Now that LSU football is back — with its first few spring practices come and gone, Ed Orgeron's introductory news conference said and done — it's as good a time as any to project what the Tigers' two-deep will look like when they open the 2019 season Aug. 31 against Georgia Southern.
The key word is "project" here, and although LSU has 16 total returning starters (8 offense, 8 defense) from its 10-3, Fiesta Bowl-winning 2018 season, a lot of spots can shuffle by the time that first snap is taken in Tiger Stadium.
But hey, this is part of the fun of spring football, where teams spend time progressing while everyone else spends time projecting.
So we'll start with offense first, a unit that finished 38th nationally in 2018 with 32.4 points per game — a notable finish considering some of the issues on the offensive line, although the number is somewhat inflated by the 74-72 loss to Texas A&M that took seven overtimes.
If you want to check out our projected defensive two-deep, click here.
Continuing our projection of the LSU Tigers' two-deep for the 2019 season, we move to defense.
Below is a chart for the offense, and a breakdown per position follows.
Offensive line: Four starters return on the offensive line, so it's likely that the unit will look fairly similar to what was on the field in 2018. Center Lloyd Cushenberry and right guard Damien Lewis started in every game next to each other, while left tackle Saahdiq Charles (10 starts) and right tackle Austin Deculus (11 starts) started in nearly every game. If Charles and Deculus aren't starting in August, it's likely because they've been beaten out by former JUCO tackle Badara Traore, who struggled in his transition from ASA College in 2018, or true freshman Anthony Bradford looks really impressive when he arrives in June. So that leaves left guard, which was left vacant by graduated guard Garrett Brumfield. Although Chasen Hines played the most snaps out of any non-starter on the line in 2018, we expect star recruit Kardell Thomas to win the starting position by the end of August. A true freshman starting at right guard has happened before: Ed Ingram, who is currently indefinitely suspended, started in 12 games as a true freshman in 2017. Thomas, the No. 4-ranked offensive guard per 247Sports, will at least be expected to earn playing time.
The backfield: Yes, Joe Burrow is a given at quarterback. The Fiesta Bowl's offensive MVP will be backed up by Myles Brennan, whom Ed Orgeron has said had an "elite" offseason and is expected to play more often than he did in 2018. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the incumbent at running back, although the nation's No. 2 running back of the 2019 class, John Emery, ought to have his shot at carries. The running back group will extend beyond just two players, and it's one of the larger storylines of the offseason: just how much will be carved out for Chris Curry, Lanard Fournette, Tae Provens and true freshman Tyrion Davis-Price?
K'Lavon Chaisson launched from his stance inside the LSU practice facility.
Wide receivers/tight end: Although he didn't end up on the All-SEC team, Justin Jefferson is paced to land on several more honors lists in 2019 after the dynamic Destrehan grad led the Tigers with 875 yards and six touchdowns receiving. Ja'Marr Chase was the team's third-leading receiver as a true freshman, and he and Terrace Marshall have both had impressive offseasons going into their sophomore years, Orgeron said. Jonathan Giles will have to resurrect his career to get more playing time, recording just 10 catches for 59 yards in 2018 — two seasons after being the leading receiver for Texas Tech. Derrick Dillon started in four of the last five games in the slot, and he's in pole position to keep the starting job. It's worth noting that Amite High's Devonta Lee, the nation's No. 8 athlete, will likely play his way onto the field with his athleticism. As a senior at Amite, he caught 42 passes and scored 22 touchdowns.
A third LSU scholarship player has entered the NCAA transfer portal.
If there was any player who could be called "elite" during LSU football's offseason workout program, coach Ed Orgeron said, it would be backup…