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The Cupboard is Looking Bare

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New faces are going to have to step up and step up quickly.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi
One guy who is NOT a question mark
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly has released his annual report on returning production and the news for LSU is… well, it’s not good.

Let’s get right to the Hindenberg catching fire:

Over the last four years, 37 teams have returned at least 80 percent of their production based on current calculations; 32 of them (86 percent) improved, and 22 (59 percent) improved their adjusted scoring margin per game by at least six points.

Meanwhile, 56 teams returned under 50 percent of their production; 48 of them (86 percent) regressed, 27 (48 percent) by at least a touchdown.

LSU returns 48 percent of its production, ranking 122nd out of 130 teams. The Tigers rank dead last in the SEC and only Louisville and Colorado rank worse among Power 5 teams.

But don’t worry, it gets worse.

The LSU offense, which wasn’t exactly a fountain of production, returns just 39 percent of its production, ranking 124th in the nation. But hey, at least we’ll have that awesome defense in Baton Rouge. You know, the one that ranks 90th in returning production, with 57 percent of production returning. At least its above that 50-percent barrier.

The words you’re looking for are, “Oh, the humanity.”

But don’t worry, things get worse when we look at it on a granular level.

Danny Etling’s graduation leaves LSU without a starting quarterback, and Matt Canada did not do a whole lot to prep Myles Brennan to take the job. Brennan only appeared in six games and threw just 24 passes. He accounted for 8 percent of the team’s attempts and 6.9 percent of its yards. Though, in an odd statistical quirk, LSU returns 50 percent of its interceptions.

The top three receivers by yardage are all leaving which sounds worse than it is. DJ Chark is a legitimate massive loss, as he accounted for 874 yards on his own. But the team’s No. 2 receiver was running back Darrel Williams, so its not like that production cannot be replaced.

The team loses its #1 target, but otherwise, a lot of production and potential production returns. LSU brings back 38.5 percent of its receptions and 36.4 percent of its receiving yards. The sophomore trio of Stephen Sullivan, Drake Davis, and Derrick Dillon all showed some flashes last year, and its not being unreasonable to expect one or even two of them to break out.

The big issue for the offense, and one we’re not used to in Baton Rouge, is the depleted backfield. Nick Brossette is the team’s leading returning rusher, and he had just 19 carries for 96 yards. The offense returns 10.1 percent of its rush attempts and just 8.2 percent of its yards.

For a patchwork line that was forced to play true freshmen, not a bunch of talent returns. The line returns 53.7 percent of its starts but it does return 73.9 percent of its appearances.

Essentially, Steve Ensminger has to rebuild LSU’s offense in one offseason with almost entirely new players. We have gone through a succession of candidates who have failed to modernize LSU’s offense, and they near uniformly had more to work with than Ensminger does. He comes in with both history and the roster working against him. Good luck.

However, the Tiger faithful have been comforting themselves with the dream of a stout defense next season. Dave Aranda is a stud coordinator and its not like the cupboard is bare, so its not completely unreasonable, but it does show how we’ve adjusted our expectations. LSU ranking 90th in returning production now counts as returning most of your defense.

LSU returns 57.6% of its total tackles, but the good news is at the top. LSU returns its tackling leader, Devin White. White had 133 tackles and the No. 2 guy on the team, Christian LaCouture, had 66. Even better news for LSU is that LSU returns three of its top four tacklers.

But its not just the total tackles, it’s the playmakers. Devin White, again, led the team in tackles for a loss by a wide margin with 14. LSU returns 37.5 of its 77 tackles behind the line, for 48.7 percent. A guy we thought would be near impossible to replace has already been so, statistically. Arden Key had just 5.5 tackles for loss last season and K’Lavon Chiasson had 4.5.

Interceptions are a bit unpredictable, but LSU will return 10 of its 12 picks, primarily because of the presence of Greedy Williams. Think about that for a second. LSU is losing two cornerbacks to the draft, and only losing two picks. However, a more accurate picture is the pass break-ups. LSU returns 53.1 percent of its pass break-ups. The defensive backfield will be fine.

Coach O needs Aranda to work his magic on the defense, and we need our returning star player to actually be healthy for the first time in three seasons (that’s not asking for a lot, right?) to cover for the offense while Ensminger finds out who can produce. He needs to figure it out fast.