College football in the FBS officially kicked off this weekend, marking the start of what is to be a wild, never before seen season in the sport's history. LSU faces a challenging three weeks on the practice field ahead of its Sept. 26 matchup with Mississippi State as it strives to find a starting lineup.
With opt outs hitting the team, the outlook of the AP preseason No. 6 team in the country is a lot murkier than it looked even two weeks ago.
"I don't remember the turnover and I didn't have to face that at Miami and USC, but I'm sure we had em, but it's next man up," coach Ed Orgeron said last week. "That's why we've got to recruit, but that's why you're at LSU. You have some good young players that can play. I know our guys are going to step up, but it is a lot of turnover, but it's a great challenge for our staff."
The offense hasn't faced much turnover, with receiver Ja'Marr Chase being the only opt out at the moment. However, his decision does change the way this offense will look as it takes away the "go to" guy for quarterback Myles Brennan.
Here's how we think the starting lineup will look come week one against the Bulldogs as presently constructed.
QB: Myles Brennan
Brennan is the unquestioned starter at this point in preseason camp. He's proven to be a leader on and off the field and has made great strides in his development as well. Just ask teammate JaCoby Stevens, who says he's seen a totally different and more confident Brennan since the team's return to campus in June.
"We have 100% confidence in Myles and it's cool to see how Myles has kind of grown into his role," Stevens said. "I know as a recruit we came in together and I was always excited for Myles because he was breaking a lot of records in Mississippi. He came in, waited his turn and adjusted to the circumstance. He could've been one of those guys to leave and enter the transfer portal but he stuck it out and we expect to see big things from Myles.”
With the loss of Chase, Brennan's chemistry with Terrace Marshall, Racey McMath and Arik Gilbert becomes all the more important if LSU wants to jump out of the gate swinging. The Tigers have three winnable games early against the Bulldogs, Vanderbilt and Missouri to work out any potential kinks.
Brennan said in an interview with media members a few weeks back that locking down the chemistry is the single most important goal during camp.
"I think the next month is gonna be huge, because I mean this is the first time that we've been able to go against the defense since spring ball," Brennan said. "We've been working and we've been throwing for a long time now, really since quarantine. I think this next month and these next few weeks are going to be really important for us to get that timing down."
RB: Chris Curry
The running back position early in the season will be one to monitor closely. Initially thought to be a three horse race between Curry, John Emery and Tyrion Davis-Price, Orgeron said freshman Kevontre Bradford can be added to that list.
Curry still feels like the favorite to draw the start but there's no denying the Tigers feel comfortable playing all four in some capacity early in the season. It's been speculated in recent weeks that Curry could be a dark horse candidate to earn the No. 18 jersey.
His inspiring 16 carry, 90-yard performance against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl win earned him the respect of everyone in the locker room and will be given plenty of opportunity in 2020.
WR: Terrace Marshall, Racey McMath, Kayshon Boutte
This group looks completely different with Chase no longer anchoring the unit. What made Chase so important was his ability to not only be the reliable option whenever a play broke down but he was the guy that opposing defenses would prepare their schemes around.
It would've given teammates like Marshall, McMath and Boutte less attention and better matchups as the second, third or fourth option. Now that no longer exists, defenses will likely be a little more aggressive in approach, which could be good for the receivers.
Keep in mind Marshall hauled in 13 touchdowns on just 46 receptions and McMath proved to be a reliable No. 4 behind Chase, Marshall and Justin Jefferson a season ago. The slot receiver will be the one position that is up for grabs but we'll give the nod to the freshman Boutte, who impressed in practice last week.
If defenses feel they can be more aggressive without Chase, the LSU receivers will have a great opportunity to take advantage and prove it's a formidable group.
TE: Arik Gilbert
No surprise here as the freshman's role will only be amplified with the departure of Chase. With Chase, Gilbert would've proved to be a matchup nightmare at the tight end spot and that hasn't changed much without Chase as well.
Possessing electric speed for a 6-foot-5, 250-pound pass catcher, Gilbert should make a run at SEC Freshman of the Year. He's earned rave reviews across the board since arriving to campus and will be a prime target for Brennan this season.
"Having him out there is crazy, I mean he runs like a receiver but he has the body type of a tight end," Brennan said. "I don't think he's missed a single pass since the start of camp. He's an outstanding athlete and we are very, very, very grateful to have him on the roster."
OL: Dare Rosenthal, Ed Ingram, Liam Shanahan, Chasen Hines, Austin Deculus
The position group that faced the most question marks heading into the offseason, it seems that the unit has settled in on a starting lineup. Austin Deculus and Dare Rosenthal will man the tackle positions as the two players who have plenty of experience starting last season.
Deculus started all 15 games for the Tigers while Rosenthal started a few games early in the season, filling in for Saahdiq Charles during his suspension. Ed Ingram also will have a starting role after spending much of last season as a primary backup inside.
Ingram did play a ton in 2017, starting in 12 games as a freshman. The big bit of news to come out of the o-line in recent weeks is the emergence of Harvard transfer Liam Shanahan at center.
Shanahan has taken the first team snaps and has the position all but locked up, which has allowed junior Chasen Hines to slide over to his more natural position of right guard.
"He is one heck of a player, very smart, very intelligent," Brennan said. "He's picked up the offense very quickly and we're all excited to have him on board. I feel really close with our offensive line. Those guys have to be my best friends and they are and I have to depend on them just like they depend on me."