Miles will have fresh young talent to rebuild squad

daniels    Is the sky falling on Les Miles and LSU football?
    The answer is: Of course not.
    But the doomsayers are out in big numbers, especially after 10 underclassmen on the 2012 team declared for the NFL draft.
    Those declarations and a second-half collapse and subsequent 25-24 loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl have set off a mild purple-and-gold panic.
    “We’re going to fall behind Ole Miss in the West,” said an LSU fan to a reporter.
    If that happens, it will be because Ole Miss is very good, not because LSU will be very bad.
    Here’s what LSU has returning.
    Statistically, the top three wide receivers, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Kadron Boone, all return. The three caught 11 of the 12 touchdown receptions by Tigers in 2012.
    On the offensive line, guard Trai Turner and tackle Vadal Alexander, both freshman, return. So does guard La’el Collins.
    While Michael Ford and Spencer Ware (who combined for 759 rushing yards) depart, Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard all return.
    Quarterback Zach Mettenberger returns for another season. National recruits, quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings, are part of the February signing class.
    Defensively, the biggest rebuilding job will be on the line. Ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and tackle Benny Logan depart. Jermauria Rasco, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson return.
    And in mid-January, LSU had seven defensive linemen committed in the class of 2013.
    True freshman linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis started a total of seven games.
    And linebacker Lamin Barrow, who started all 13 games and registered double-digit tackles in his last three, returns for his senior season.
    True freshman Kendall Beckwith of East Feliciana, one of the top recruits in the nation, could make an immediate impact at linebacker.
    The secondary features cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins and safety Ronald Martin.
    Punter Brad Wing also departed for the NFL draft. But Wing had a disappointing season, averaging only 44.8 yards per punt. His replacement, Jamie Keehn, averaged 43.7 yards per punt.
    On the horizon is the Louisiana high school football class of 2014.
    It is one of the best ever, led by St. Aug running back Leonard Fournette, Karr defensive end Gerald Willis and Karr quarterback Speedy Noil.
    In the 2007 NFL draft, LSU had four of the first 30 selections. They were quarterback Jamarcus Russell, safety LaRon Landry and wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis.
    The season that followed ended with a BCS championship win over Ohio State in the Louisiana Superdome.
    Miles and his staff will have to quickly nurture a very young football team.
    Yet to be seen is whether Miles will have some sort of offensive epiphany after his offense registered just nine first downs against Clemson.
    But LSU still has plenty of talented athletes, and the quarterback position is potentially one of great strength.
    The 2013 schedule is difficult. LSU opens the season in Arlington, Texas, against TCU and plays at Alabama and Georgia. Florida and Texas A&M both come to Tiger Stadium.
    But, for those who think that LSU is on its way to pigskin mediocrity, the evidence says otherwise.
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .