<
>

Breaking down LSU's most and least experienced positions for 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With 18 returning starters, LSU returns one of the nation’s most experienced rosters.

But while the Tigers have a wealth of experience at positions like cornerback and tight end, they will still be young in spots -- particularly at offensive tackle and linebacker. Those two position groups rank among the biggest questions as the Tigers advance toward the end of spring practice.

Let’s take a look at how the Tigers’ roster shapes up based upon games played and starts for each position group.

MOST EXPERIENCED

1. Cornerback: LSU cornerbacks have played 115 career games at the position, including 53 starts -- led by three-year starter Tre’Davious White (37 career games, 35 starts). Kevin Toliver, Dwayne Thomas and Donte Jackson have all started games, as well.

Projected starters: Tre’Davious White (37/35), Kevin Toliver (12/8). Group totals (115/53).

2. Quarterback: Even after 2014 starter Anthony Jennings’ departure, LSU still has the equivalent of two full seasons worth of starting experience between Brandon Harris and Purdue transfer Danny Etling (13/12).

Projected starter: Brandon Harris (20/13). Group totals (33/25).

3. Defensive line: Manning the three defensive line spots in Dave Aranda’s base defense are a pair of two-year starters, Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux, plus the team’s leading sack man from a year ago, defensive end Lewis Neal. In addition, the Tigers have multiple reserves back along the line led by Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron.

Projected starters: Christian LaCouture (37/23), Davon Godchaux (25/22), Lewis Neal (35/12). Group totals (169/58).

Wild card: Tight end. We should note that tight end is in good shape without Dillon Gordon since the combination of Colin Jeter, Foster Moreau and DeSean Smith has 70 games and 12 starts to its credit. However, if the NCAA grants Gordon (42/28) another season of eligibility following the Achilles ailment that cost him most of the 2015 campaign, tight end would rank as LSU’s most experienced position and the Tigers would retain one of their most valuable blockers. As of Saturday, coach Les Miles said the Tigers were still unsure whether Gordon would be able to play this fall.

LEAST EXPERIENCED

1. Offensive tackle: Although projected starters Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby both started games as true freshmen last season, Weathersby’s start versus Ole Miss is the only one by any LSU player at tackle. All 11 of Teuhema’s career starts came at guard, thus the Tigers will be largely learning on the job at this highly important position in the fall.

Projected starters: Maea Teuhema (12/11 – no starts at tackle), Toby Weathersby (12/1). Group totals: (41/1)

2. Fullback: The silver lining to John David Moore’s season-ending knee injury last year was that freshman Bry’Kiethon Mouton (11/5) was able to gain experience. That gives LSU two blocking backs with starts under their belts. However, the position group still has a combined total of just 10 starts to its credit.

Projected starter: John David Moore (14/5). Group totals: (28/10).

3. Linebacker: There are still a couple of starting spots up for grabs here now that Aranda is putting four linebackers on the field in his base defense. Senior Kendell Beckwith and converted defensive end Arden Key are safe bets to start, while there are multiple contenders for the other jobs. Tashawn Bower and Corey Thompson -- two veterans who are shifting from other positions -- are in the mix here, as is early enrollee Devin White, who continues to draw raves from his coaches. Beckwith’s decision to return for his senior season was especially valuable since he is far and away the Tigers’ most experienced player at the position.

Projected starters: Kendell Beckwith (37/19), Arden Key (12/9), Duke Riley (38/1), Donnie Alexander (24/1). Group totals (76/21 at linebacker, 171/41 at all positions).

THE REST

Wide receiver: Starters Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are the only LSU receivers with starting experience. LSU will be forced to play some green players here. Projected starters: Travin Dural (36/21), Malachi Dupre (24/10). Group totals (93/31).

Safety: This is a relatively thin position, particularly this spring with John Battle out following surgery and signees Cameron Lewis and Eric Monroe not yet on campus. Projected starters: Rickey Jefferson (32/10), Jamal Adams (25/14). Group totals (70/24).

Offensive guard: The Tigers will have some solid options to line up along with Will Clapp at guard, but little starting experience at the position if Teuhema sticks at tackle. Projected starters: Will Clapp (12/12), Josh Boutte (33/1). Group totals (77/33 overall, 65/22 at guard).

Running back: Superstar Leonard Fournette accounts for all the starting experience, but the Tigers have multiple solid options, including Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. Projected starter: Leonard Fournette (25/18). Group totals (59/18).

Center: Once senior Ethan Pocic returns from injury, he could be a candidate at other positions. He has the team’s only considerable experience at center, however. Projected starter: Ethan Pocic (30/25 overall, 21/16 at center). Group totals: (29/16).