Tyson Jackson, Kirston Pittman, Herman Johnson, and Darry Beckwith are all likely to return for their senior seasons. In Pittman's case, he is applying for a 6th year of eligibility due to missing 2 years with injuries. He will definitely qualify for it, giving him a chance to be the only player in college football history to be a player on 3 BCS National Championships. Only other Tigers have 2, and only Pittman and Keith Zinger actually played during the games on both teams that won it.
But I digress. This is the biggest and best news of the offseason, and it means that LSU will not have to completely overhaul its defense. While we certainly lose a significant number of starters on defense, including 3 All-Americans, we will return enough experience and skill to make the transition a little less painful. We return 3 starting defensive linemen (and two others who have started at times), and plenty of depth as well. If Ricky Jean-Francois is prepared to take over the superstar role vacated by Glenn Dorsey, this unit will be just as good if not better than last year. Plus, with the addition of all those redshirt freshmen into the equation, this unit will be deeper than it was this year. Jackson and Pittman will both be looking to have big seasons to improve their stock in the NFL draft.
I am a little surprised about Pittman. I would have thought he would have decided 5 years was enough, and that he had accomplished what he needed to accomplish in college. I'm glad to have him back, though.
We will return the anchor of the linebacker corps. Despite all the hype Ali Highsmith got, I always thought Beckwith was the better and more important player. He will have new starters on either side of him, but he will be making the defensive calls and helping them along. By the way, Perry Riley looks like an absolute stud to me. He'll probably take over the strong side spot for Luke Sanders. When he got a chance to play this year, he was always very good. The weak side linebacker will face some serious competition.
Personally, if I was the defensive coordinator, I'd move Harry Coleman to that position as soon as possible. He looked like a guy who needed to be on the field, but so does Chad Jones, who needs to take over a safety position. Harry Coleman, as a safety, would probably struggle in coverage and might be a little slower than you want. Harry Coleman, as a linebacker, wouldn't have to worry about it so much, and his coverage skills would probably be a strength. But mostly, he'd just be able to run and hit people, which he seems to do very well. If Coleman doesn't make the move, I suppose it will probably be Kelvin Sheppard at weak side linebacker. I have no impression of him yet.
Herman Johnson's return to the offensive line will make this group the strength of the offense next season. We return 4 starters and all of our key reserves. The left side of our offensive line, including the center, will be together for its 3rd straight year. Rising sophomore Joseph Barksdale will take over for Carnell Stewart, and I expect him to be an upgrade. The right guard position returns its starter, but honestly I don't think Lyle Hitt performed well enough to be secure in his job position. He should be in pretty stiff competition with other returning players.
I remain convinced we're going to be a VERY good team next year. I think we have to be on the short list of potential conference championship contenders and national championship contenders again.