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August 30, 2010

Players: LSU, North Carolina, and the Rest

At LSU's "Lunch with Les" press conference Monday afternoon most of the questions covered already well worn ground.  Two of the recurrent themes, 1. the youth on LSU's two deep roster and 2. Who may be on the field for North Carolina in the season opener, are a couple of items I would like to think about.  I will also throw in a third theme, who are the best players of the rest of LSU opponents, just because I have been eager to think through the preseason position power rankings.

Patrick Peterson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Drake Nevis are three veterans that LSU expects to be leaders on defense.  Terrence Toliver, Joseph Barksdale, Richard Murphy, and Jordan Jefferson are veterans expected to lead LSU's offense. But who are the players that might unexpectedly step up and make a real impact?  On offense look for first year starters Will Blackwell and Alex Hurst to provide a much improved offensive line.  Look for sophomores Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard to breakout as world-classed receivers.  True freshman Spencer Ware and redshirt freshman Michael Ford clearly look to be LSU's "one-two" running game punch but, that is probably more likely to happen next year.  True freshmen James Wright and Kadron Boone look to be the dynamic duo of LSU's future receiving corps.  

New players will clearly have to step up this year on the other side of the ball.  Remember these names: Sam Montgomery, Michael Brockers, Tyrann Mathieu, Barkevious "KeKe" Mingo, and Tharold Simon.  One or more of these players will emerge as a great defensive player.  In the linebacking corps Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow will also be tested this Saturday in the North Carolina game and maybe into the Vanderbilt game the next week but, Ryan Baker should return to the starting lineup shortly after.  Redshirt freshman Sam Montgomery and first year transfer Kendrick Adams are expected to disrupt offensive backfields all year and that needs to happen for LSU to have a strong year.

North Carolina
Les Miles has stated at least twice recently that despite who plays for North Carolina, LSU is preparing to play North Carolina's best players.  That is probably the best strategy considering that North Carolina may not announce which players under investigation will be allowed to play until the day of the game.  That being said, Who are the best players?  According to Rivals preseason power rankings only one UNC player on offense is among the best at his position: tight end Zack Pianalto but I would add wide receiver Greg Little .  

The defense is another story.  Among defensive linemen, defensive end Robert Quinn is #2 and defensive tackle Marvin Austin is #11 according to Rivals.  At linebacker, OLB Quan Sturdivant is Rivals #3 and OLB Bruce Carter is #12.  LSU's Kelvin Shepard is considered #15 on the same list.  UNC Safety Deunta Williams is #10 and CB Kendric Burney is #12 among defensive backs according to Rivals.  On that same list LSU CB Patrick Peterson is #1.  Even if every single one of these highly regarded UNC players is benched for the LSU game, Butch Davis has solid backup athletes and a really strong defensive system.  Years ago when Davis left the head coaching job at the University of Miami, he left the shelves stocked with talent.  Davis has been at North Carolina long enough to have the shelves completely stocked.  This UNC defense will be on par with any defense that LSU will face this year including Alabama and Florida.

The Rest
So, according to Rivals preseason power rankings, who are the rest of the best players that LSU will face this year?  At quarterback LSU will face #3 QB Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), #17 Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss), and #18 Greg McElroy (Alabama).  Only two running backs, #1 Mark Ingram and #7 Noel Devine, are scheduled to face the Bayou Bengals.  LSU will face three top tight ends when they face North Carolina (#8 Zack Pinalto), Tennessee (#4 Luke Stocker), and Arkansas (#6 D.J. WIlliams).  Florida has two top rated offensive linemen, #7 Mike Pouncey at center and #19 Carl Johnson at guard.  Three other teams LSU will face also have top rated offensive linemen: Auburn (#15Lee Ziemba,OT), Arkansas (#21DeMarcus Love, OT) and Mississippi State (#22Derek Sherrod).

In addition to the North Carolina players, LSU will face several Rivals preseason top ranked players on defense.  On the defensive line LSU will have to contend with  #9 Marcell Dareus at defensive end as well as Ole Miss's Jerrell Powe at defensive tackle.  LSU will also face Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower who is ranked #4 among linebackers.  Florida has three highly ranked players in their defensive backfield: CB Janoris Jenkins #15, Safety Ahmad Black #17, and Safety Will Hill #20.  West Virginia has two highly ranked defensive backs: #21 Brandon Hogan and #22 Robert Sands.  At #13 Alabama's Safety Mark Barron will also likely be a factor in the LSU/Alabama game in November.

There will be those that read this and think that the sky has fallen and LSU is doomed but there will also be those that read through these lists and realize that LSU has an opportunity to compete with and beat some of the best teams in the country.  I know that individual players do not make a team great.  I also know that it doesn't hurt to have a team full of great players.


Anonymous said...

"Warning the 2010 LSU football season is days away".
The country,and ESPN TV net-work,is in "Danger" and may never get over Les Mils, and LSU, winning the national championship again!!

Anonymous said...

Les Miles, is a evil menace, to sound college football judgment every where,are you trying to kid me?

Anonymous said...

So true Bob,with out Billy Cannon,LSU would no have won the 1958 NC..With out Payton Manning, ECT,with great players, a good team will have a better chance.

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