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 0

Top returners

QB Jordan Jefferson, RB Charles Scott, WR Brandon LaFell, TE Richard Dickson, OT Ciron Black, DE Rahim Alem, LB Perry Riley, CB Patrick Patterson, CB Chris Hawkins, S Chad Jones

Key losses

FB Quinn Johnson, WR Demetrius Byrd, OG Herman Johnson, C Brett Helms, DE Tyson Jackson, LB Darry Beckwith, PK Colt David

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Charles Scott* (1,174 yards)
Passing: Jarrett Lee* (1,873 yards)
Receiving: Brandon LaFell* (929 yards)
Tackles: Harry Coleman* (71)
Sacks: Rahim Alem* (8)
Interceptions: Chris Hawkins* (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 at Washington
Sept. 12 Vanderbilt
Sept. 19 La.-Lafayette
Sept. 26 at Mississippi State
Oct. 3 at Georgia
Oct. 10 Florida
Oct. 24 Auburn
Oct. 31 Tulane
Nov. 7 at Alabama
Nov. 14 Louisiana Tech
Nov. 21 at Ole Miss
Nov. 28 Arkansas
New chief in charge: First-year defensive coordinator John Chavis didn't waste any time placing his imprint on the LSU defense this spring. Nicknamed "Chief” during his time at Tennessee, Chavis restored the intensity, emotion and hustle to the practice field, and the LSU defenders responded. Chavis was a perfect fit for what LSU coach Les Miles was looking for in a defensive coordinator.

Jefferson makes his move: Jordan Jefferson showed his potential at the end of last season as a true freshman. But this was his first spring practice, and he didn't disappoint. He was more consistent as a passer, made plays scrambling and also established himself in the huddle. Make no mistake. He's the Tigers' starting quarterback and ready to take on a much larger role in the offense.

Getting the edge back: Somewhere along the way, LSU lost its edge last season, particularly on defense, that was so vital in the Tigers' run to the 2007 BCS national championship. This spring in Baton Rouge was all about getting that edge back, and Miles likes what he saw from his team. There was competition for spots, better leadership and nobody taking anything for granted.

Fall questions

Shepard's role: Russell Shepard is a quarterback at heart, but may have to do most of his damage at receiver next season. The explosive true freshman proved this spring that he can do some serious damage in the open field. Now it's up to LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton to figure out different ways to get him the ball. He'll definitely be behind center some in the Wildcat package.

Looking for receivers: Senior Brandon LaFell is coming off a big season and is the anchor of the Tigers' receiving corps. But he needs help. They can't wait on the Bayou to see highly touted signee Rueben Randle in an LSU uniform. He could start right away. The Tigers also need more production from the likes of Terrance Toliver, Jared Mitchell and Trindon Holliday.

Defensive line depth: LSU's defensive line depth took a hit with the loss of Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois and Kirston Pittman. The Tigers got some good news when tackle Charles Alexander received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and tackle Drake Nevis has a chance to be one of the breakout players in the league. But some of the younger players have to keep coming in order to build the depth back.

The best offensive line in the SEC is ...

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
7:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I hate to make a call at this point. Alabama has been outstanding, but so has LSU.

Auburn defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks paid the ultimate compliment to the LSU line after the game last Saturday when he said, "They play on a whole other level than most offensive lines you go against."

Indeed, LSU center Brett Helms is one of the best centers in college football, while left tackle Ciron Black and left guard Herman Johnson are both ticketed to be high selections in next year's NFL draft. Black is just a junior, so he'll have a decision to make.

Alabama has its own dynamic duo in tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell. Like Black, Smith is a junior and will be one of the highest rated offensive line prospects in the draft come April.

LSU passed its first big test against an Auburn front-seven that has several future NFL players. Alabama's comes this Saturday against a Georgia team that leads the SEC in rushing defense. The Bulldogs are allowing just 45.8 yards per game on the ground. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, has out-rushed their first four opponents 947 to 220 yards.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the offensive line has been the catalyst for the Crimson Tide in their 4-0 start.

"When we haven't been able to do other things well, we've been able to run the ball fairly effectively and have controlled the line of scrimmage," Saban said. "Certainly that will be a challenge against a quality defense like Georgia, which has the best rush defense in the league probably, at least right now. They have a lot of good players and great speed. But our guys have taken the bull by the horns up front and been the real catalyst for the leadership on our team."

One other note of interest to come out of the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday: it's obvious that Saban has a great deal of respect for the team Mark Richt has put together at Georgia. When breaking down the Bulldogs, Saban called quarterback Matthew Stafford "probably the finest quarterback in America."

Makes you wonder.

Maybe Saban was the coach back in July that picked Stafford over Tim Tebow as the first-team quarterback on the coaches' preseason All-SEC team. Whoever it was, he was prophetic. Stafford has had the better season up until now.

Just refer to LSU as "D-Line U"

July, 23, 2008
7/23/08
8:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Junior Al Woods is projected to be a top pro prospect -- and he may not even start for LSU.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A few more tidbits from Day 1 at the SEC media days:

•  LSU center Brett Helms had the perfect answer for how a team could lose a player the caliber of Glenn Dorsey and return the next season with perhaps the best defensive line in the country.

"I was talking to Glenn yesterday, and he was saying this is 'D-Line U.' That's what we call it now," Helms said. "For the past few years with Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten and some of those guys, we just keep reloading here."

The Tigers are loaded up front, all right. Junior defensive tackle Al Woods is projected as a top 10 pick in the 2009 NFL draft by ESPN's Todd McShay [Insider], and Woods isn't even a probable starter heading into the season.

•  Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom joked that he won't miss Dorsey.

"If anybody else in this conference had lost Dorsey, they'd be in real trouble," Croom said. "LSU just puts another one in there."

Croom said Dorsey was one of three defensive linemen in his coaching career that he was truly afraid of going into a game.

The other two? Reggie White and Howie Long.

Some pretty heady company.

•  Bobby Johnson has earned a dubious distinction at Vanderbilt. Entering his seventh season, Johnson is now the school's longest tenured coach since George MacIntyre, who coached the Commodores' last bowl team in 1982.

Johnson has guided the Commodores to 15 wins in the last three seasons, their best three-season win total since 1992-94.

"I remember in my first press conference, I think the very first day I was at Vanderbilt, some guy said, 'How long do you think you got before they fire you?' " Johnson recounted. "Really, he did. I said, 'I don't know.'

"The thing is that our coaching staff has invested a lot into this program. They've worked extremely hard. We want to see it be successful. We're hoping we can get it done. I think we made strides toward that. I think we were extremely close last year. A couple games go either way, and we're in a bowl."

The reality is that Vanderbilt may struggle this season when you look at everybody the Commodores lost, but 2009 could finally be the year they break their bowl drought.

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