LSU’s 2015 regular season ended last Saturday night with players hoisting coach Les Miles on their shoulders and carrying him to a rowdy student section chanting his name.
Minutes later, an impromptu postgame news conference unfolded with athletic director Joe Alleva. He had just told Miles that he’d continue as LSU’s coach. He would now tell the media.
It was a bizarre end to a bizarre season. Just some of the craziness:
– Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had surgery for prostate cancer during preseason camp.
– Miles was taken to a hospital on the Monday ahead of the season opener for, allegedly, drinking too much coffee.
– The season opener against McNeese was canceled because of lightning, the first cancelation of an LSU game in nearly 100 years.
– Running back Leonard Fournette became the biggest Heisman Trophy favorite so early in a season in at least a decade
– LSU hosted a relocated game against South Carolina in Tiger Stadium – a road game at home that produced the lowest-attended game at the stadium since 1957.
– The Tigers lost three straight games by double digits for the first time since 1966.
And, now, we cap the regular season on this Friday by handing out our position grades for the Tigers.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-
Star of the group: RG Will Clapp. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound redshirt freshman served as the Tigers’ lead run-blocker, the team’s go-to pulling guard who cleared the way.
Looking forward: The line is likely to lose two to three starters. RT Vadal Alexander is a senior, and LT Jerald Hawkins and C Ethan Pocic are draft-eligible.
Scoop: Brandon Harris was the only LSU player to throw a pass this season. The sophomore’s numbers were marginally better than Anthony Jennings’ last season. He averaged 50 more yards passing a game, completed 53.1 percent of his passes to Jennings’ 48.9 and had a 12-5 touchdown-to-interception ration (Jennings 11-7).
Looking forward: Harris seemed to regress in the final four games (47 completion percentage, 3-5 TD-to-INT). Danny Etling, a transfer from Purdue, is expected to challenge Harris for the starting gig.
RUNNING BACKS: A-
Star of the group: Fournette. The sophomore set the single-season rushing record – a mark that’s stood for a whopping 37 years.
Looking forward: Fournette returns for what’s likely to be his final season, and so does the shifty, hard-running Guice. The Tigers don’t currently have a RB committed.
Star of the group: Dupre. The sophomore caught 25 more passes than he did as a freshman. He’s beginning live up to all of that high school hype.
Looking forward: Dural’s future is the big question. Will he return or go pro? He’d be a fifth-year senior. Hamstring surgery could force him to miss the NFL Combine.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
Scoop: LSU finished with 28 sacks, nine more than last season in two fewer games. The Tigers finished 26th nationally in rushing defense, and got impressive play from reserve DTs Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron. Against the best, though, they struggled. They allowed 250 and 299 yards rushing in back to back games against Bama and Arkansas.
Looking forward:Many expect all of the starters and rotating players to return, including draft-eligible guys like DT Christian LaCouture and DE Lewis Neal.
Star of the group: Jones. The senior waited three long years to become a full-time starter, and he did not disappoint. He leads the team in tackles (92) and TFL (11.5).
Looking forward: Jones is gone, and Beckwith is draft-eligible and is a projected second-round pick. Donnie Alexander and Duke Riley are the backups.
Scoop: The group had eight busted coverages over the final nine games, and six of those led to TDs – very unlike a program that prides itself in secondary play. Dwayne Thomas and Rickey Jefferson saw their roles diminish late in the season, as Corey Thompson and Donte Jackson took on bigger roles. Jalen Mills’ early-season absence didn’t help.
Looking forward: The unit will likely lose its two most veteran players, Mills (a senior) and CB Tre’Davious White (draft-eligible junior). The Tigers have four DB commitments.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D+
Star of the group: Trent Domingue. The former walk-on turned starting field goal kicker made his first 10 field goals before missing four of his last seven.
Looking forward: Domingue will be a junior, and Colby Delahoussaye is still around as his backup. Keehn moves on, replaced by another Aussie in Josh Growden.