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Thursday, May 23, 2013
GTN mailbag: How close is LSU to a title?

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- GTN writer Gary Laney took your questions, which were so plentiful this week we decided to spread the mailbag over two days. Look for more on Friday.

From Georgia Tiger Fan (from Tuesday's chat): How close is LSU to winning another national championship?

Gary Laney: A nice broad question. LSU is going to be in a position in the next two years where, if it plays well and catches a couple of breaks, it could put itself in position to be in the serious national championship conversation in mid November, which is all anybody can ask for.

Zach Mettenberger
If Zach Mettenberger clicks in the new offense this fall, there's no reason LSU can't be in the title conversation in November.
For example, let's look at the coming season. If the offense comes around under Cam Cameron and the defense continues its stellar play (not an unreasonable possibility given the talent that's been recruited into the program, but far from assured based on the attrition), the Tigers will be competitive against everybody on their schedule.

If they do all that, and they catch some breaks, particularly in road games at TCU -- Georgia and Alabama -- they'll have a real shot at the end.

Having said that, this is not a year where LSU will be on the short list of discussed contenders in August, specifically because of the numerous defensive losses. The Tigers had high draft picks on the defensive line, linebacker and the secondary. That's hard to replace.

Similarly, in 2014 the Tigers will be in their first season in the post-Zach Mettenberger era and likely will have losses on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Given a couple of other losses here and there, it's hard to see an LSU team breaking in a new quarterback and facing other losses being a top-five team in the 2014 preseason, either.

Again, that will be a talented enough team to play its way into the picture. I just don't think it'll be on the short list in the preseason.

The next year in which one can see LSU possibly being a preseason top-three pick -- and maybe even a preseason No. 1 -- will be 2015. By then, Mettenberger's successor, whether it be Stephen Rivers, Anthony Jennings or somebody else, will have a year under his belt. The talented 2014 class -- and I'm making a big assumption that LSU lands a lot of these players -- will have had a year under its belt.

That's a team that could have Jennings at quarterback, Leonard Fournette at running back, Malachi Dupre at receiver, Cameron Robinson on the offensive line and a defense loaded with guys like Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Tre'Davious White and others.

Of course, this assumes LSU has the success in the 2014 recruiting class that we think they'll have, considering that LSU's campus is practically under siege with high-end recruits who live nearby this cycle.

Of course, it's way too soon to forecast that far, but just looking how things might ideally line up, that's a year where it really looks like LSU might have something special.

From Joseph (Denham Springs, La.): With Quantavius Leslie evidently (academically) eligible and coming, what do you think LSU's starting lineup will be like at wide reciever?

GL: I don't know if Leslie, the junior college transfer, will be automatically in the lineup if LSU is in its standard two-back, two-receiver package. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham are proven guys who might be seen as their 1-2 combination.

But if LSU goes to three or four wide receivers, I think you'll see Leslie in the game as one of the receivers split wide, allowing proven veterans Landry and Beckham to slide to the slot, where they are more effective.

I wouldn't discount the possibility of seeing some two-man combination of Leslie, Travin Dural or James Wright lined up outside, with Landry and Beckham in the slots. That would give the Tigers two big, downfield targets wide and a couple of smaller, precise route runners who are good after the catch lined up in the slot.

Also, don't discount the impact of tight ends in the passing game, particularly freshman DeSean Smith who, at 6-foot-4 with good speed and very good ball skills, could be an option lined up wide as a big receiver as much as he's a threat running up the seam as a true tight end or H-back type player.