GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:
Even with all the glowing reports about LSU, a favorite to contend for the BCS national championship again, nobody is going to declare the Tigers national champion at the start of August.
While the Tigers indeed appear loaded and ready to make another title run, they aren't without their own set of question marks. Here are the top five that have to be answered.
1. QB experience: There has been a Zach Mettenberger love fest going on since the national championship game. And give the new Tigers quarterback credit because much of it has been earned through hard work and impressive showings at spring practice, the Manning camp and even SEC media days. But it remains true that neither Mettenberger nor backups Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall have ever taken a meaningful snap in an SEC game.
2. Linebacker experience/ability: LSU was rather ordinary at linebacker last season, if also experienced (three seniors). This year, there is little starting experience aside from middle linebacker Kevin Minter. A large recruiting class promises to upgrade the talent, but how long will it take for them to gel?
3. Secondary depth: The loss of two starters and a key reserve to the NFL and three underclassmen who transferred out of the program left LSU top-heavy with secondary stars like Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid, but short on proven depth. The Tigers are a couple of key injuries away from being woefully young in the secondary.
4. Unproven deep snapper: LSU's been so good in special teams in recent seasons, it's easy to take for granted the consistency of departed deep snapper Joey Crappel. True freshman Reid Ferguson will take his place. Will he deliver the same worry-free results?
5. Go-to receiver?: LSU not only has a new quarterback in Mettenberger, it also has a huge hole to fill with the departure of top receiver Rueben Randle to the New York Giants, plus the loss of its best pass-catching tight end, Deangelo Peterson. Sophomore Odell Beckham, Jr. is the heir apparent for the "go-to" role. He put up good numbers (41 receptions, 475 yards, 2 TDs) as a true freshman while benefiting from the extra attention secondaries gave to Randle. Can he still be productive as the guy defenses are most likely to try to stop?