Les Miles heads into his 10th season as head coach of the LSU Tigers with four straight 10-win seasons under his belt.
All the pieces look to be in place for another banner season. The No. 13-ranked Tigers face No. 14 Wisconsin in the season opener Saturday night in the Advocare Texas Kickoff in Houston.
“We’re a team that’s really on the cusp of an opportunity to win championships,” Miles said during SEC Media Days last month in Hoover, Ala.
The Tigers return six starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished 10-3 last season, including a 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
One position where the Tigers don’t have a returning starter is quarterback.
Sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris, a former Parkway star, have been competing for the position since spring practice.
Jennings started in the Outback Bowl victory in place of injured Zach Mettenberger.
Miles has said he will tell the two which one is starting against Wisconsin on Thursday.
LSU has a big hole to fill at running back with the loss of Jeremy Hill to the NFL, but Kenny Hilliard and Terrance Magee both have experience.
One of the most anticipated debuts will be that of freshman running back Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 recruit in the nation last season. Two other freshman, D.J. Chark and Darel Williams, could also see action.
The Tigers suffered two big losses at receiver with the departure of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to the NFL.
Travin Dural is the most experienced Tiger at the position. Highly-touted freshmen Malachi Dupree and Trey Quinn should see plenty of playing time.
Four starters return on the line — La’El Collins, Elliot Porter, Vadel Alexander and Jerald Hawkins.
Miles said cutting down on turnovers will be a big key to having a successful season.
“If you look at the three games we lost, turnovers played a very significant role,” he said. “It’s an annual battle. Certainly we have, in my opinion, the style of team that can win championships. The necessity to do some of those things better year in and year out can make a difference.”
Ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter lead the list of defensive returnees.
“Everybody that lines up against us will have to know where we play our defensive ends because Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco again may arguably be two of the finest defensive ends in the country,” Miles said.
Linebackers Kwon Alexander and D.J. Welter return along with cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson. Ronald Martin started eight games last year at safety.
With Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson’s departure to the NFL, Quentin Thomas is the only defensive tackle with experience.
LSU vs. Wisconsin
Saturday, 8 p.m. (ESPN, 1130 AM)
Parish connection: Freshman QB Brandon Harris (Parkway), senior WR Jeff Lang (Benton)
— Staff Reports, firstname.lastname@example.org