It’s pretty easy to figure out the reason why LSU never materialized into a true bona fide contender in the SEC in 2015. It’s obvious which side of the ball simply didn’t live up to its end of the bargain.
The Tigers defense was one of the most stout units in the country last year, ranking in the top 10 nationally in both scoring defense and total defense. Unfortunately, the offense turned out to be just as bad as the defense was good. The meager attack averaged just 27 points and 387 yards per game in 2014 and it failed to generate much of an exciting spark.
Luckily, the offense is shaping up to be one of the most improved units in the SEC this fall. The Tigers are welcoming back a host of key starters, none more important than budding star sophomore RB Leonard Fournette.
Fournette will be the focal point on offense once again in his second season carrying the rushing load. However, the former blue-chip recruit isn’t the only Tiger who will play a key role in the team’s quest to get back to the top of the SEC ladder.
Here’s a look at LSU’s top 10 players for the 2015 season.
1 – RB Leonard Fournette
Rushing for over 1,000 yards in the SEC is a tremendous accomplishment for any running back, regardless of what his class is. When a true freshman accomplishes the feat in his debut season, though, it’s truly remarkable.
That’s exactly what Leonard Fournette did in 2014, when he ran for 1,034 yards on 187 total touches (5.5 yards per carry) and scored 10 touchdowns.
The former highly touted blue-chip 5-star recruit from New Orleans arrived in Baton Rouge last offseason facing plenty of pressure to produce at a high level right from the get go. Fournette answered the challenge and proved that his high school hype was deserved, as he emerged as the team’s new bell-cow back.
Now, entering his second year as the team’s featured rusher, the powerful 6’1’’, 230-pound sophomore will be looking to solidify his status as one of the top overall players in college football and one of the top Heisman contenders in 2015.
2 – OT Vadal Alexander
After spending the majority of his collegiate career being overshadowed by fellow lineman La’El Collins, Vadal Alexander will now get to spend his senior season being the spotlight player in the trenches for the Tigers.
With Collins gone, Alexander will now be asked to slide from guard out to right tackle, and he’ll be asked to slide into the role of being the line’s new veteran leader and linchpin.
The three-year starter is coming off a highly impressive 2014 performance, for which he earned second-team All-SEC honors.
Alexander has shown that he knows how to use his 6’6’’, 320-pound frame and his natural brute strength to eliminate opposing defenders in the interior. Now, he’ll have the chance to show off his agility and pass-blocking skills on the outside at tackle in 2015.
3 – WR Travin Dural
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. combined to catch 136 of LSU’s 205 total receptions in 2013. Obviously, losing both Landry and Beckham early to the NFL was a huge blow to the Tigers offense. But luckily, Travin Dural showed in 2014 that he was ready to step up and be the team’s new go-to No. 1 wideout.
Although Dural had to deal with plenty of inconsistencies at the quarterback position, he still managed to routinely show off his explosive playmaking ability, as he averaged over 20 yards per catch and led the team with seven receiving touchdowns. His 13 catches of 20 yards or more was the fifth highest total of any SEC receiver.
The speedy 6’2’’, 192-pound junior is a big game-changing play waiting to happen. All Dural needs to become an elite receiver is a quarterback that can get him the ball on a consistent basis.
4 – CB Tre’Davious White
LSU has a rich recent history of producing standout defensive backs who also become coveted NFL draft prospects. In fact, the Tigers have had eight defensive backs selected in the past five drafts, including six players—Jalen Collins, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Taylor and Patrick Peterson—who were Top-100 picks.
If you’re searching for the player that could potentially become the next great LSU DB, then look no further than CB Tre’Davious White.
A former 5-star recruit from Shreveport, Louisiana, it was clear that White had the pedigree to be great as soon as he arrived at LSU back in 2013. In his first two seasons, the 5’11’’, 177-pound junior displayed all the tools it takes to be a lock-down cover corner, as he totaled four interceptions, 13 pass breakups and 88 total tackles.
White has emerged as one of the most exciting up-and-coming defenders in the SEC. Now it appears that he’s ready to take the next step and become the same caliber of elite DB that his accomplished predecessors such as Reid, Mathieu and Peterson once were.
5 – OT Jerald Hawkins
After spending his first season in 2012 adding bulk to his frame, Jerald Hawkins proved to the LSU coaching staff that he deserved a starting spot at right tackle as just a redshirt freshman in 2013.
Over the last two seasons, Hawkins has proven he can handle the rigors of the SEC trenches, as he’s gone toe-to-toe with many of the best defensive linemen that the conference has to offer.
The 6’6’’, 309-pound junior will now enter his third season as a starter, looking to assert himself as one of the best blockers in not just the SEC, but the entire country.
Hawkins will partner with Vadal Alexander to give the Tigers arguably the best pair of offensive tackle bookends in the country.
6 – LB Kendell Beckwith
LSU lost four of its top five leading tacklers from the 2014 season. That means LB Kendell Beckwith, who ranked second on the Tigers with 77 total stops last season, will be the team’s most proven and most productive returning defender in 2015.
A rallying cry-type of player in the front-seven, Beckwith is the experienced veteran presence the LSU defense needs. The 6’2’’, 245-pound junior is a tough, stout and instinctive inside ‘backer who has a clear nose for the ball.
Beckwith will be the face of a linebacking corps that head coach Les Miles recently said “may be the fastest group we’ve ever had.”
7 – S Jalen Mills
It seemed like both Jalens from LSU’s 2014 secondary made the right decision in regards to declaring early for the 2025 NFL draft. CB Jalen Collins made the choice to leave Baton Rouge early. He ultimately was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 42nd overall pick. Jalen Mills, on the other hand, made the decision to bypass the 2015 draft and return to school for his senior year.
Mills will benefit from the extra year of playing against stellar SEC competition, while the LSU defense will benefit from the presence of one of the SEC’s most experienced defensive backs.
The former freshman All-American has been a mainstay in the defensive backfield for the past three seasons. Now, with Collins gone, he’ll partner with CB Tre’Davious White to give the Tigers two excellent playmakers to build their secondary around for 2015.
8 – S Jamal Adams
Jalen Mills and Tre’Davious White will be the two most talked-about members of the LSU secondary this offseason. However, the DB who could end up actually making the most noise in 2015 is Jamal Adams.
Adams is coming off an outstanding first campaign. The 6’0’’, 206-pound sophomore finished the 2014 season ranked sixth on the team with 66 tackles, including 38 solo stops and five tackles for loss. It was a performance that earned him a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team.
Former LSU star DB Tyrann Mathieu is one of the many onlookers who was impressed by what Adams accomplished. Mathieu took to his Instagram back in December to declare that Adams will be the “the best safety in college ball next year.”
Adams put himself on the radar last season. Now, he should be ready to step out and become a true star player in 2015.
9 – DT Davon Godchaux
Davon Godchaux has already said that he has a desire to “become the next Glenn Dorsey.”
That’s quite a lofty goal, considering how dominant Dorsey—the 2007 SEC Defensive Player of the Year—was during his days in Baton Rouge. Make no mistake about it, though, Godchaux definitely possesses the physical tools to be that caliber of difference-maker. It’s simply up to him to continue to mature and develop and put in the work it takes to be great.
The 6’4’’, 298-pound sophomore is coming off an impressive debut season, in which he racked up 42 total tackles.
This spring, Godchaux was the winner of LSU’s Toby Caston Performance Award (Outstanding Performance in Spring Drills- Defense) and the Jimmy Taylor Award (The comprehensive Spring Award for Outstanding Leadership, Effort and Performance). After a terrific performance in spring practice, it looks like the young defensive tackle is prepared to have a breakthrough performance in 2015.
10 – QB Anthony Jennings
LSU has shown that it’s the type of team that doesn’t need to have great quarterback play to compete for championships. Case in point, the starting quarterbacks for the Tigers’ four SEC championship teams during were a combination of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee (2011), Matt Flynn (2007), Matt Mauck (2003) and Rohan Davey (2001).
The Tigers won’t need to have a prodigious passer to compete for an SEC title in 2015. What they will need, however, is a signal-caller who can assume a game-manager role and bring some consistency and smart decision-making to the position.
Anthony Jennings has what it takes to fill such a role.
Jennings was far from spectacular in 2014. He completed just 49 percent of his passes and averaged just 7.1 yards per throw. The 6’2’’, 216-pound senior doesn’t possess elite skills, but he does have the type of intangibles and intelligence to become a reliable leader behind center.
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said that Jennings had the best spring of his collegiate career. That’s encouraging to hear. Now it’s up to the senior signal-caller to take that progress in practice and turn it into production in game action.
- WR Malachi Dupre
- OG Ethan Pocic
- DT Christian Lacouture
- DE Tashawn Bower
- P Jamie Keehn