College Fantasy Football enthusiasts are used to LSU RB’s and their defense providing great value, highly ranked in preseason CFF rankings. Even though LSU pushes great WR’s to the NFL annually, the passing game just hasn’t excelled in a way that is valuable to CFF owners. We’ll dive into the expectations of the LSU offense for 2018 with some great insight in this Expert Q&A post.
Sam Spiegelman joined CFBDynasty to answer 5 questions about LSU. He’s a long-time journalist covering LSU and a trusted source you can follow on Twitter @samspiegs.
With an interesting new hire at Offensive Coordinator for Coach O, how do you see the offense changing in 2018?
The “new-look” LSU offense has been a theme in Baton Rouge for several years, dating back to Les Miles-Cam Cameron era and continuing into coach Ed Orgeron’s tenure. Of course, things did not work out well when Matt Canada was calling plays for the Tigers. The passing game did not advance and we saw a similar-looking rushing attack with the addition of jet-sweeps.
Under Steve Ensminger, who called plays on an interim basis in 2016, we saw LSU air it out a bit more frequently than we had in the several years prior. Ensminger took over Week 5 at home against Missouri and from then on, the offense averaged 211 yards passing per game, but nearly 465 yards of total offense to go along with 32 points per game. Now, you wonder if an entire spring and fall camp with Ensminger’s offense installed, will the production improve and remain consistent?
Because of the way LSU’s roster is comprised heading into 2018 — with a wealth of talent in the receiving corps and an uncertain backfield — it seems as if Ensminger has no other choice than to rely on the aerial attack to move the chains and create mismatches each Saturday. I expect the offense to be relatively even in terms of runs and passes, but the big-play threat will have to come through the air.
The LSU RB starter has been a coveted college fantasy player for years, but this year there doesn't seem to be a guaranteed starter. How do you see the RB position shaking out in 2018?
This is definitely a running back by committee situation in 2018. There is no Jeremy Hill or Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice. My pick to start has to be sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who I expect to lead LSU in overall touches at the running back position. However, I don’t think he’s a true workhorse style back.
Edwards-Helaire will split carries with senior Nick Brossette, who has never proven himself at LSU, as well as some combination of true freshmen Tae Provens and Chris Curry. Edwards-Helaire is a well-rounded running back able to contribute as a between-the-tackles runner and in the passing game. Provens has straight-line burst and should carve out some type of role during camp, while Curry is the prototypical downhill runner. That’s where he should make his mark relatively early.
As stated earlier, Edwards-Helaire is the pick to lead the way in touches — both carries and receptions — but three or four different backs will see action each week.
Is Myles Brennan the answer at QB?
Entering the spring, Brennan seemed to be the favorite in the clubhouse, but that took a turn once Joe Burrow transferred in from Ohio State. Folks on campus have been impressed with Burrow, who is said to be a very accurate passer with some good mobility. His experience should be a major X-factor during fall camp in August as he competes with Brennan, Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse for the starting job.
From the LSU side, I don’t think the staff saw either Brennan, McMillan or Narcisse play a high level on a consistent basis, and after failing to sign a quarterback to its 2018 class, there was a need for another signal-caller on the depth chart. Burrow gives the Tigers a very talented passer that Ohio State was very high on. Some at Ohio State felt Burrow could have very easily won the job, but in doing so, the team would have risked losing Dwayne Haskins to transfer.
Burrow should be deemed the favorite to start behind center when LSU opens up against Miami at AT&T Stadium, but in a perfect world, his presence should reinvigorate the quarterback competition in August.
Is it possible for 5 star Freshman Terrace Marshall to lead the team in production this season? What do you project for the WR position?
I expect Terrace Marshall Jr. to carve out a role in LSU’s offense somewhere close to the middle of the season, but it may be a bit unreasonable to expect the former 5-star prospect to lead the team in receiving this early in his career.
LSU returns a highly touted group of veterans to its receiving corps, most notably Jonathan Giles, who has already earned the No. 7 jersey, given to the team’s top playmaker. There’s also Stephen Sullivan, Justin Jefferson and Racey McMath, who have either proven themselves in recent years or have drawn a ton of praise from members of the coaching staff this past offseason.
Marshall should work into the rotation as a true freshman as he gets accustomed to playing on Saturdays. It may not be immediate, though, and fans should be patient. When it clicks, it will be a major turning point for the LSU offense.
Are there any young players on the roster who you expect to be an offensive star in a year or two?
Quite a few. The other blue-chip receiver in LSU’s 2018 class was Ja’Marr Chase, who along with Marshall, could be heavily involved in the wide receiver rotation around mid-season. Jaray Jenkins and Kenan Jones both need to polish up there games, but the speedy Jenkins is a home-run threat that could eventually replace Giles in the slot. Jones is a big-bodied athletic phenom, and once he gets a better understanding of route-running under passing game coordinator Jerry Sullivan, could emerge as one of the better receivers from Louisiana in some time.
With Ensminger calling the plays, I believe tight end Jamal Pettigrew could be a red-zone target for the Tigers. Foster Moreau is the starter and Thaddeus Moss will see time as an H-back/slot receiver, but Pettigrew is a bit of sleeper in this LSU offense. He’s so tall and a major mismatch in the short-passing game.
With all of the attention of 2018 receivers, don’t sleep on McMath, who at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, is a freakish talent that is a monster after the catch. He has progressed very nicely this offseason and should vie for catches behind Giles and Jefferson, and could very easily replace Sullivan at one of the outside wide receiver positions in due time.