- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU begins fall camp on Monday morning, the day after players report to campus to begin preparations for the Tigers' Aug. 31 opener against TCU.
Here are the five big questions LSU must answer.
1. Will it be a new offense? LSU has a new offensive coordinator in former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Does that mean the Tigers will break their recent trend of sub-par offense?
LSU finished 10th in the SEC in offense last season and struggled to move the ball consistently in two of its three losses. That's become a recurring theme with the Tigers since their last national championship in 2007.
Forced to go with freshmen quarterbacks in 2008, the Tigers have seemed to be conservative and reluctant to open up the offense since. Cameron, on the other hand, was fired in Baltimore in no small part because it was perceived that he abandoned the running back too often. Perhaps the new offensive coordinator and the traditionally conservative Les Miles offense can find a happy medium, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger can have a breakthrough senior year.
2. Is it a Hill, or a mountain to climb? Most expect running back Jeremy Hill to face some disciplinary ramifications after a second violation of his probation from punching a man outside of a bar near LSU. The question is, will Hill face a short suspension or something longer? That won't likely be known until mid-August.
If Hill, LSU's leading rusher last season, does not come back to the Tigers, the question becomes, who fills the void? The Tigers only have four scholarship running backs even with the immensely talented Hill.
3. Will the defense struggle down the line? LSU lost all four defensive-line starters from last season, including three who are now toiling in the NFL.
Those around the program are ecstatic about the talent the Tigers have coming up to replace departures of Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan. But many of those talented players -- think defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter in particular -- are woefully unproven.
Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, a former top defensive tackle in the nation coming out of high school, is projected by many to be a first-round NFL draft pick after this season despite the fact that he mostly played a backup role last season. Johnson will need to be NFL caliber, and so will a couple of others, if the Tigers are to live up to their lofty expectations on the line.
4. Who's the man in the middle? When you look at the players who have started at middle linebacker for LSU under defensive coordinator John Chavis -- think Kelvin Sheppard and Kevin Minter with a little Jacob Cutrera sprinkled in -- you see names currently on NFL rosters.
The question is, does LSU have an NFL-quality middle linebacker for this year's defense?
Lamin Barrow was a triple-digit tackler last season as a weakside linebacker playing alongside Minter. Chavis tried to keep him outside in the spring and worked junior D.J. Welter, who missed most of last season for academic reasons, in the starting lineup.
Barrow may be an NFL-bound outside linebacker, but can he play inside? And is Welter better than a career reserve at the position? Which one will start, or will a wildcard -- perhaps true freshman stud Kendell Beckwith -- step in?
5. Will a freshman start? Under Miles, LSU has never been afraid to run a true freshman to the field. Redshirting is rarely ever the goal for new players.
On this team, there will be plenty of opportunities for a young player to emerge. In the secondary, Tre'Davious White is expected to push for starting time at a position where Jalen Mills emerged as a true freshman starter last season following the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu.
Look for linemen to push for early playing time. Offensive lineman Ethan Pocic impressed during the spring as an early enrollee and may be an injury away from jumping into the lineup. Christian LaCouture had a similar spring on the defensive side. Look for impressive, young defensive linemen Lewis Neal, Tashawn Bower and Greg Gilmore to quickly challenge for playing time.