Joe Burrow

Auburn hasn’t beaten rival LSU in Baton Rouge since 1999. The Tigers came close in 2017 before blowing a 20-0 lead, but will try to snap that streak on the last Saturday in October and prevent LSU from winning three straight.

The Bayou Bengals finished 2018 with a No. 6 ranking in the final 25 poll and a 10-3 record — the first double-digit win season for the Tigers since 2013. Gone from last year’s squad are a few star players. However, LSU returns a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball and looks to be in good shape heading into the 2019 season.

 

Offense

The LSU offense wasn’t particularly explosive in 2018. The team scored 32.4 points per game, which ranked them dead in the middle (7th) in the SEC while coming in at No. 7 and 8 in passing and rushing offense, respectively.

The Tiger offense will be led by senior QB Joe Burrow. The 6-foot-4, 216-pound signal caller impressed last year — his first year since transferring from Ohio State.

Burrow recorded 16 TDs and five interceptions through the air, but also showed his ability as a runner, adding 399 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Burrow struggled at times with accuracy (57.8 percent) but his 23 total touchdowns were the most for an LSU quarterback since Matt Flynn in 2007. Burrow was named to the preseason All-SEC third team and has the chance to go from good to great.

LSU lost their starting running back from last year in Nick Brosette. But the team possesses one of the best backups in the SEC in 5-foot-9, 212-pound junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The undersized back recorded 754 total yards and seven touchdowns as the team's secondary runner in 2018. Although undersized, Edwards-Helaire is elusive, shifty and will finally get the chance to be LSU’s premier back.

Burrow will have plenty of weapons to work with as the Tigers return all five of last year’s top receiving options. 

6-foot-2 junior Justin Jefferson is unquestionably the best of the bunch. The preseason All-SEC third team selection has excellent hands and great athleticism.

Jefferson will look to build off a 2018 campaign that saw him reel in 54 balls for 875 yards and six touchdowns.

Behind him, WR/TE hybrid Stephen Sullivan looks to become one of the most fearsome receiving options in the country.

At 6-foot-7 and 232 pounds, the senior will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Despite only starting one game last year, Sullivan was second on the team in receiving yards with 363.

To add to an already solid group of receivers, seniors Derrick Dillon (5’11”, 184) and Dee Anderson (6’6”, 229) are two experienced, veteran options that know how to contribute.

The LSU offensive line struggled last year. The Bayou Bengals allowed 35 sacks last year, the most in the SEC as well as being near the bottom of the conference in TFLs allowed. On the bright side, LSU returns four starters from last year’s squad.

The unit will be led by junior center Lloyd Cushenberry III and senior guard Damien Lewis, who were named to the preseason All-SEC first and second teams, respectively.

Despite some star power, the Tiger offensive line, and the offense in general, will need to improve if they want to compete with the league’s top defenses.

 

Defense

Speaking of defense, LSU’s 2019 group has the chance to be special. This may sound odd if you look at the team’s 21.8 points per game allowed last season, which placed them in the middle of the SEC in terms of scoring defense. However, if you remove the 74 points surrendered in the Tigers seven overtime loss against Texas A&M, LSU jumps all the way up to third in the SEC in points allowed per game.

The Tiger defense didn’t generate a ton of pressure, especially on the defensive line. But, what the Tigers lack in production, they make up for in sheer size.

Six-foot-three, 317-pound defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence is likely the team’s top option. The senior recorded 54 tackles, 10 TFLs and four sacks last year, which was second on the team.

Across from Lawrence is 6-foot-4, 297-pound DE Glen Logan. The junior registered 46 tackles and four sacks in 2018.

Where the real size comes in is at nose tackle. Sophomore Tyler Shelvin comes in at 6-foot-3, 362 pounds while true freshman Siaki Ikai is 6-foot-4 and 347 pounds.

These four players average out to over 330 pounds giving LSU one of, if not the biggest, defensive line in college football.

Replacing the SEC’s leading tackler and No. 5 pick in this past year’s NFL draft is no easy task. Even without Devin White, LSU us likely happy with where they stand at linebacker.

Junior Jacob Phillips is the team’s leading returning tackler and a preseason All-SEC third team selection. Don’t be surprised to see Phillips come close or eclipse the 100-tackle mark in 2019.

Senior Michael Divinity Jr. will continue to add a much-needed pass rush from the other linebacker position. Divinity Jr. had a breakout year for the Tigers in 2018 with 54 tackles, 9.5 TFLs and four sacks.

The LSU defensive backfield will need to step up after losing Greedy Williams, who was arguably the SEC’s best cornerback.

Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda probably isn’t worried all that much as senior CB Kristian Fulton looks to become LSU’s next great cornerback.

Fulton is a preseason All-SEC second team selection and locked down opponents all last year, only surrendering six first downs or touchdowns in coverage throughout all of last season.

Before his transfer, Kelvin Joseph had the chance to become the No. 2 corner for the Tigers. That spot may be claimed by true freshman Derek Stingley.

Stingley was the top ranked overall recruit in the class of 2019 according to Rivals and has as much talent as any corner in the country.

LSU’s best player, however, plays strong safety. 6-foot-3, 203-pound junior Grant Delpit was a unanimous All-American in 2018 and will return as one of the best defensive players in all of college football.

Delpit filled up the stat sheet with 74 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, a team leading five sacks and five interceptions and will continue to fly around the field making plays for this LSU squad.

Opposite Delpit, the Tigers will replace three-year starter John Battle with 6-foot-2, 225-pound safety JaCoby Stevens. 

Stevens, a junior, recorded 35 tackles and 6.5 TFLs last year and is a strong breakout candidate for 2019.

 

Special Teams

The Tigers will have to find a successor to 2018 All-American kicker Cole Tracy. No starter has been named but LSU will have one of the SEC’s best punters in Zach Von Rosenberg, who ranked second in the SEC in yards per punt (45.7).

 

Overall

LSU will be a tough team to beat in 2019, especially in the always-raucous Tiger Stadium.

Nick Brosette, Greedy Williams and Devin White are tough losses, but the Tigers have more than enough returning talent to go around.

 Burrow has the chance to be one of the country’s best dual-threat QBs, a reality that becomes even more apparent when looking at LSU’s returning talent and size at WR.

The offensive line must show definite signs of improvement but having two preseason All-SEC selections starting isn’t a bad situation to be in.

Despite being a weak point on an excellent defense, LSU’s defensive line will clog lanes and bulldoze opposing linemen.

The Tigers have All-SEC talent at linebacker and as is the case with many other LSU defenses, an extremely talented and productive group of defensive backs could have the chance to lead LSU to a playoff appearance.

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