LSU Tigers spring football preview for 2014

LSU Football Spring Practice Start Date:  March 7

Spring Game Date:  April 5

LSU Football tickets

Following a third consecutive season of 10 or more wins, the LSU Tigers are nearly set to kick off their spring drills. With a stellar recruiting haul last month, coach Les Miles has restocked the LSU cupboard with talent, and his Tigers will have their sights set on an SEC West title in 2014.

With the hiring of veteran NFL offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the Tigers vastly improved their offense in 2013, particularly in the passing game. The LSU defense took a step back from previous seasons, however, and was virtually non-existent in crucial road losses to Georgia and Alabama.

In 2014, the Tigers will field a more experienced, battle-tested defense, but the offense must cope with several key departures at the skill positions. These include quarterback Zach Mettenberger, wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, and running back Jeremy Hill. Replacing these highly productive players won’t be easy for Miles and Cameron, but they’ll have no shortage of top-notch talent at their disposal.

Returning Player to Watch:

Rashard Robinson, Cornerback

Thanks to the NCAA Clearinghouse, Robinson was a late arrival to campus last fall. The rangy freshman quickly demonstrated that his abilities were worth the wait, and he immediately worked his way into LSU’s defensive backfield rotation. He turned heads in the Tigers’ late-season tilt with Texas A&M while covering prolific Aggie wideout Mike Evans on the majority of snaps. Robinson limited Evans to just 13 yards on three catches when the two were matched up.

Incoming Player to Watch:

Brandon Harris, Quarterback

With the recent transfer of Stephen Rivers, Harris will compete for the backup quarterback spot this spring as a freshman early enrollee. He isn’t likely to push for the starting job just yet, but Tiger fans will certainly be wowed by Harris’ rocket arm, which was on full display at the Under Armor High School All-American game this past January.

Player Under Most Pressure to Succeed:

Anthony Jennings, Quarterback

Jennings’ first and only start last season was a so-so performance against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. His most memorable moment, however, came in LSU’s regular season finale against Arkansas. After relieving an injured Mettenberger late in the game, the true freshman displayed impressive poise in a tight spot, and engineered a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive. SEC defenses are renowned for their ability to provide all the pressure an opposing quarterback could wish for, and Jennings will be expected to answer the bell in similar fashion going forward.

Things to Watch for in the Game:

Will LSU improve its shaky run defense?

The Tigers defensive front seven took a step back in 2013. Despite the fact the group had numerous veteran starters, run-first offenses such as Alabama, Ole Miss and even Arkansas had their way with LSU up front. If the Tigers are to contend for a title in 2014, their defensive line and linebacking corps must improve.

How good can the Tigers’ veteran offensive line be?

As a former Michigan offensive lineman, Miles prefers to run the football first and foremost. With four starters returning following a decent season in 2013, his LSU offensive line should be more than capable in 2014. The unit will likely be blocking for highly touted incoming running back Leonard Fournette, who was recently named 247Sports National High School Player of the Year.