As usual, coach Les Miles just shrugs, says that’s part of the job and plans to replace them with guys who are just as good or better.
The Tigers had nine players selected in May’s draft — including several underclassmen — but expectations are still very high in Death Valley. LSU returns 13 starters from last season, including most of the offensive line.
Miles called linemen La’el Collins and Jerald Hawkins “two of the finest tackles in our league” during his time on the podium at SEC media days on Wednesday. Collins said no one is concerned about trying to replace so much talent from last season.
“I just feel our coaches do a great job preparing us for whatever, so when we do lose a lot of guys to the NFL our younger guys are ready to go,” Collins said.
Collins and Hawkins should help protect the Tigers’ new quarterback. Miles said the position battle continues between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris.
“It will be a very competitive event from the start to the finish,” Miles said. “Cam Cameron, a guy who’s made a career mentoring quarterbacks, is our offensive coordinator, and he’ll do exactly the right things with those guys.”
Jennings or Harris will be replacing Zach Mettenberger, who threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.
Whoever wins the job should have plenty of help from the team’s running backs. Terrence Magee rushed for 626 yards and eight touchdowns last season while averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
Touted freshman Leonard Fournette could also help right away. The running back is 6-foot-1, 224 pounds and Miles compared his demeanor to Michael Jordan’s while praising his attitude and ability.
“Leonard Fournette is doing exactly what he should be doing,” Miles said. “He’s getting in the weight room, running, getting in great shape. He’s pursuing the classroom, got great grades. He’s quiet. He’s not assuming. He’s humble in his approach.”
There are some questions at receiver after losing Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry to the NFL. Nobody on the current roster caught more than seven passes last season.
Miles praised the incoming freshmen receivers, saying they should help right away.
The Tigers’ defense is led by senior linebacker D.J. Welter and sophomore cornerback Tre’Davious White. Welter made 80 tackles last season, including four for a loss, while White had 55 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions as a freshman.
Unproven Missouri still
confident in SEC football
(AP) — Missouri made a surprising run to the top of the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division in just its second year in the league.
Staying on top might be even more of a challenge.
The Tigers lost a huge chunk of their team after finishing 12-2 last season, including 7-1 in the SEC. Only nine starters return, including just four on offense.
But new starting quarterback Maty Mauk was confident during Missouri’s appearance at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. In his mind, this is no rebuilding year for the Tigers.
“People can say and do what they want, but we know what we have,” Mauk said. “We have playmakers. We have an offensive line that is healthy coming back. We have a quarterback with experience and we have a defense that — people think we lost Kony (Ealy) and (Michael Sam) — but they obviously haven’t watched Shane (Ray) and Markus Golden and Charles Harris.”
Mauk earned quite a bit of experience last season as a redshirt freshman when starter James Franklin went down with an injury, making four starts and throwing for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he wasn’t surprised Mauk played so well in difficult SEC environments last season and expects rapid improvement this fall. He’ll have three experienced lineman blocking for him, which should help.
“(Mauk’s) a winner. Players know it,” Pinkel said. “He’s a remarkable competitor. They know it. They respect the way he leads because he leads in a very, very positive way.”
There are some questions about who will be Mauk’s primary targets this season in the passing game. The team’s top returning receiver — junior Dorial Green-Beckham — was dismissed from the team in April.
Bud Sasser is the most experienced receiver returning. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior caught 26 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown last season.
But even with the question marks, Missouri enters the season with nearly universal respect across the league after they made their impressive run through the Eastern Division. The Tigers lost to Auburn in the SEC championship game.
Pinkel said recruiting has improved and the experience was “tremendously positive.”
“But this is a new year,” Pinkel said. “It’s a great challenge. We want to continue to compete at a high level. That’s our challenge this year as we go into year number three.”