Hold that Tiger: What to expect in LSU football this season
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. That phrase is often reserved for Christmas, but for many of us living in Baton Rouge, it means football season is finally here. And if there’s ever been a year for you to get excited about LSU’s outlook, it might just be this season. The Tigers bring back a slew of offensive starters from their surprisingly successful 2018 campaign to go along with their always-stout defensive unit. Add in some new, exciting coaching changes and it might just be the recipe for success.
LSU opens up its new season this Saturday in Tiger Stadium against Georgia Southern, so we wanted to give you a rundown on who and what to watch for:
WHO TO WATCH
Joe Burrow, quarterback, #9: Burrow made this same list last year, but with far more unknowns. He had never started a game at Ohio State before transferring to LSU and had only been on campus for a couple months before being thrusted into the starting role. He was a key catalyst in LSU’s 10-win season last year and is looking for even bigger things this fall.
Lloyd Cushenberry, center, #79: It’s not often we’re keeping our eye on an offensive lineman, but Cushenberry is the exception. Coming out of Dutchtown High School, he’s transformed into one of the leaders not just on the offense, but on the entire team. He’s the first offensive lineman to earn the prestigious #18 for LSU and is undoubtedly one of the anchors for the Tigers.
Justin Jefferson #2, Ja’Marr Chase #1, Terrace Marshall #6, wide receivers: It’s tough to watch three guys at once, but the point is, keep your eye on the guys on the outside. LSU seems to finally be progressing out of its run-first offensive approach and into a more spread-out, open passing attack, centered around Burrow and the plethora of talented receivers he has at his disposal. Jefferson was the Tigers’ leading receiver a year ago, while Chase and Marshall are a pair of 5-star prospects entering their second year on campus. Look for big things from this entire unit.
Stephen Sullivan, tight end, #10: If you follow LSU football closely enough recently, you’ve probably heard people clamoring to throw the ball to the tight end more. Well, this may finally be the year that happens. Sullivan has played wide receiver his entire career but recently made the switch to tight end in order to use his 6-foot-5 frame and strong athletic ability to cause mismatches to opposing defenses. With new passing coordinator Joe Brady coming into the fold (we’ll touch on him shortly), Tiger fans may finally see some production from the tight end position.
K’Lavon Chaisson, outside linebacker, #18: Chaisson had a ton of high hopes last year. So much so that some teammates even predicted him to break the sack record at LSU. That was all before Chaisson tore his ACL in the Tigers’ first game of the season against Miami, after recording three tackles—one for a loss— and a sack in just three quarters of action. The speedy defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid is back and more dangerous than ever this season and should cause a lot of chaos in the opponents’ backfield.
Mike Divinity Jr., linebacker, #45: Divinity somewhat quietly had one of the strongest seasons of any LSU defender last year. The New Orleans native tallied 54 tackles—good for fourth on the team—along with a team-high five sacks. He can play both inside and outside linebacker and will be utilized a ton this season with the absence of star linebacker Devin White, who was the fifth overall pick of this past NFL draft.
Derek Stingley Jr., cornerback, #24: It’s never easy for a true freshman to crack his way into the starting lineup at LSU, but Stingley is certainly the exception. Coming out of Dunham, he ranked as the No. 1 cornerback in the country and one of the highest-rated freshmen ever to pass through LSU. He immediately earned a starting role as LSU’s second cornerback and looks to be locked in as the punt returner as well. He’s going to special, so be sure to keep your eyes on #24.
Grant Delpit, safety, #7: As exciting as all these guys listed above may be, if there’s one person to keep your eye on this season, it’s Delpit. The versatile safety was a unanimous All-American last season after leading the team in sacks and interceptions and ranking third in tackles. He’s on just about every award watch list entering this season and earned LSU’s coveted #7 jersey. He’s a pure playmaker and could potentially leave LSU as the best safety to ever cross through campus.
WHAT TO EXPECT
On offense: Joe Brady, who was mentioned along with the offensive playmakers, was brought onto the coaching staff from the New Orleans Saints. With him comes a slew of new, innovative and modern concepts for LSU to implement. Gone are the old days of frustrating, run-first offensive attacks as the Tigers usher in a new era of offense anchored by a quarterback-friendly playbook. We feel confident in saying LSU’s offense will finally look, feel and produce differently.
On defense: Year in and year out, LSU is known for its stout defenses, and 2019 will be no different. It seems silly to expect the Tigers to somehow improve after losing the likes of Devin White, Greedy Williams and others, but that ironically seems to be the case. LSU has more overall strengths than a year ago, along with a large crop of versatile players who can be moved all around the defense to cause problems for any opponent. Expect big things from the Tiger defense yet again this fall.
On the season: For the longest time in Baton Rouge, it seemed like next year was always “the year” for LSU. It may be a bit to early to call 2019 THE year, but it’s certainly shaping up to be the most exciting year the Tigers have had in quite some time. With a relatively favorable schedule to go along with its loaded roster, LSU could very well be competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff a few months from now.
For more on Tiger football this season, check out the Tiger Pride Podcast here.