2010 SCORING DEFENSE: 18.2 ppg (2nd SEC, 11th NCAA)
2010 RUSHING DEFENSE: 137.3 ypg (6th SEC, 42nd NCAA)
2010 PASSING DEFENSE: 169.8 ypg (1st SEC, 10th NCAA)
2010 TOTAL DEFENSE: 307.2 ypg (3rd SEC, 12th NCAA)
WHO?S BACK: 7 starters ? DE Kendrick Adams, WLB Ryan Baker, SS Brandon Taylor, SLB Stefoin Francois, CB Morris Claiborne, FS Karnell Hatcher (now at MLB), DE Sam Montgomery
IMPACT VETERAN: CB Tyrann Mathieu
WHO?S NEW: 4 starters ? DT
Michael Brockers, DT
Anthony Johnson, FS Craig Loston, CB Tharold Simon
IMPACT NEWCOMER: DT
REASONS TO BELIEVE: Year three under John Chavis? defensive system should continue to pay positive dividends for LSU?s defense ? and clamp a vise around opposing offenses. The Tigers have depth galore on the defensive front ? LSU can easily trot out two lines worth of quality players. The same is virtually true in the secondary led by the steady Claiborne and the disruptive Mathieu.
REASONS TO WORRY: As deep as LSU is up front and out back, the linebacker corps could be that thin. Kelvin Sheppard?s departure at MLB is the biggest hole the Tigers must fill this season ? not Patrick Peterson. Kevin Minter is the heir apparent, but Chavis probably won?t hesitate to start Hatcher there or maybe even move in Baker from WLB. After LSU?s top four, the only productive LB from 2010 was Lamin Barrow.
DON?T BE SURPRISED IF ? LSU keeps Mathieu as a nickelback (the Tigers will often be in that formation) and start Simon or Ron Brooks at the CB spot opposite Claiborne. It may just be a better fit for Mathieu than being an every-down CB.
LSU WILL PLAY FOR THE BCS CHAMPIONSHP IF ? Hatcher or Minter can do a reasonable impression of Sheppard at MLB. As with the offense, there?s almost too much talent to have it hinge on one player ? yet it does.
OUTLOOK: The defense carried an often-stagnant offense to 11 wins in 2010. Considering LSU lost two All-Americans (Peterson, Drake Nevis) and Sheppard, it might be unfair not to expect a slight slip. The offense has to be the safety net this time.