Betting sports is challenging, and in the 2013 college football season, the LSU Tigers will face a daunting task: With less skill-position talent than in past years, they will try to fight past the Texas A&M Aggies and (more centrally) the Alabama Crimson Tide for the SEC West Division championship and a shot at the SEC title. LSU is being picked third in the division, which represents genuine slippage for head coach Les Miles’ program. The key to LSU’s season is for backups and players who are lower on the depth chart to answer the call. However, that point of emphasis does not change the fact that there are plenty of intriguing NFL prospects on this team. Let’s look at three of them in particular.
The best NFL prospect on this team, by quite a considerable margin, is defensive tackle Anthony Johnson. It is impossible to avoid noticing when one player is all over the field, making tackles and penetrating the line of scrimmage at will. Johnson was this kind of player for LSU last season. While teammates such as Sam Montgomery (at linebacker) openly admitted to taking plays off and going at half-speed on some occasions, Johnson played all-out on every snap, and it showed. A very SEC-like combination of brute strength and lethal quickness enabled Johnson to consistently blow up plays in opposing teams’ backfields. He was a disruptive force who will demand attention from offensive lines and, more fundamentally, from opposing offensive coordinators who are going to design their blocking schemes in order to make him as minimally involved as one can possibly allow. Being a defensive tackle, though, puts Johnson in the middle of the action to begin with. There’s only so much an opposing coordinator can do with those blocking schemes. Johnson is poised for a huge year and, if he stays away from injury, a very fat NFL paycheck following a first-round draft selection in 2014.
Safety Craig Loston is another strong NFL prospect on the LSU defense. The Tigers regularly butter their bread on the defensive side of the ball; this has been the program’s point of strength throughout Miles’ tenure in Baton Rouge. LSU is a defense-first team, and one of the cornerstones of an elite defense is a safety who can handle run and pass responsibilities with equal levels of skill and aptitude. Loston is precisely this kind of player. A physical hitter in both run support and in pass defense, Loston could very reasonably be viewed as the Bayou Bengals’ most important player in 2013, precisely because Texas A&M and Alabama are going to throw the ball a lot this season.
The third NFL prospect worth mentioning on the LSU roster is an offensive player, wide receiver Odell Beckham. His hands still need work (yes, that’s pretty important for a receiver), but there are no questions about Beckham’s speed and his ability to get open. Beckham is precisely the kind of player who needs to get many touches a game, sometimes on handoffs in the backfield or on bubble screens. Getting him the ball in open space, and in situations when he has a full head of steam before he touches the ball, can give him the momentum and angle with which to burst by defenders at the point of contact.
Click here to get a full list of futures for the 2013 college football season.