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Monday, June 24, 2013
LSU 10: Imported stars

By Gary Laney

Zach Mettenberger
Georgia native Zach Mettenberger will look to have a big senior season under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- No state produces more NFL players per capita than the Bayou State. And LSU gets the lion's share of those players. It's a winning formula.

But it wouldn't be true to say LSU wins with Louisiana talent and Louisiana talent alone. LSU has been a draw for players outside of the state for years and recent success -- two national titles and three BCS title game appearances since 2003 -- has only increased it. This year's team has plenty of key players from outside the state lines.

So while 14 of LSU's starting 22 positions were held by Louisianians at the end of spring, there are plenty of out-of-staters who will make an impact:

1. QB Zach Mettenberger (Sr., Watkinsville, Ga.): LSU has not signed a Louisiana quarterback since Jordan Jefferson in 2008 and after some recruiting misses and defections had to scramble to find Mettenberger, a former Georgia quarterback who was dismissed from the team and transferred to a junior college. If LSU is to improve offensively, it will be largely because Mettenberger, whose numbers (2,609 passing yards in 2012) were hardly awe-inspiring, improves under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

2. OT Vadal Alexander (So., Buford, Ga.): Alexander became the starter at right tackle because of injuries and departures last season and showed a lot of promise. One of the larger human beings in the SEC -- the latest LSU roster lists him at 6-foot-6, 350 pounds -- Alexander forms a potentially dominant right side along with fellow sophomore Trai Turner.

3. S Craig Loston (Sr., Houston): Loston will be one of the defense's senior leaders as one of two returning starters in the secondary and one of just three returning defensive starters overall. Highly touted coming out of high school, Loston has yet to play like an elite recruit, but with the youth on defense, this might be his year.

4. CB Jalen Mills (So., DeSoto, Texas): After Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off the team last season, Mills stepped right in and hardly played like a freshman. He has the opportunity to carry the banner for the cornerbacks at "DBU." LSU has produced five NFL draft picks in the last three seasons.

5. OG Josh Williford (Sr., Dothan, Ala.): Lost for the second half of last season to injury, Williford looks to be this year's Josh Dworaczyk, who came back from injury and moved from guard to left tackle in 2012 to provide leadership to the line. Williford, like Dworaczyk, is changing positions (left guard, after playing right guard prior to his injury) and, like Dworaczyk, is being asked to be versatile. He could get playing time at center.

6. DT Ego Ferguson (Jr., Frederick, Md.): LSU lost both starting defensive tackles, but many think Ferguson and Anthony Johnson might prove to be a better starting tandem than last year's duo of Bennie Logan and Josh Downs.

7. WR Quantavius Leslie (Jr., Hogansville, Ga.): The junior college transfer is expected to make a quick impact at receiver. While Mettenberger returns all his top receivers, he lacked the big, downfield home run threat. Leslie, listed by LSU at 6-4, is being brought in to play exactly that role.

8. P Jamie Keehn (So., Miners Rest, Queensland, Australia): Keehn has big shoes to fill from fellow Aussie Brad Wing, who left the Tigers after his sophomore year to try his luck in the NFL. Keehn -- a former Australian junior national champion in both the javelin and in rowing -- is a better athlete than Wing.

9. DE Danielle Hunter (So., Houston): LSU lost two outstanding pass-rushing ends in Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. If the Tigers are to have another dominant pass rusher this year, it will likely be the athletic, young Hunter, who barely sniffed the field for significant snaps in what was a deep and experienced position group last season.

10. FB J.C. Copeland (Sr., LaGrange, Ga.): Copeland is one of the SEC's best blocking fullbacks. The question is, how often will LSU use a fullback in Cam Cameron's offense?