LSU lost nine starters in the NFL Draft -- primarily on one side of the ball. No other SEC team saw more players drafted to the pros. There's no doubt that the following season is going to see the Tigers slide down the --
I'm sorry. I'm working off of my notes from last year's LSU roster post. And the Tigers did in fact drop a bit in the SEC West in 2013, going from second place with a 10-3 record in 2012 to third place with a 10-3 record in 2013. Full disclosure: On defense, the side of the ball where LSU lost most of its draft picks after the 2012 season, the Bengals did slump a bit, going from allowing 4.46 yards a play that year to allowing 5.08 yards a play in 2013. So this is not to say that LSU isn't going to miss the extraordinary amount of talent it lost off last year's team; it's just to say that those pondering whether LSU might end up in the Independence Bowl are forgetting a bit of history.
BIGGEST RETURN | LB D.J. Welter
Specifically, middle linebacker D.J. Welter -- which is part of the reason he's in this spot. Welter was second on LSU in tackles (and tops among players returning this season) with 80 in 2013, with a pair of sacks among four tackles for loss. There are 29 career starts returning in LSU's linebacking corps, and Welter has 13 of them, all of them in 2013. If there's any one spot on the defense where you want to have someone with experience, it's probably middle linebacker. And Welter is being touted as a leader on defense for the Tigers this year.
BIGGEST LOSS | WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.
This is almost a pick 'em, especially when it comes to offense. The starting quarterback is gone, along with one of the best wide receiving tandems in the nation and a portion of the great stable of running backs. We'll go with the receivers, just because there's so little experience left to replace them. Landry and Beckham were phenomenal in 2013, combining to catch 136 passes for 2,345 yards and 18 touchdowns. There were 22 FBS teams that had fewer passing yards total in 2013. As for what's left to replace them: No returning player in 2014 had more than seven receptions last season. If there's a legitimate reason to expect LSU's offense to fall off a cliff, it's breaking in a new quarterback and a new wide receiving corps.
BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | RB Leonard Fournette
The LSU media guide calls Fournette "the most heralded running back recruit in Louisiana history" -- and if there's any hyperbole there, it's slight. He averaged 9.8 yards a carry in high school over his career. Sure, high school numbers are high school numbers, but it's not hard to see why the LSU faithful are excited to see Fournette in action. And he's going to get his opportunities; there's one returning career start (not starter, start) at tailback for the Tigers this year, and Terrence Magee's 86 carries in 2013 were the most among players who are back this season. Fournette's already boasting a bit, but LSU's offensive success might depend on whether he can back it up.