HOOVER, Alabama — LSU coach Les Miles said he expects the team's quarterback play to be "legitimately better" as it competes for a title in the difficult Southeastern Conference Western Division.
Miles said Thursday that four suspended players — including quarterback Anthony Jennings — are still "going through a legal process" after offseason arrests. Jennings, who was charged with unauthorized entry of a residence, and Brandon Harris are the two main candidates for the starting quarterback job.
Miles said he was "optimistic that a number" of the suspended players will return.
LSU is coming off a relatively disappointing 8-5 season, including a 4-4 mark in league play. The Tigers return eight offensive starters, including sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who set an LSU freshman rushing record last season with 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Miles had high praise for Fournette.
"Certainly, Leonard Fournette might well be worthy of (the Heisman) conversation," Miles said. "That's not my focus. Certainly, I hope it's not his focus because the whole piece is putting the team together and having him do his part. If he just does his part, he'll be in the mix."
As long as Fournette is around, running the ball probably won't be a problem. Throwing it is another matter entirely.
LSU ranked 13th out of 14 league teams in points per game last season, largely because its passing attack was the worst in the league, averaging just 162.9 yards per game.
Jennings was the starter for most of last season and struggled, throwing for 1,611 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed just 48.9 percent of his throws. Harris was a little better in limited action, completing 55.6 percent of his passes for 452 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
"There's been some things that we've done to kind of script and hone to make their skills and abilities more evident," Miles said. "So I think we'll get really improved quarterback play."
LSU returns six defensive starters, but the unit will likely have a much different look after veteran defensive coordinator John Chavis left the Tigers to take the same job at Texas A&M.
LSU replaced Chavis with Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele. Tigers' linebacker Kendall Beckwith said the transition has gone well after the initial shock of learning that Chavis was leaving.
Beckwith said it helped that Chavis and Steele were close friends.
"It was strange," Beckwith said. "Coach Chavis was like a father figure for me. It was strange not having him there, but then with him and Coach Steele being so close they're just like brothers. (Steele) came in and filled that role well."
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