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Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange
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SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
Les Miles says LSU will throw the ball downfield more this season because of Zach Mettenberger's passing skill, but Miles is still a coach who likes a power running game that sets up the play-action pass. The Tigers are even deeper at running back with six talented runners who will operate behind a strong, experienced offensive line. Mettenberger should be able to generally operate in favorable down and distance situations, which should help a relatively young receiving corps develop.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
LSU will be strong, athletic and deep once again. Tyrann Mathieu is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country at cornerback and nickel back. Eric Reid appears ready to emerge as a star at safety as a junior. The young linebackers might have some growing pains, but a disruptive and deep line will make their job easier.

SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS
This was a big strength for the Tigers last season and should be again next season with Drew Alleman's accuracy on place-kicks and Brad Wing's strong leg on punts leading the way. Mathieu was a Heisman finalist in part because of his explosiveness on punt returns. Miles likes to put offensive and defensive starters on special teams so the Tigers should again be loaded on their coverage units.

TOP NEWCOMERS

--LB Kwon Alexander (Oxford High School, Oxford, Ala.) -- A consensus four-star recruit despite missing most of his senior season due to a knee injury, will have to compete for playing time. But he comes in at a position where the Tigers lost three seniors and are looking for true freshmen to contribute.

--QB Jeremy Liggins (Lafayette High School, Oxford, Miss.) -- Rated as the No. 16 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com and the No. 19 quarterback by Scout.com, Liggins has chance to be the primary backup to resumed starter Zach Mettenberger. Liggins is more mobile than Mettenberger and Stephens Rivers, who redshirted as a freshman last season. Cutter rushed for 1,832 yards in 10 games and saved his best for last -- a 223-yard, three-touchdown game in the 4A title game.

--LB Lorenzo Phillips (Patterson High School, Patterson, La.) -- Ranked the No. 24 linebacker in the country by Scout.com and No. 29 by Rivals.com, Phillips has a similar opportunity to Alexander. He has the speed and athleticism to contribute on special teams while he competes for playing time on defense.

ROSTER REPORT

--DT Josh Downs finished the spring as the player most likely to inherit Michael Brockers' starting position, though Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson will also get significant playing time in the rotation.

--Les Miles praised freshman RB Jeremy Hill, who took advantage of Michael Ford's absence (knee) during the spring to make his mark.

--RB Kenny Hilliard, who emerged as one of the top running backs late in his freshman season last year, has lost about 10 pounds as he tries to add greater quickness to his power.

--RB Spencer Ware, who saw his playing time shrink the most amid Hilliard's emergence, has also lost about 10 pounds to try and improve his quickness.

--S Craig Loston, who's expected to replace Brandon Taylor as the starting strong safety, missed some time due to ankle injury. It wasn't a serious injury, but it raised some concern because Loston's first two seasons have been hampered by a variety of injuries.

--WR Kadron Boone missed nearly all of spring due to a shoulder injury, but he should be healed before the start of preseason camp.

--LB Tahj Jones, who's expected to start on the outside, missed some time due to an ankle injury.

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