The future is now

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Three of LSU's prized freshmen: WR Trey Quinn (far left), WR Malachi Dupre (middle) and RB Leonard Fournette (far right). Photo courtesy of lockerdome.com.

If you listen closely, you can hear the faint roars of a tiger in the distance.

Though barely audible now, that roar will continue to grow louder and louder with every week that passes. And on Aug. 30, it will be so fierce that everyone will know that LSU football is officially back.

Much of the excitement that surrounds the Bayou Bengals has to do with the fresh new faces that will fill their roster in week one.

In just one day, LSU was able to quickly change the mood in Baton Rouge from disappointment and dread to optimism and inspiration.

After an ugly 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl and another mass exodus of players leaving for the draft, the Tigers desperately needed a spark, and they got it on National Signing Day.

LSU pulled in the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation--which was headed by the nation's top recruit Leonard Fournette.

Picking up the St. Augustine phenom instantly gives LSU one of the best rushing attacks in the nation heading into this season.

Fournette was the nation's No. 1 recruit for a reason. Recently, there have been many that have compared him to the Vikings' Adrian Peterson. Peterson exploded onto the scene in 2004 and finished second in Heisman voting as a freshman at Oklahoma.

It remains to be seen if Fournette can duplicate Peterson's memorable freshman campaign, but he surely won't have to do it all on his own.

He will be joined by veteran tailbacks Terrence Magee and Kenny Hillard. Magee had a breakout year in 2013--rushing for 614 yards and eight touchdowns.

This three-man attack should be more than enough to compensate for the early departure of Jeremy Hill--who rushed for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.

But what will make LSU's rushing attack all the more dangerous will be the offensive line that will be paving the way for these three backs. Four of their five starters return from last year--including All-SEC tackle La'el Collins.

At receiver, the Tigers are very short on experience, but they make up for it in talent.

LSU lost arguably the best receiving duo in the nation with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The tandem combined for 132 catches for 2,289 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The only experienced receiver that returns is Travin Dural--who had just seven catches for 145 yards and two scores last year. However, he will be joined by three very talented freshmen.

Malachi Dupre was the nation's top receiving prospect this year and has gotten rave reviews this offseason. He will be joined by the nation's third-ranked receiver in Trey Quinn and the 228-pound Tony Upchurch.

The quarterback position is where all of the question marks come in for the Tigers.

LSU lost two-year starter Zach Mettenberger--who threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns last year, and they're left with a sophomore and a true freshman to pick up the slack.

Anthony Jennings became a hero last year when he came into the Arkansas game after Mettenberger went down with a knee injury. He led the Tigers on a 99-yard game-winning drive.

He looked like a future star but in his first start against Iowa in the Outback Bowl, he struggled mightily--going just 7-19 for 82 yards with one interception. He struggled again in the spring game.

Conversely, true freshman Brandon Harris showed great potential and during the summer, he worked with famed quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr.

This is a quarterback competition we will see play out throughout the year.

LSU had a down year defensively in 2013 after losing so many starters to the NFL. Much of their struggles came in the secondary where they were shuffling in so many young players.

Fortunately for the TIgers, these yougsters continued to mature throughout the season and now with a year of experience under their belts, LSU's defense has the potential to be one of the SEC's best.

The Tigers lost their two starting defensive tackles in Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, but they do return Quentin Thomas, Maquedius Bain and freshman Travonte Valentine could also make an impact.

They will be led at defensive end by Jermauria Rasco and ultra-athletic Danielle Hunter. Freshman Deondre Clark could see ample snaps as well.

Though the Tigers lose middle linebacker Lamin Barrow, their corps is still deep with the return of Kwon Alexander, D.J. Welter, Deion Jones, Ronnie Feist and impressive true freshman Clifton Garrett.

It's in the secondary where LSU should be the most improved.

There are still unknowns with the current suspension of starting safety Jalen Mills, but two impressive sophomore corners return in Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson.

Other important pieces returning are Dwayne Thomas, Corey Thompson, Jalen Collins and Ricky Jefferson.

They will also feature a few true freshman that could make an early impact in safeties Jamal Adams and Ed Paris. Adams was the second-ranked safety in the 2014 recruiting class, and Paris was ranked fourth.

Cornerback Russell Gage could also see plenty of action.