SPRING FOOTBALL: Offensive Overview

JaMarcus Russell

With nine starters returning and Les Miles' ability to retain offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, the LSU Tiger offense is one that should rank among the leaders in the SEC, if not the entire nation.

The depth chart reads nine starters are back, however, if you count senior center Rudy Niswanger, who started the last four games of last season after Ben Wilkerson was lost with a knee injury, that makes 10.

 

Ten returning starters back from a team that averaged 28.7 points ad 395 yards of offense per game last season, the lone starter lost was quarterback Marcus Randall. Randall was tabbed the first team quarterback by coach Nick Saban, but actually shared the starting role with then freshman JaMarcus Russell.

 

Russell is poised to take over full time for Randall and display the skills fans expected when the 6-5, 248-pound signal caller arrived on campus two years ago. Russell will have plenty of talented receivers to which to throw and with a veteran offensive line blocking for the deepest and most experienced backfield in the SEC, expect the offense to be potent come September.

 

 

QUARTERBACKS

 

You want to spark a hostile argument in Baton Rouge these days, walk into a crowd of Tiger fans and utter the simple question, "who do you think is going to be LSU's quarterback?"

 

While who will be the Tigers' signal caller is almost a hot topic in Tiger town, it may actually be a bit more heated this season due to the fact LSU will have three outstanding quarterbacks on campus come August.

 

When JaMarcus Russell (6-5, 248) and Matt Flynn (6-2, 230) arrived two summers ago, fans were sold on the fact the Tigers would have no quarterback issues for at least the next four season.

 

WRONG!

 

A year after winning the national title, LSU had all the pieces of the puzzle in place to make another run at the title, except quarterback. Marcus Randall was dubbed the starter and performed very similar to the way he did in his previous four years on campus – inconsistent.

 

When Randall played poorly, the staff called on Russell, who had his moments. However, as most people know, two-quarterback systems rarely work and that was the case in 2004.

 

In the bowl game, LSU played all three quarterbacks and Russell nearly led the Tigers to victory (a last-second prayer by Iowa gave the Hawkeyes the win) and he entered the spring as the player to beat. While the Mobile, Ala. native was the shaper of the two quarterbacks, Miles stressed the race was still even in the wake of spring drills. And do you blame him? Miles, in his first season at LSU, is trying his best to avoid any controversies, especially with the quite-confident Ryan Perrilloux on his way to town.

 

"I don't think we will name a starter or designate who will be the starting quarterback for some time," Miles said. "The competition is really too close to call at this time."

 

You didn't really think he was going to give you more than that did you? Mum has been the word for Miles so far this spring and he is going to take this race down to the wire. However, the picture should become a bit clearer just how close Russell and Flynn really are when Perrilloux (6-3, 210) shows up in August.

 

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

If there is one thing this team has it is offensive specialists.

 

Auburn boasted the SEC's (if no the nation's) best offensive backfield with Carnell Stewart and Ronnie Brown last season. This year, it is LSU's turn.

 

With the return of Joseph Addai, Alley Broussard, Justin Vincent and Shyrone Carey, the Tigers' backfield can attack a defense in virtually way. Broussard and Addai can run over you, Vincent around you and Carey through your legs make this the deepest, most experienced and versatile group of runners in the conference.

 

"I think everybody knew we were going to be talented at the running back spot and we are," Miles said.

 

Addai (6-0, 210) is possibly the most diverse offensive specialist in the entire SEC. A bruising running back with speed and agility, Addai catches the ball out of the backfield better than any other running back anywhere.

 

Broussard (6-0, 233) is your typical bruiser running with the force of a Mack truck. Now a junior, Broussard has the speed to outrun opponents as displayed in the Capital One Bowl, but the size and brute force to cut a gaping hole in almost any defensive front.

 

Vincent (5-10, 213) had some flashes of brilliance this spring but still has struggled to regain the form of his most impressive freshman campaign. Carey (5-6, 203) in his final year in an LSU uniform, is a dependable third down back that is used primarily in special situations.

 

 

FULLBACKS

 

Jacob Hester and Kevin Steltz will share the role as starting fullback.

 

While Steltz (5-9, 244) is more of a battering ram, Hester (6-0, 225) is versatile in the fact he is an excellent pass receiver and runs well between the tackles. Hester, now a sophomore, will likely get most of the starts due to his diversity while Steltz is perfect for short yardage situations. However, sophomore Shawn Jordan (5-11, 232) will get some looks as well.

 

"I like Steltz and Hester," Miles said. "I think both of them are guys that will play and contribute and I am not all that afraid of putting Jordan in the game either."

 

 

WIDE RECIEVERS

 

Thank you Nick Saban.

 

Saban will go down as one of the league's best coaches ever and probably the SEC's top recruiter of all time. And one area at which Saban excelled on the recruiting trail is wide receiver.

 

Saban left the cupboard stocked with so much talent that the Tigers receiving corps will rank as one of the country's best units.

 

Led by senior Skyler Green (5-10, 195), LSU goes six even seven deep at wideout without a drop-off in talent. Green returns after suffering a rash of injuries a year ago and will look to regain the form of an outstanding sophomore season in the Tigers' run to the national title.

 

Dwayne Bowe (6-3, 213) will be the league's most physically dominant receiver and is poised to be one of the premiere offensive stars in all of college football. Craig "Buster" Davis (6-2, 195) had a strong spring and will factor in as the third receiver and sophomore Early Doucet (6-0, 213) gives the Tigers a Josh Reed-type weapon mixing the abilities of a running back with a wide receiver.

 

Speedster Xavier Carter (6-2, 199) was used as a part-time receiver a year ago being featured more as a kick returner, but after an eight catch performance in the spring scrimmage last week, the Miami native displayed he will be a primary fixture in the LSU offense.

 

Sophomore Amp Hill (6-3, 198) seems poised to take an active part in the offense after a two-year hiatus. As a true freshman Hill tore ligaments in his right knee and has been a non-factor every since. But Hill says he is healthy for the time in two years and is ready to rip and run.

 

"I think Xavier and Bowe and Buster and Early all played well this spring," Miles said. "We have a wealth of talent at the wide receiver spot I don't think there is any question."

 

 

TIGHT END

 

LSU will use its tight ends under Miles somewhat by committee with senior David Jones (6-4, 260) leading the way.

 

Jones missed spring drills after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. In the meantime Keith Zinger (6-4, 247), and Mit Cole (6-4, 260) got most of the reps. Former center Doug Planchard (6-3, 291) moved to tight end and spent most of the spring getting accustomed to his new spot.

 

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

 

Aside from wide receiver, LSU's offensive line may be the deepest areas of the 2005 squad.

 

The unit returns in tact from a year ago. The Tigers do lose Ben Wilkerson from the rotation, but he missed the last four games last season with a knee injury and Rudy Niswanger (6-5, 293) returns as a starter in that spot.

 

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (6-7, 325) returns for his senior season after saying no to the NFL Draft and projects to be one of the best o-linemen in the nation this fall.

 

Other primary players on the offensive front include returning starters Nate Livings (6-5, 295), Terrell McGill (6-4, 325) and Brian Johnson (6-4, 310). Will Arnold (6-4, 320) is a returning starter at guard, but suffered an ankle injury in spring drills. He is expected to be back for fall camp.

Players expected to serve in backup roles include Peter Dyakowski (6-4, 294), Max Holmes (6-4, 275), Ryan Miller (6-6, 305), Brett Helms (6-2, 275), Garrett Wibel (6-3, 295), Paris Hodges (6-5, 316) and a greatly improved Herman Johnson (6-7, 371).

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