By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: LSU needed to take advantage of a soft early schedule in 2009, and the team did just that, winning its first five games. Those victories came over the likes of UL-Lafayette, Vanderbilt and Mississippi
State, so while the 5-0 start was certainly promising, college football
analysts needed to see more from Les Miles' team to anoint it a legitimate
A much-anticipated showdown with Florida took place in Baton Rouge on October
10th, and while the Tiger defense played brilliantly, the offense managed a
mere three points in a 13-3 setback. LSU rebounded well with back-to-back wins
over Auburn and Tulane, but fell to 7-2 with a nine-point road loss to
Alabama, the eventual national champ. The Tigers closed out the regular season
with wins in two of the final three outings, including a thrilling three-point
overtime victory over Arkansas in the finale. That moved LSU to 9-3 overall,
including 5-3 in SEC action, and earned the club a berth in the Capital One
Bowl against Penn State on New Year's Day.
In yet another close game, LSU fell short of the Nittany Lions, 19-17.
Although the Tigers finished the campaign allowing only 16.2 ppg, good for
11th place nationally, they ranked dead last in the SEC and 112th in the FBS
in total offense, generating a mere 304.5 total ypg.
OFFENSE: This is a make-or-break year for quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who
needs to emerge as a top flight SEC quarterback for LSU to return to title-
"My wisdom has gotten better from my failure in certain games, and I'm looking
to be a leader for these guys and enjoy my time at LSU and make sure the
seniors leave the field on a good note," says Jefferson. He completed 182-
of-296 passes for 2,166 yards and 17 touchdowns with only seven interceptions
last season, but he was sacked 34 times and needs to get rid of the ball more
quickly. Should he falter, fellow junior Jarrett Lee will enter.
The top returning pass catcher, senior Terrance Toliver, made 53 grabs for 735
yards and three touchdowns a year ago. He is one of five returning starters on
the offensive side of the ball, three of which are offensive linemen. As for
the ground attack, expect a committee approach from coach Miles. Russel
Shepard is the leading returning runner with 277 yards in 2009, but he figures
to play receiver in 2010. Stevan Ridley is a junior banger who will attempt to
punish opponents between the tackles. Keep an eye on Michael Ford, as he has a
chance to emerge as a featured back because of his speed and versatility.
DEFENSE: The strength of the LSU defense may very well be the defensive
backfield, largely because of the presence of corners Patrick Peterson and
"In my opinion, arguably it will be the finest corner tandem in the
conference," says Miles of Peterson and Claiborne.
Just a junior, Peterson could very well leave the Tigers after this season and
become a NFL first-round pick. He is a true shutdown corner and can take away
half of the field. Claiborne is a sophomore who showed tremendous promise as a
There are only four starters back on the defensive side of the ball, including
one up front. Pep Levingston, a senior defensive tackle, will be counted on
for both leadership and elite performance. The best of the linebackers is
Kelvin Sheppard, a senior who recorded 110 tackles in 2009.
The Tigers were actually better against the run than the pass a year ago, but
don't be surprised if the opposite proves true this fall.
SPECIAL TEAMS: LSU has a true weapon is Josh Jasper, an accurate placekicker
who nailed 17-of-20 field goals last season. Another key performer for the
special teams in Derek Helton, as he gets tremendous hang time on his punts,
diminishing the risk of long returns. Peterson is an experienced punt
returner, but it remains to be seen if Miles wants his best player taking
shots from gunners.
OUTLOOK: "I think we'll be a team that will have a very talented, young group
of men in there with some veterans that, if it comes together quickly, will be
ready to play and play well through maybe one of the more ambitious schedules
that I've been around," says coach Miles.
There is certainly talent in place in Baton Rouge, as that is always the case.
But this team is not in position to challenge for the SEC title. In the West
Division, Alabama continues to be the class, while Arkansas appears to be
ahead of LSU at this point as well.