When you lose the amount of starters that LSU did from its 2019 national championship squad, naturally there are going to be doubters. It comes with the territory of going 15-0 and running through most every opponent faced.
LSU lost eight juniors to the 2020 NFL draft including running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson and safety Grant Delpit. Not only will those names to difficult to replace from a talent perspective but as leaders as well.
So with spring practice now right around the corner, here are five players that can most benefit from a successful camp.
Myles Brennan (junior quarterback)
This one is a given and because of its importance can't be left off the list. Brennan has been patiently waiting for three years, first behind Danny Etling and then Joe Burrow.
Now it's his time to prove he can lead this team and that starts by having a successful fall camp. Imagine if Brennan were to come in and light it up during the spring. It'd avoid an entire summer of offseason questions and be a huge weight lifted off of the coaching staff's shoulders.
Brennan will be given every opportunity to win this job in the spring and coach Ed Orgeron said all he wants is for the junior to do his best.
“He has sat patiently… him and his family,” Orgeron said. “They have believed in LSU. I told them we believe in Myles. Now it’s his time. We believe that he is very talented but there are some things that he has to get better at but Joe had to get better his first year too and continue to grow. Like I said before, all we want is the best Myles Brennan and that’s going to be good enough for us.”
Orgeron brings up a good point. Following in Burrow's footsteps is an act very few can live up to. The pressure and expectations that come along with such a task could be overwhelming for most in his position.
But that's something Brennan can control with a strong spring camp. His play will dictate what this offense under Steve Ensminger and Scott Linehan looks like and with all of the talent at the receiver position surrounding him, should have plenty of options in 2020.
Trey Palmer (sophomore receiver)
Palmer is in a unique spot after a freshman season that saw him appear in nine games and catch just one ball. With Jefferson now gone, there's an opening for a speedy receiver in the slot and Palmer is one of the first names that comes to mind.
The sophomore will be competing in the spring alongside the likes of Racey McMath and Jontre Kirklin and will want to assert himself from those guys as early as possible. This will likely be a position battle that goes into the fall as freshmen Kayshon Boutte, Koy Moore and Alex Adams will all want to prove their worth in the slot as well.
But until those young guns arrive, if Palmer can distinguish himself next to Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall on the outside, it could make for a lethal combination come training camp.
Chasen Hines (junior center)
With not much in the way of depth on the offensive line, Hines will be asked to start the spring as the No. 1 center after the early departure of team captain Lloyd Cushenberry. Hines primarily competed for the starting left guard spot with Adrian Magee in 2019 and ultimately lost out to the senior.
After that, Hines slid inside one more time to become the backup center behind Cushenberry. Hines had nearly a whole season to pick the brain of Cushenberry and it will be interesting to follow what kind of jump he makes this season.
There's reason for concern at the center spot if Hines does struggle in spring. Orgeron has talked about adding a grad transfer to fill one of his remaining three spots in the 2020 recruiting class.
Orgeron could opt for this option regardless as the team could use more depth on the offensive line. Another option could be to stick one of the incoming freshmen like Marlon Martinez or Xavier Hill to compete with Hines.
With neither of those guys on campus at the moment the more likely route is that Orgeron finds somebody competent in the transfer portal.
Siaki "Apu" Ika (sophomore nose tackle)
With LSU officially making the switch to a 4-3 defense, it opens up an extra spot for a big guy on the defensive line. Tyler Shelvin will undoubtedly take one of the spots as LSU's best returning defensive lineman.
Ika is someone widely believed to have the upper leg at the other nose tackle spot but needs to prove himself first. Ika played behind Shelvin a good portion of last season but is a player Orgeron is very bullish on for his size (6-foot-4, 354-pounds).
LSU has a slew of freshmen coming in with the 2020 class including Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory and Eric Taylor, all four-star defensive linemen that will be jostling for playing time one on campus. A successful camp from Ika could put those freshman in a position where they're fighting for backup snaps.
Todd Harris (senior safety)
Harris lasted just two games into the 2019 season after suffering a season ending knee injury in a win over Northwestern State. His presence was felt most of last season as LSU had to plug Delpit at deep safety, keeping him from playing close to the line of scrimmage.
With Harris now back in the fold, LSU is deep with depth at safety. Maurice Hampton Jr, who spent the end of last year as a starter in Harris' role, played well and is expecting a big year two jump in his game. Sophomore Marcel Brooks is also reportedly making the move back to safety after giving outside linebacker a go in 2019.
Brooks told the Athletic that his new role can best be described as a safety that rushes on third down, much like JaCoby Stevens did in 2019.
Harris will have to prove in the spring that his knee injury didn't cost him a step. If he doesn't assert himself while Hampton is playing baseball and Brooks is picking up the position again, it could be a long summer of questions at the deep safety spot.