LSU Tigers: CFN College Football Preview 2021

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College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the LSU football season with what you need to know.

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
LSU Football Schedule Analysis
– LSU Tigers Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 5-5 overall, 5-5 in SEC
Head Coach: Ed Orgeron, 6th year, 45-14 (62-41 overall)
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 29
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 5
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 1

LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Offense

There was no way to possibly match the historic steamroller of a 2019 attack, but what 2020 LSU had to do with its offense was beyond a rebuild – and it showed.

The O went from becoming the standard for offensive greatness to a not-that-bad 434 yards and 32 points per game. It was a wildly inconsistent offense that defined the idea of growing pains, and now there’s a whole lot of talent returning for new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz.

As the very least, Peetz – a young coach with mostly NFL assistant experience – will try to get the 2019 offensive style back after working last year with Joe Brady at Carolina.

The quarterback situation became a whole lot clearer this offseason. It was supposed to be Myles Brennan’s gig going into last year – and he was brilliant in just three games of work. He threw for over 1,100 yards with 11 touchdowns and three picks, but he was lost for the year with an abdominal injury. It should be his job again now that he’s back … maybe.

TJ Finley had some big moments and looked the part of a potentially special passer, but he transferred to Auburn. That all but locked up at least the No. 2 job – and more likely No. 1A – for Max Johnson, a 6-5, 219-pound sophomore who wasn’t quite accurate enough, but he threw for almost 1,100 yards with eight scores and a pick. He finished off last year with three touchdown passes in the win over Florida, and threw for 435 yards and three scores in the win over Ole Miss.

The receivers are there to make the passing game go – but this is still a slight area of reloading. Leading pass catcher Terrace Marshall is gone, but sophomore Kayshon Boutte led the team with 735 yards and five scores, 6-4 Jaray Jenkins averaged over 17 yards per catch, and … it’s LSU. There’s plenty of high-end talent working into the mix – even if the experience isn’t quite there.

Tight end Arik Gilbert took off for Georgia – that’s a massive hit – but 6-7 Kole Taylor is a massive target, and there’s a deep group of decent options behind him. There’s no Gilbert, though.

The ground attack was a problem. It sputtered too much averaging just 122 yards per game, but at least the veteran backs are in place to do more if the line can get the job done – that’s the hope.

232-pound Tyrion Davis-Price is a big back who led the team with 445 yards per carry, and John Emery averaged over five yards per carry. However, the 1,217 rushing yards were the fewest by a mile in a long, long time – more on that in the Keys To The Season.

The loss of projected OT Dare Rosenthal to the transfer portal is a hit – he’s got top 50 NFL Draft pick potential – but 6-6, 311-pound Cam Wire is a decent veteran who should be fine in the role.

The other four starters are expected to be back, and there’s way, way, way too much next-level talent to be so mediocre again. Expect a night-and-day improvement overall.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
LSU Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Defense

LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The drop-off in offensive production might have taken over the spotlight, but it’s the defensive side the fell off the map. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left to take over the head coaching gig at Baylor, there were a slew of huge personnel losses, and now there’s a redo after finishing 124th in the nation in total D, allowing 492 points and 35 points per game.

DC Bo Pelini is gone, and in comes Daronte Jones, a mostly-NFL assistant who spent last year coaching the Minnesota Viking defensive backs. The improvement starts with the secondary that got hammered for a nation-worst 323 yards per game and was 115th in the country in pass efficiency defense. Fortunately …

CB Derek Stingley Jr. might be the best player in college football. He’s not going to have the big stats with teams doing everything possible to avoid him, but there’s no better lockdown corner – he’s a top five overall pick next year.

The secondary came up with 13 picks with four taken back for scores – Eli Ricks was the biggest beneficiary of teams staying away from Stingley. The 6-2, 216-pound sophomore on the other side came up with four interceptions – Stingley didn’t pick off any passes – taking two back for scores.

The corners are there, but the safeties have to be stronger with Todd Harris coming back from a knee injury and Jay Ward likely moving over from corner to help out at free safety with leading tackler JaCoby Stevens gone.

The defensive front got into the backfield and hit the quarterback, but it struggled way too much against the run. Expect a huge improvement here with a potentially loaded group on the line. There’s plenty of high end talent on the front four, and there’s experience and depth now, too.

All-star end Ali Gaye led the team in tackles for loss, 339-pound Glen Logan is a veteran anchor of a tackle to work around, and top pass rusher Andre Anthony has NFL upside in his edge rushing role.

Jabril Cox is gone from the linebacking corps, but landing Mike Jones from Clemson through the transfer portal should make up for that. 245-pound Damone Clark was second on the team in tackles and 231-pound Micah Baskerville was fourth.

In a rotation, they should both flourish now in the tweaked 4-2-5 scheme – at least that’s the hope. Throw in high-end JUCO transfer Navonteque Strong – a huge hitter with speed – and like several other parts on the team, the linebacking corps will be better.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
LSU Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best LSU Tigers Offensive Player

OT Austin Deculus, Sr.
The top five LSU offensive player list is going to be fluid throughout the season – please allow for a whole lot of forgiveness here.

Who steps up and dominates the quarterback job? Will one of the running backs take over? Who’s going to be the next superstar Tiger receiver?

At the very least, the sure-thing pro prospects are on the offensive front, and even that’s going to change by the week when it comes to who’s the best of the bunch.

Making this even weirder, the 6-7, 322-pound Deculus is probably a guard at the next level, but will likely stick at right tackle after the team’s best offensive pro prospect – Dare Rosenthal – left through the transfer portal.

Deculus is the most experienced blocker of the bunch, he’s the leader, and he’s going to be one of the biggest keys to this line going from underwhelming to dominant.

2. WR Kayshon Boutte, Soph.
3. OG Ed Ingram, Sr.
4. C Liam Shanahan, Sr.
5. OG Chasen Hines, Sr.

Related

2021 LSU Football Schedule: Analysis, Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Best LSU Tigers Defensive Player

CB Derek Stingley Jr., Soph.
Stingley is probably the No. 1 most talented guy on every NFL draft board and is at the very least of everyone’s top five. He was a star among stars on the 2019 national title team, and despite not coming up with an interception last year, and with just five broken up passes – almost no one threw at him – the talent is still undeniable.

After Stingley, the rest of the LSU top five defensive players is even tougher than the offensive side.

There should be a MASSIVE improvement on the Tiger D with a loaded group of talents who should start playing up to their upside. DT Glen Logan, LB transfers Navonteque Strong and Mike Jones, and at least three other Tigers belong on this list.

2. DE Ali Gaye, Sr.
3. CB Eli Ricks, Soph.
4. LB Damone Clark, Sr.
5. DE Andre Anthony, Sr.

Top Incoming LSU Tigers Transfer

LB Navonteque Strong, Soph.
With Mike Jones coming in from Clemson and Strong entering from the JUCO ranks, the linebacking corps just got two terrific new pieces.

The 6-0, 220-pound Jones made 45 tackles with seven tackles for loss and two picks during his time at Clemson, and now he’ll be a part of the LSU rotation with the range, athleticism, and versatility to make a big impact.

Strong is also a 220ish pound thumper who should be the next great LSU sideline-to-sideline tackler and stat sheet filler. If he’s not the best JUCO transfer in college football, he’s close.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
LSU Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

LSU Tigers Biggest Key: Offense

Start running the ball well. There’s absolutely no excuse to be so bad on the ground again.

The LSU offensive front has at least three sure-thing NFL prospects, maybe four, and the backs are full of experience and options.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2019. From Jeremy Hill, to Leonard Fournette, to Derrius Guice, to Nick Broussette, LSU has been a running back force over the last decade. They all came up with over 1,000-yard seasons, and even the 2012 team – the last time LSU failed to have a 1,000-yard rusher – came up with close to 2,300 rushing yards.

Last year? 1,217 yards, 3.3 yards per carry, and nine scores. Granted, it was a ten-game season, but that’s still unacceptable for a team with this talent.

The Tigers only hit 200 rushing yards once and got to 100 yards five times – they ran for 100 or more in every game but one in 2019 – however, last year they were 5-0 when running for 100 yards and 0-5 when they didn’t.

The program has won its last 20 games when rushing for 100, with the last loss the epic 74-72 2018 game against Texas A&M.

And on the other side …

LSU Tigers Biggest Key: Defense

Stop the run. The pass defense was a stunning disaster considering the two star cornerbacks on the outside, but the run D was more of the tone-setting problem.

Expect a big tweak. The 3-4 alignment under former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda turned into a 4-3 and now should pivot into more of a 4-2-5, and it’s able to do that with a deep and talented line. Now the production has to follow.

LSU has put up a brick wall of a run defense for well over a decade, but in 2014 there were problems allowing 4.3 yards per carry and 16 scores – that was the blip. That was the aberration for a program that woke up in the morning allowing fewer than four yards per carry.

The 2020 D gave up 4.88 yards per run and 18 touchdowns in just ten games, with two scores or more allowed in seven of the last eight.

The line was able to get into the backfield, but it got gashed by Alabama and Auburn, and it closed out the season giving up 307 rushing yards and three scores in the shootout win over Ole Miss.

That has to – and will – change.

LSU Tigers Key Player To A Successful Season

WR Kayshon Boutte, Soph.
It’s LSU, so of course the receiving corps will be fine, but the team is loaded with veterans and depth everywhere else but – to a point – at wideout.

The quarterbacks will be okay – the situation will work itself out. The running game will be better, and the defense will be a whole lot better. Again, the receivers will be good, but you don’t get better after losing Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Terrace Marshall over the last few years.

The 6-0, 185-pound Boutte is dangerous enough to be used as a kick returner and with the upside to turn into a true No. 1 target. He led the team with 735 yards, averaged over 16 yards per catch, and came up with five scores, but that’s a bit of a mirage.

He was good throughout his true freshman season, but the stat sheet was stuffed with a season-ending 14-catch, 308-yard, three-score day in the win over Ole Miss. This year, he needs to be the main man every week.

LSU Tigers Key Game To The 2021 Season

at UCLA, Sept. 4
How sharp is LSU going to be this year? We might not know right away, but we’ll get an indication.

Obviously the November 6th date at Alabama is everything, and of course the regular season finale against Texas A&M will matter, but after last year, the 2021 Tigers need to flex a little muscle to start the season.

Don’t just dismiss UCLA. It’s a home game, Chip Kelly has all his veteran pieces in place after being on the job for a few years, and he’ll have the type of offense that would’ve ripped through the 2020 LSU defense like it wasn’t there.

LSU Football Schedule Analysis

2020 LSU Tigers Fun Stats

– LSU 1st Quarter Scoring: 51 – 2nd Quarter Scoring 134
– Fumbles: Opponents 13 (lost 9) – LSU 12 (lost 4)
– Average Yards Per Pass: Opponents 9.73 – LSU 7.42

NEXT: LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

LSU Tigers College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

There are two ways to look at the LSU 2020 season.

On one side, it showed just how hard it is to be Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Those four lose boatloads of talent all the time, and yet there’s a consistency to their greatness. To dive into the cliché bucket, they reload instead of rebuild every year no matter what. LSU couldn’t do that.

On the other side, there’s a rebuild, and there’s what 2020 LSU had to do.

There was still lots and lots and lots of high-end talent, but it was young, for the most part inexperienced, and it all had to figure it out with new coordinators on both sides of the ball and – oh yeah – in a season with that global pandemic thing screwed up everyone.

Throw in the hangover from the historic 2019 campaign, and there was no way last year’s team could’ve measured up.

There’s a third way to look at 2020 LSU, and it speaks to what should be coming in 2021. The defense was a disaster from the start – LSU was the one team that couldn’t seem to figure out Mississippi State – the offense seemingly started everyone but Tommy Hodson at quarterback, and the defense as a whole took a redshirt year.

And now LSU should be good again.

Set The LSU Tigers Regular Season Win Total At … 9.5

But now it’s back to the same problem LSU had before 2019 – and won’t have an issue with if the College Football Playoff system expands to 12. You can be really, really, really good in the SEC, and it still might not be enough.

2021 LSU has the talent to be really, really, really good, but so does Texas A&M, and Florida, and Alabama, and even Ole Miss and Auburn. On the plus side, most of the tough games are in Baton Rouge. On the negative, the one that isn’t is in Tuscaloosa.

There’s more than enough experience in place to just assume eight wins without breathing hard, but there’s just enough uncertainty – especially dealing with the third set of coordinators in three years – to assume a few misfires.

At Alabama, at UCLA – yeah, at UCLA, really – Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M. Those are just the headliners, and that doesn’t include the potential curveball games against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky on the road.

The idea of regression to the mean fits. 2019 was an outlier, and so was 2020.

2021 LSU should be back among the powerhouses.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
LSU Football Schedule Analysis