LSU Tigers: JC Copeland

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU is targeting many of the top athletes in the ESPN 300, some because the Tigers' strong brand name makes it an attractive option and others because the fertile Louisiana recruiting base is strong this year, even by the state's lofty standards.

Leonard Fournette
Alex Scarborough/ESPNLSU has its eyes on top recruit Leonard Fournette.
But what needs is LSU trying to meet?

That's a little trickier to figure out at LSU than many other schools because the frequency of underclassmen departures. But we can take a guess based on likely attrition.

LSU 10: Imported stars 

June, 24, 2013
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Zach MettenbergerAP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherGeorgia 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:


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LSU Tigers spring wrap

May, 6, 2013
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LSU TIGERS

2012 record: 10-3

2012 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 3; special teams: 1

Top returners: QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, RB Alfred Blue, OL La'el Collins, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham, LB Lamin Barrow, SS Craig Loston, CB Jalen Mills

Key losses: DE Barkevious Mingo, DE Sam Montgomery, DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Minter, FS Eric Reid, CB Tharold Simon, OT Josh Dworaczyk, C P.J. Lonergan, K Drew Alleman, P Brad Wing

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Jeremy Hill* (755 yards, 12 touchdowns)

Passing: Zach Mettenberger* (2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns)

Receiving: Odell Beckham* (43 receptions, 713 yards), Jarvis Landry* (56 receptions, 573 yards)

Tackles: Kevin Minter (130)

Sacks: Sam Montgomery (8)

Interceptions: Tharold Simon (4)

Spring Answers

1. A new offense: The arrival of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron saw the Tigers throwing the football around all spring. It's clear LSU's sometimes anemic passing offense will be asked to carry a larger load this fall, with Mettenberger returning along with his favorite deep threat (Beckham) and his go-to possession receiver (Landry).

2. Barrow's a leader: After losing Minter to the NFL draft, LSU will look to its other 100-tackle linebacker for leadership. Barrow was productive all spring while staying at the weak-side linebacker spot where he excelled in a 104-tackle junior season. He could possibly move to middle linebacker in the fall.

3. More power: Even in a more open offense, LSU should be able to run the ball. With La'el Collins moving from left guard to left tackle and Josh Williford replacing him at left guard (sliding over from right guard), the Tigers will be able to start four offensive linemen who have started at least the majority of a season somewhere on the line. With fullback J.C. Copeland and four proven running backs returning, don't look for Cam Cameron's offense to abandon the run.

Fall questions

1. The Hill situation: LSU's leading rusher was suspended from the team indefinitely after he was arrested for his part in a bar fight that happened while he was on probation for a previous charge. If Hill serves a long suspension or is not on the team, the Tigers will be down to three scholarship running backs. Would that force the Tigers to change their offensive identity?

2. A new front four: The Tigers lost all four starters on the defensive line, including three (plus a backup) who were picked in the NFL draft. LSU has recruited well, but a lot of unproven talent will have to perform up to expectations for the defense to be as good as it was in 2012. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who played starter-like snaps as the third tackle last season, will take on a leadership role.

3. Special teams dominance?: Under Les Miles, LSU has usually outplayed opponents on special teams. But with Wing giving pro football a try and kicker Alleman finished, there are serious questions about whether LSU can be as consistently good as years past. Walk-ons will be asked to replace Alleman's consistency.

LSU 10: Post-spring top 10 

April, 30, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- With LSU's spring practice and the NFL draft done, who are the Tigers' top 10 players? Let's see.

[+] EnlargeLamin Barrow
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLamin Barrow seems poised to become the leader of the LSU defense in 2013.
1. LB Lamin Barrow: LSU had eight players drafted from its 2012 defense and Barrow, with 104 tackles last season, was more productive than many of those guys. A starter at weakside linebacker in 2012, he should end up as the Tigers' middle linebacker and defensive leader.

2. QB Zach Mettenberger: The senior had a good spring, throwing for big yards in touchdowns in all of the scrimmages while looking mostly comfortable in Cam Cameron's offense. LSU might lean on its passing game more this season.

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LSU spring football primer

March, 14, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Here are things to know as LSU starts spring practice:

Practice dates: March 14, 15, 16, 19, 21, 23 (scrimmage), 25, 26 and 28. After spring break, resumes April 9, 11, 13 (scrimmage), 16, 18 and 20 (spring game).

What's new: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will install his new offense, and four new starters will man the defensive line.

What's old: The Tigers have eight returning starters on offense, led by quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Offensive outlook:
Starters returning (8): QB Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, FB J.C. Copeland, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham, LT La'el Collins (moved from left guard), LG Josh Williford (moved from right guard), RG Trai Turner, RT Vadal Alexander.

New starters: TE Dillon Gordon or Logan Stokes, C Elliott Porter. Key reserves -- QB Stephen Rivers, RBs Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and Terrance Magee, FB Connor Neighbors, LT Jerald Hawkins, RG Fehoko Fanaika, RT Ethan Pocic, WR James Wright, Kadron Boone, John Diarse and Travin Dural, TE Travis Dickson.

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Spring preview: Cameron's influence

March, 8, 2013
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Cam Cameron Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesCam Cameron's NFL experience is likely to help the LSU Tigers.
As LSU prepares to begin spring practice March 14, GeauxTigerNation will take daily looks at aspects of the spring camp. This is the fifth in the series:

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With LSU bringing in a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron, the question is, how will it affect the offense?

Over the years, Tigers teams under Les Miles have had strikingly similar offensive identities. The power running game has been a staple. The downfield passing game has usually been there. Since defensive coordinator John Chavis brought a dominant defense to town in 2009, the willingness to play conservatively and exchange field position with superior special teams has been part of the identity.

With Cameron and his Air Coryell background things might be tweaked. Cameron made his name as the offensive guru of the San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens and served as head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Indiana University.

Here are some common threads that might continue to be traits of his offense at LSU:

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Blocking back Copeland getting carries

September, 11, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The carries keep coming for LSU fullback J.C. Copeland.

After getting just two carries -- for no yards -- in his first two seasons, the junior already has two rushing touchdowns in his junior season with six carries for 35 yards in the first two games.

"I worked on it all summer," said Copeland, a converted defensive tackle. "I worked on catching the ball, hanging on to the ball, being a better overall player."

He had little background in anything involving ball skills. When offensive line coach (and now offensive coordinator) Greg Studrawa asked Copeland if he had ever played fullback during his freshman year, Copeland said he had in high school, but only as part of a "crazy package" his prep team put together. He embraced the move and got playing time, splitting time last season with senior James Stampley. But he was mostly called on to be a battering ram at the position.

This season, not only have his snaps gone up as he's become the unquestioned starter, but also because of a change of offensive focus. After the departure of Jordan Jefferson, a quarterback whose talents led to the Tigers running a lot of plays from the spread, LSU has been more of an I-formation team this season with drop-back passer Zach Mettenberger at quarterback. That means more plays for Copeland because fullbacks would normally not be part of the a spread personnel package.

LSU has run only 30 offensive plays this season that have not included the use of a fullback. Opponents have struggled to slow down a rushing attack averaging 5.7 yards a carry, most of which come behind Copeland, who has slimmed down to a still-powerful 272 pounds this season.

"It's great," running back Kenny Hilliard said of following Copeland. "A fullback, 270, in front of you, crushing linebackers ... you know what I'm saying? I'll run behind him any day of the week. I just love what he's doing."

Now, Copeland added ball skills to his game. With two touchdowns in two games on the ground, the next step would be to catch a pass, something coach Les Miles said is in his repertoire.

"He's capable," Miles said. "It's an advantage to have a guy who can run as well as he does and block as well as he does and, we'll see if we can get him some receptions because we really think he's that guy."

ULM provides lesson: Don't think for a minute that Louisiana-Monroe's upset of Arkansas won't be a topic of conversation at LSU this week as the Tigers prepare to play Idaho.

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