2005 RECORD: 11-2 (7-1 in SEC West) RETURNING STARTERS: 13
RB Alley Broussard (Jr.)
LSU's top rusher in 2004, he missed last season with a torn right ACL
LB Ali Highsmith (Jr.)
The 6'1", 226-pound head-banger led the Tigers with three forced fumbles last season
WR Dwayne Bowe (Sr.)
Had 41 catches for 710 yards and nine touchdowns in '05 but dropped too many balls. The 6'3" 217-pounder underwent LASIK surgery in the off-season
Big Man on Campus
JaMarcus Russell has engineered six come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter or in overtime, thrown 24 touchdown passes and won 14 of his 16 starts. Last fall the 6'6", 252-pound junior completed 60.5% of his throws for 2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns in 12 games before wrist and shoulder injuries forced him to miss the Peach Bowl and much of spring practice. Coach Les Miles pronounced Russell "completely healed," but if he falters the Tigers have a capable backup in junior Matt Flynn.
Safety LaRon Landry is fleet and fierce. Now he must develop into the leader the defense needs
Asked why he chose not to declare for last April's NFL draft, even though he was likely to be a mid- to late-first-round pick, senior free safety LaRon Landry ticks off a couple of reasons: to win the Bednarik Trophy as the nation's top defensive player, and to help the Tigers take their second BCS championship in four years. Then, after a pause, he adds, "And because I wanted to be part of the Number 1 secondary in the nation."
The 6'2" 204-pounder from Ama, La., is one of three starters returning from a deep and talented backfield that led the SEC in pass efficiency defense in 2005. Senior strong safety Jessie Daniels is an experienced signal-caller with 136 tackles in 24 starts, while junior cornerback Chevis Jackson has speed to spare. The second corner slot will go to junior Jonathan Zenon, another burner who saw extensive action last season in nickel and dime packages. Then there's Landry, a fourth-year starter who has been an impact player since his freshman season, when he led LSU's 2003 title team with 80 tackles. Fast and physical, he's nearly unbeatable in pass coverage; he broke up eight passes and had three interceptions last year. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini can't wait to turn Landry loose on the blitz this fall. "He can run and cover like a corner," says Pelini, "and he can also play like a linebacker. He gives us a lot of versatility."
That will come in handy on a defense that has gaps to fill, with two new starters at linebacker and three on the line. Plenty of talent remains, though, including the fleet-footed Highsmith and 6'2", 284-pound tackle Glenn Dorsey, one of the strongest players on the team, who saw extensive action as a reserve last season.
With a matchup against SEC West rival Auburn looming on Sept. 16, the defense must come together quickly to realize Landry's BCS goal. Pelini has been urging his star to be a more vocal leader -- a role that should come easily to a communications major. "We have lots of experience in the backfield," Landry says. "It's my job to help out the younger guys and to mentor them. That's going to be so important this year." -- Mark Beech