Defending the title: What to expect from LSU football in 2020
LSU’s national championship run feels like so long ago. Has it really only been eight months since Coach O, Joe Burrow and company sent the state into elation with its record-breaking, undefeated, historic season? 2020 has been brutal (ever since that glorious victory over Clemson, of course).
Well, thank goodness football is back. FINALLY. And we should start by stating the obvious—LSU won’t repeat what it did last year. Now that’s not to say the Tigers can’t or won’t be in the playoff picture and competing for championships again. But it’s unrealistic to expect the same dominance that we saw in 2019.
LSU has to replace a ton of talent gone to the NFL and will have all the added challenges that comes with this strange 2020 season: a shortened and socially distanced preseason, a 10-game regular season, and an all-SEC schedule, to name a few. The good news is there are still plenty of exciting prospects in the ranks that could be poised for a big season this fall. Here’s a brief breakdown of who and what to watch for this Saturday and the season moving forward.
WHO TO WATCH
Myles Brennan, quarterback, #15: No player will have more eyes on him than Brennan. Following in the footsteps of Burrow is no easy task, but this isn’t your typical backup QB becoming a starter. Brennan has been on campus since 2017 and has now had more than three years to watch, learn and grow behind some of LSU’s best. It’s his time to shine and by all early indications, he’s ready to take the reins.
Chris Curry, running back, #18: Truthfully, it’s hard to pick just one running back as the guy to keep your eye on. Curry, along with fellow talented tailbacks Ty Davis-Price (#3) and John Emery Jr. (#4) will all likely split their carries fairly evenly, but Curry looks like he’ll be the lead guy out the gate. He earned the prestigious #18 for the offense, meaning he’s a major leader for the team. He runs hard and direct, lowering his shoulder at the opposition. So have fun watching him from the comfort of your own home.
Terrace Marshall Jr., wide receiver, #6: Ja’Marr Chase stole a lot of the headlines last year on his way to becoming the nation’s best wide receiver, but Marshall had quite the season himself. He racked up 671 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year despite missing three games due to injury. With guys like Justin Jefferson gone to the NFL and Chase opting out of his junior season, it’s Marshall’s turn to take the lead role among the receivers. Look for a big season from the big pass catcher.
Arik Gilbert, tight end, #2: It’s not often that a true freshman tight end tops the list of most exciting LSU prospects, but Gilbert is something special. He was the first tight end to ever win the Gatorade Player of the Year award in high school and finished his prep career as the highest-rated tight end in the history of 247Sports’ recruiting rankings. He’s a 6-foot-5, 249-pound 18-year-old who, according to two separate teammates, has the potential to be the best tight end “to ever play college football.”
Derek Stingley Jr., cornerback, #24: You probably know the name by now. He was LSU’s best cornerback last year and arguably the best in the entire country. He led the SEC and ranked No. 5 in the nation with six interceptions before ultimately earning multiple first-team all-American honors. He’ll likely wind up in the Heisman conversation this season despite playing on defense … although there have been some hints that that’s not the only side of the ball he’ll play.
JaCoby Stevens, safety, #7: He’s a Mr. Do-It-All for the LSU defense, having the ability to play as a safety, linebacker or pass rusher, which is what helped earn him the #7 jersey as the team’s playmaker. He’s also one of the undisputed leaders on the team and was a prime candidate to earn the #18 as well. He’ll likely be all over the field this fall, making plays at every level of the defense.
Damone Clark, linebacker, #18: In a defense full of unknowns and question marks, Clark stands out as one of the more solid inclusions. He played in all 15 games last year and finished sixth on the team with 50 tackles. The Baton Rouge native earned the #18 jersey for the defense, which is fitting for a middle linebacker who teammates look to for play calls every down.
WHAT TO EXPECT
On offense: A lot of the same, but just different. The playbook won’t change and the play caller remains the same. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady is off to the NFL, but Steve Ensminger is back calling, meaning the Tiger offense is in good hands. The offense will all revolve around how well Brennan adapts to his job as starting quarterback, but there’s enough talent around him to leave optimism high.
On defense: Bo Pelini, who was LSU’s defensive coordinator from 2005-07, is once again running the Tiger defense, and he looks to bring a few different looks with him. Coach O has already said the defense looks better right now “than it did all last season,” which is a promising start. The ceiling is high for this group, which will have a stacked secondary to go along with a deep defensive line.
On the season: Even with all the question marks, there’s no reason to lower expectations for LSU this season. The talent is there, and if the Tigers can put it all together, they’ll be right back in the hunt for SEC and national championships. Only the games will probably be a little closer this year than most were last season. Get the drinks ready.
Who are you most excited to watch this season? Let us know down below.