Tough losses provide great motivation
One minute, 22 seconds.
One minute and 22 seconds was all it took for quarterback Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers to drive the length of the field and bury a 37-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to pull off the upset against the LSU Tigers.
A vaunted defense with all the talent in the world was worked over by one of the best offenses in the ACC, and now the majority of those players are headed off to the fame and fortune of long NFL careers, hopefully.
How will coach Les Miles build his defense back up? How will his offense fare with another year under the belt of the majority of the returners?
It only took one minute and 22 seconds to bring about months of second-guessing in Baton Rouge. Check out what the team might look like come 2013, when the Tigers should be motivated to dominate everyone for a full 60 minutes.
First things first, how will the pieces of the defensive puzzle fit in 2013?
Coach Miles always trots out one of the nation's most talented and downright ferocious defensive units in the nation.
Equally as important as tenacity and talent, however, is depth. When Miles kicked embattled superstar Tyrann Mathieu off the team, the program hardly skipped a beat -- something most teams would not be able to say after losing a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Things might not be so easy for Miles and his staff in 2013. Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon, Kevin Minter and Joshn Downs headline the guys leaving school for the NFL.
All the young men listed here were starters on a unit that held opposing offenses to a stout 17.5 points per game, good for 12th-nationally.
In all, only four starters are returning on defense for LSU.
Replacing so many uber-talented players will not be easy. Look for Miles to turn to defensive back Jalen Mills, who finished fourth on the team with 57 tackles as just a freshman, to take on a bigger role with the team.
Mettenber, Hill headline a plethora of returners on offense
Whereas the team loses just about everyone on the defensive side of the football, Miles' offense basically get a do-over following a below average -- at best -- year in which the team ranked near the bottom in several offensive categories.
Most notably, the team's 200.5 passing yards per game was good for No. 94 in the nation. The 6-foot-5, 222-pound Zach Mettenberger was hailed as a savior for a team that had struggled passing the football over the previous few seasons. However, he himself struggled to get acclimated to SEC play following a stint at the junior college level.
Luckily, he was able to hand the ball off to Jeremy Hill, the true freshman who emerged following a torn ACL that ended Alfred Blue's season. Hill finished the year with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns despite not receiving a single carry in three of the team's first four games.
With Blue returning and Kenny Hilliard also in the mix with Hill, LSU will once again enjoy a crowded -- and talented -- backfield.
That running game strength will ease the pressure on Mettenberger. That said, a full offseason working with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry should do wonders for all three of them. Both were sophomores in 2012 and should ride high next season.
But the team must replace its leading scorer
Never discount the importance of having a solid, dependable kicker on your football team.
In 2012, senior Drew Alleman was the only Tigers player to attempt a field goal or extra point all season. He made 21 of his 29 kick attempts with a long of 44 yards and he did not miss an extra point.
His 107 points are 35 more than anyone else scored in 2012, and Miles must find a way to replace them next season.
The battle for the spot might end up being between James Hairston, who will be a junior next season, and two that will both be sophomores in Colby Delahoussaye and Trent Domingue.
Basically, it's all a numbers game
The team is only set to lose two starters on offense, but seven on defense.
That said, again, Les Miles has proven he can recruit defensive guys that can step in and make a different when called upon. Thus, defensively-speaking, most expect the team to be fine, even if there are bumps along the road, and especially in the early going.
On the other hand, Miles simply has not shown the same type of propensities towards his offenses over the years, and the unit has understandably struggled.
With returners at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and all along the offensive line (center PJ Lonergan is the only starter not returning), is there enough experience to dominate in a way rarely seen in Baton Rouge?
With so many question marks defensively, Tigers Nation is counting on it.