By Corey Long - @CoreyLong
Updated Jane. 17, 2020.
LSU completed a 15-0 season with a decisive 42-25 win over Clemson on Monday, snapping Clemson's 29-game win streak. With their body of work complete, the 2019 LSU Tigers were clearly the best team in the country and a deserving champion. But can LSU make it back to the College Football Playoff in the 2020 season?
Here's a quick look as where the strengths and questions lie with the Tigers and how they have recruited over the past two cycles to improve future depth.
The Tigers have already suffered some significant attrition following Monday's game. Quarterback Joe Burrow, a graduate transfer, will be moving on and is the likely No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Seven other underclassmen have already declared, with more likely to come before the Monday deadline. Those who have already declared are linebackers Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen, offensive linemen Lloyd Cushenberry and Saahdiq Charles, safety Grant Delpit, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
So, where does this roster attrition leave LSU? Well, the 2020 roster should be strong in two areas and have real question marks in two areas.
Wide Receiver: LSU has been producing high-end wide receivers for years, and even if the Tigers lose wide receiver/tight end Thaddeus Moss as well, they are well equipped for the future. Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. will be returning, and class of 2019 recruits Trey Palmer and Devonta Lee will have opportunities to move up the depth chart and get involved in the offense after redshirting this season. For a while, LSU had the top wide receivers haul in the 2020 class, but blue-chip wide receivers Jermaine Burton - signed with Georgia - and Rakim Jarrett - signed with Maryland - flipped during the early signing period. Tigers did hold on to in-state wide receiver prospect Kayshon Boutte and signed blue-chip tight end Arik Gilbert. Overall, the pass catchers at LSU are fast, athletic and talented.
Secondary: The Tigers will lose Delpit, who might be the first safety off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft. Cornerback Kristian Fulton has exhausted his eligibility, but JaCoby Stevens is returning and the Tigers played a lot of underclassmen this year like Maurice Hampton and Cordell Flott, both of whom are in line for a significant uptick in snaps next season. Derek Stingley Jr. started as a true freshman, and he'll be leading this unit for the 2020 and 2021 seasons at least. Two LSU signees should see the field as true freshmen; cornerback Elias Ricks, the No. 2 rated cornerback in the 2020 class, and safety Jordan Toles, the No. 9 rated safety in the class. They should add quality depth in 2020 and will eventually move into starting roles as they gain experience.
Quarterback: Myles Brennan has been Burrow's backup and understudy for a couple of years. He'll get a shot to keep the ball rolling next year, but don't expect him to be handed the job. I wouldn't be surprised if LSU brought in a graduate transfer at quarterback. Houston quarterback D'Eriq King decided he's going to move on, and LSU might want to bring in more of a run/pass option at quarterback next season. Former Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello seems like another potential option. LSU did sign two quarterbacks in this class, Max Johnson, ranked as the No. 8 quarterback in the 2020 class, and T.J. Finley, a big-body, big-armed in-state prospect who might need a little more seasoning. The big question is exactly how LSU's offense will look next year without passing coordinator Joe Brady. Those changes will also determine what will be required of the quarterback position in the future.
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Running Back: LSU has a depth chart full of running backs with potential, none higher than former blue-chip recruit John Emery, the top-rated offensive player in LSU's recruiting class of 2019. The Tigers are actively looking for a top-end running back to fill up their 2020 recruiting class with the highly talented-but troubled prospect Zachary Evans and Jahmyr Gibbs - verbally committed to Georgia Tech - at the top of the wishlist. There will be a lot of pressure on this unit. Edwards-Helaire had 270 touchdowns for nearly 2,000 total yards and 17 touchdowns in 2019. The other three backs on the depth chart combined for 161 touchdowns and l829 yards. Tyrion Davis-Price looks like he can be the player who will give LSU the best combination of rushing and receiving, but Emery is the five-star prospect and the LSU faithful is eager to see if he's the next great back.
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