Key returning starters: QB Brandon Harris, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Malachi Dupre, C Ethan Pocic
Bruising back Leonard Fournette, the nation’s most explosive rusher, returns to gallop behind a steady offensive line alongside wideouts Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. But this group’s potential lies on the shoulders of inconsistent quarterback Brandon Harris, who completed just 53.6% of his throws in 2015.
Key returning starters: DE Lewis Neal, LB Kendell Beckwith, CB Tre’Davious White, S Jamal Adams
LSU’s deep secondary features five players with legitimate starting experience, including talented safety Jamal Adams (four interceptions in 2015). Expect more versatility up front in coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme, allowing skilled ends Lewis Neal and Arden Key to stand up in pass-rush situations.
Leader in rushing: Fournette. As punishing a runner as any in the country, Fournette set LSU single-season records for rushing yards (1,953) and rushing touchdowns (22) as a mere sophomore.
Leader in receiving: Dupre. The junior hauled in 43 catches last year, as well as six of Harris’s 13 touchdown passes.
Leader in tackles: Beckwith. The lone returning starter in a thin linebacker corps, Beckwith amassed 84 tackles and 10 tackles for loss last fall.
Leader in interceptions: Adams. The former Freshman All-America selection earned second-team All-SEC honors a year ago after snagging four picks, third-most in the conference.
Opposing coach's take
“New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is renowned for using multiple looks, but he’s got so much talent that he could just play base defense if he wanted. A hulking line will once again rotate plenty of fresh bodies. Their linebackers are solid and have lots of speed. The secondary is as talented as it gets with future NFL picks in [senior] cornerback Tre’Davious White and [junior] strong safety Jamal Adams. Hopefully you can find a way to run the ball against them, but their front seven is so good that’s a tough task.
[Junior] Leonard Fournette isn’t just the best running back in the country—he’s the best to play the position in years. But they’re not only a run-the-ball-down-your-throat offense. They do a really nice job with the play-action pass, which is hard to defend when Fournette is always one broken tackle away from the end zone. They’ve got a talented receiving corps to go along with a massive, physical offensive line, but the biggest question is quarterback Brandon Harris [54% completions, 13 TDs, six INTs]. He’s a capable passer, and now that he’s got a year of experience as a starter, he should be better. From the start to the end of last season, he made a lot of progress.
I don’t see a lot of weaknesses in this team. They’ve got the talent to not only win the SEC, but also the national championship.”
Coach Les Miles was able to lure Aranda, one of the nation's most touted defensive coordinators, to Baton Rouge. Aranda, the team’s third DC in three seasons, orchestrated the nation’s top scoring defense (13.7 points per game) at Wisconsin last fall, his third season in Madison. At LSU he’ll have nine returning starters to make his aggressive 3-4 scheme hum.
18: Returning starters (nine on each side), most of any team in the Top 25.
5: Defensive backs with starting experience. Last year the quintet combined to pick off six passes.
10: Number of the Tigers’ 12 opponents that had winning records in ’15, giving LSU one of the toughest schedules in the country.
5: Consecutive defeats to Alabama, LSU’s longest such streak since 1981, when the Tide won their 11th straight.
1,953: Rushing yards last year for Heisman Trophy contender Leonard Fournette (6.5 per carry, 22 TDs), third-most in the nation.
|Sept. 3||vs. Wisconsin (in Green Bay, Wisc.)|
|Sept. 10||Jacksonville State|
|Sept. 17||Mississippi State|
|Sept. 24||at Auburn|
|Oct. 8||at Florida|
|Oct. 15||Southern Miss|
|Oct. 22||Ole Miss|
|Nov. 12||at Arkansas|
|Nov. 19||South Alabama|
|Nov. 24||at Texas A&M|
Top 25 rankings
|24||San Diego State|