LSU shrugs off NFL departures, has high hopes

AP Sports WriterJuly 16, 2014 

— The NFL has taken another big chunk out of LSU's roster.

As usual, coach Les Miles just shrugs, says that's part of the job and plans to replace them with guys who are just as good or better.

The Tigers had nine players selected in May's draft — including several underclassmen — but expectations are still very high in Death Valley. LSU returns 13 starters from last season, including most of the offensive line.

Miles called linemen La'el Collins and Jerald Hawkins "two of the finest tackles in our league" during his time on the podium at SEC media days on Wednesday. Collins said no one is concerned about trying to replace so much talent from last season.

"I just feel our coaches do a great job preparing us for whatever, so when we do lose a lot of guys to the NFL our younger guys are ready to go," Collins said.

Collins and Hawkins should help protect the Tigers' new quarterback. Miles said the position battle continues between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris.

"It will be a very competitive event from the start to the finish," Miles said. "Cam Cameron, a guy who's made a career mentoring quarterbacks, is our offensive coordinator, and he'll do exactly the right things with those guys."

Jennings or Harris will be replacing Zach Mettenberger, who threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.

Whoever wins the job should have plenty of help from the team's running backs. Terrence Magee rushed for 626 yards and eight touchdowns last season while averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

Touted freshman Leonard Fournette could also help right away. The running back is 6-foot-1, 224 pounds and Miles compared his demeanor to Michael Jordan's while praising his attitude and ability.

"Leonard Fournette is doing exactly what he should be doing," Miles said. "He's getting in the weight room, running, getting in great shape. He's pursuing the classroom, got great grades. He's quiet. He's not assuming. He's humble in his approach."

There are some questions at receiver after losing Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry to the NFL. Nobody on the current roster caught more than seven passes last season.

Miles praised the incoming freshmen receivers, saying they should help right away.

The Tigers' defense is led by senior linebacker D.J. Welter and sophomore cornerback Tre'Davious White. Welter made 80 tackles last season, including four for a loss, while White had 55 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions as a freshman.

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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