Kendall Beckwith and Tre White are back, baby. There is no dark lining to this silver cloud: this is great news for LSU.
All this month, the talk regarding the draft is that LSU could lose players and replace them with talented underclassmen on the roster, but the one guy this team was in no position to replace was Kendall Beckwith. Forget about the recruiting class, this was the biggest recruiting pitch of Dave Aranda's offseason.
And just to dance in the end zone a little bit, the staff also successfully kept Tre White in the fold. He's an immense talent, and possibly a first round pick, but defensive back is also the most loaded position on the defensive side of the roster. Had White left, the team would have managed without him. Behind Beckwith there was nothing but hope.
Now, LSU goes into the 2016 season with the author of the 2015 season's best defense as its new co-ordinator. In his first year on the job, he inherits a depth chart with 8 or 9 returning starters, depending on how you count.*
*Lamar Louis was the team's third linebacker and is a graduating senior, but LSU didn't often play three linebackers. If you view the starting lineup as the 4-2-5 formation, LSU returns an extra starter.
LSU returns nine of its top ten tacklers, eight of the team's ten interceptions, and every single player on the team with over 1.0 tackles for a loss save one, amounting to 13 total players. There's a bevy of experienced, already productive talent coming back, and now it will be guided by one of the best defensive coaches in the country.
LSU loses only two early entrants to the draft this year, and one of them wasn't even on the roster for most of the year (Rashard Robinson). The only significant early entry is Jerald Hawkins, who will be missed, but LSU will return three of its five starting linemen.
Even more significant than only losing two early entrants to the NFL is how few seniors this team is going to lose. LSU only had one senior starter on offense, Vadal Alexander. On defense, only two or three seniors started, again, depending on how you count Lamar Louis.
On top of those defensive numbers, LSU will return every single player to throw a pass, rush the ball, or catch a single pass last year, depending on whether Dillon Gordon wins his appeal for an extra year of eligibility. He caught one pass last year before suffering his injury, so if he does not win his medical hardship appeal, then LSU will lose one total catch from 2015's production.*
*Because he is the world's biggest buzzkill, Paul points out that Diarse is transferring, so we will lose his 13 catches for 137 yards as well. Damn it, Paul!
LSU returns nine starters on offense and quite literally, all of its offensive production from last season. Furthermore, the team returns nine starters on defense, and most of its defensive production. This is as close as you can come in college football to having everybody back. And Miles might be adding the number one recruiting class on the country for a bit more talent infusion.
Beckwith and White aren't just coming back because they love LSU and the college experience. That may be part of it, but make no mistake, they are coming back so they can win a title. The expectation is set, right here, right now. The 2016 team is out to win it all.