LSU has fielded some incredible teams since Nick Saban left Baton Rouge, La., in 2004. The Les Miles era has featured two BCS Championship Game appearances and one national championship won in 2007. But one noted analyst believes the 2016 edition could be the best team yet.
SEC Network pundit Booger McFarland said Wednesday that LSU’s 2016 team has more talent than any other team Miles has coached.
“LSU has its best team it’s had since Nick Saban left,” McFarland said, according to NOLA.com’s Ron Higgins. “This team is better than the 2011 team. This team has more star power than the 2011 team.”
But with high praise comes even more pressure to win. McFarland added that Miles is one of a few SEC West coaches on the hot seat entering the 2016 season, according to Higgins. Nobody probably knows that more than Miles, who was nearly fired at the end of last season.
McFarland is right on both accounts. The Tigers are loaded, didn’t lose much talent to the NFL compared to past seasons and received a few pleasant surprises when cornerback Tre White, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive lineman Christian LaCouture all announced they would be returning for their senior seasons.
The only key players LSU will have to replace are outside linebacker Deion Jones, defensive back Jalen Mills and offensive linemen Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander. Combine that with the nation’s No. 3-ranked recruiting class incoming and the Tigers shouldn’t have any problems filling the few holes on the roster.
Obviously, junior running back Leonard Fournette is at the forefront of the starpower conversation and is poised to rebound after a disappointing finish to his prolific sophomore campaign. Sure, disappointing might not be the best adjective to associate with a 1,953-yard, 22-touchdown season, but Fournette certainly tailed off during the final stretch of the regular season.
LSU’s season will likely be defined by its biggest question mark from a year ago: Junior quarterback Brandon Harris. The fates of Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could be determined by his performance more than anything else.
The good news is LSU has one of the most talented and deepest rosters in the country. The bad news is LSU’s three-game losing skid against three of its biggest conference rivals still lingers. Another eight or nine-win season might not cut it this time.
Whether the glass is half-full or half-empty when evaluating LSU, it might be College Football Playoff or bust for Miles and the most talented Tigers team of his tenure.