LSU football bold predictions - how much will defense improve, who will be the tailback?

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE - The LSU football team is coming off its biggest drop off in wins over a two-season period in history with 15 in 2019 to five in 2020.

The Tigers' win total should be somewhere between those two numbers in 2021, but how many? Here are bold predictions for LSU's upcoming season:

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron will rely on a quality defensive line in 2021, particularly when senior tackle Glen Logan (No. 97) returns from a broken foot near mid-season.

Max Johnson or Garrett Nussmeier?

Sophomore Max Johnson will start at UCLA on Sept. 4 (7:30 p.m., FOX), but look for freshman Garrett Nussmeier to play. He has just performed too well in preseason camp to not to as he threw six touchdown passes in two scrimmages.

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But each will be outplayed by UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who will be starting his 24th game since 2018. Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will intercept him late to preserve a 24-21 victory, though. Johnson will start LSU's first nine games before the blossoming Nussmeier takes over after a 34-10 loss at No. 1 Alabama.

Will defense be significantly better?

LSU's defense noticeably improves early, but after last year, how could it not? New coordinator Daronte Jones and linebacker coach Blake Baker, who could be called a co-coordinator, preach pursuit and aggressiveness with much less complicated schemes. And it works wonders with a dominant front seven and a talented and deep secondary.

MORE:LSU's John Emery Jr. reminds offensive coordinator Jake Peetz of Christian McCaffrey

Who will take over at tailback?

Freshman Corey Kiner leads LSU in rushing at UCLA with 89 yards on 14 carries, while junior John Emery Jr. gains 46. Junior Tyrion Davis-Price plays sparingly because of an injury. Kiner, Emery and freshman Armoni Goodwin share duties through the first three games before Emery takes over and starts to play commensurate to his recruitment.

MORE:LSU wide receiver Jaray Jenkins will be playing for Jena against Texas A&M

Who will become the No. 2 receiver?

New offensive coordinator Jake Peetz enjoys a wealth of talent in four- and five-wide sets. After returning top target Kayshon Boutte, the options are plentiful for Johnson and Emery with freshmen Brian Thomas Jr., Deion Smith, Malik Nabers and Chris Hilton all having their moments with sophomore Jaray Jenkins. In the end, the top three will be Boutte, Thomas and Jenkins.

How many wins?

The Tigers get off to a 5-1 start with their only loss to Auburn, which wins at Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1999. After a win at Kentucky, LSU loses a second home game to Florida. LSU edges Ole Miss in a classic, but the Tigers lose two more - at Alabama and at home to the Aggies in the finale - to finish 8-4. Coach Ed Orgeron's warming seat gets hot, but he survives and signs another top-five class.