WR Michael Clayton

2002 Statistics

Coach: Nick Saban
26-12, 3 years
2002 Record: 8-5
at Virginia Tech LOST 8-26
at Florida WON 36-7
at Auburn LOST 7-31
at Kentucky WON 33-30
at Arkansas LOST 20-21
Texas LOST 20-35

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

For the last two seasons, LSU football has been an enigma to Tigers' fans and media observers alike. Injuries were a major problem last season - nine opening-day starters missed at least two starts. Unfortunately, Nick Saban's team may have missed its window of opportunity. As outlined, departed-stars' gaping vacancies prove to be two of their three biggest team concerns.

Finishing 8th in total defense nationally puts added pressure on this unit. All-Universe linebacker Bradie James' role was the known-nucleus for team adjustments with his unteachable senses cueing the entire defense. Without him, there has to be some statistical drop off(s). But putting 'W's up is the key, and the team should compensate to easily find Saturday's new defensive heroes.

The rebuilding begins now. The returning impact players - on the offensive and defensive lines, at quarterback, and at wide receiver - will have a chance to influence the direction of the squad. If the QB-controversy can be nipped in the bud, the team will take an important step forward. Spring practice may tell all.

There will be growing pains, and in the deep, wide-open SEC West, growing pains could be a problem. Most of the Tigers' top opponents - Auburn, Arkansas, and Florida - have to travel to Baton Rouge, which will be a major advantage for LSU. One thing is certain. Barring injuries, the Tigers will be far better in November than in August. The only concern for the purple and gold-clad fans is how steep the learning curve will be.

LSU backers can take solace in the fact that Saban appears content in Baton Rouge. After turning down NFL overtures for two straight seasons, Saban seems set for the long haul. His stock in the pros has almost nowhere to go but down, and if the Tigers struggle in 2003, that is exactly where it will go. The NFL's loss will be LSU's gain.

The focus in Baton Rouge should be on 2004, not 2003. Saban is building another quality team from the remnants of his first great squad, but a year's seasoning will be required before the Tigers are ready for a serious run. Competitive doesn't mean a contender for this squad.

Projected 2003 record: 9-3
QB Matt Mauck
WR Devery Henderson
DT Kyle Williams
DT Kyle Williams
QB - 4 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 4 DB - 4
OL - 4.5 ..

Passing: Marcus Randall, 181-87-5, 1173 yds., 7 TD's

Rushing: Joseph Addai, 80 att., 438 yds., 4 TD's

Receiving: Michael Clayton, 57 rec., 749 yds., 5 TD's

Scoring: Devery Henderson, 8 TD's, 48 pts.

Punting: Donnie Jones, 64 punts, 44.0 avg.

Kicking: none

Tackles: Lionel Turner, 71 tot., 39 solo

Sacks: Melvin Oliver, 6 sacks

Interceptions: Corey Webster, 7 for 75 yds.

Kickoff returns: Devery Henderson, 11 ret., 27.7 avg.

Punt returns: Shyrone Carey, 4 ret., 17.5 avg.


QB Marcus Randall
OFFENSE: Solomon Lee-FB, Domanick Davis-TB, Jerel Myers-WR, Rob Sale-OG, John Corbello-K, LaBrandon Toefield-TB (NFL)
DEFENSE: Kenderick Allen-DT, Byron Dawson-DT, Jeremy Lawrence-SLB, Bradie James-MLB, Demetrius Hookfin-CB, Norman LeJeune-SS, Damien James-FS

written by Collin Mickle

QB is still up in the air, but whoever does pull LSU's trigger will have a quality group of receivers. The unit is led by junior Michael Clayton, a 2002 second-team All-SEC selection. Clayton has excellent height (6-2), but a slender frame of a mediocre 192 pounds. He has decent speed, but is not a true field-stretching deep threat. Across the field, senior Devery Henderson (19.4 yds-per-catch, 8 TDs) replaces graduated Jerel Myers at the split end position. He can stretch the defense and finish plays with scores. Henderson is a converted running back who has adjusted with ease. He should be the offense's highlight player if there is to be passing success. LSU will spend considerable time in three- and four-wide receiver sets, meaning that one or both of a pair of reserve receivers - sophomores Skyler Green and Bennie Brazell - will either play a major role in the offense or make defending LSU's pass-attack much less complicated.

LSU's best returning depth is in the trenches. Four of five starting offensive linemen return, along with powerful blocking tight end Eric Edwards. As a unit, the O-line played well in 2002, allowing just 16 sacks and paving the way for over 2,500 yards on the ground. Rob Sale will be replaced by sophomore Rudy Niswanger, a massive (6-5, 293) specimen who has played all three interior spots. The returning starters are led by senior (soon-to-be) four-year starter RT Rodney Reed, who has played at both tackle positions. Reed is joined by senior left guard Stephen Peterman, junior center Ben Wilkerson, and sophomore left tackle Andrew Whitworth. This line is already familiar with each other's tendencies and the offense, so improvement in overall offensive success is probable. It all starts on the line.

The exodus of LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis opens the door at tailback for sophomore Joseph Addai. Addai is a converted fullback with excellent speed - averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2002 - and decent power for his size (6-0, 202). Shifty junior Shyrone Carey will be a good change-of-pace out of the backfield in nickel situations. And there is a bevy of FBs waiting for the call.

Until a solid backfield emerges, the ground game could lack identity, and this would keep LSU under 30 points per contest. In their scheme, a ground game will be necessary for whichever QB to develop. As stated, the talent is there, but no Toefield/Davis-combo means smart defensive coordinators will start here to solve the LSU sixty-minute puzzle. From the backfield to the line, the needed individuals appear to be on their roster for running success. Even if the passing game isn't reliable, the ground attack will keep LSU in games when the veteran line wears opponents down late into the fourth quarter.

LSU will enter the 2003 season looking to reevaluate the offense, which had been rather successfully built around a power-running game. Tailbacks LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis both have Baton Rouge in their rear-view mirrors, and, without any seasoned running backs, a refocusing is possibly needed. This could be a problem if the QB situation is not resolved. Matt Mauck and Marcus Randall will compete for trigger-pulling duties after splitting them in 2002 to produce the NCAA's 102nd ranked pass attack. Mauck began the 2002 campaign as the starter after his surprise role in winning the 2001 SEC Championship game, but played just six games due to injury. Randall is a good athlete (76 yd TD run was team's longest) with a strong arm, but his grasp of the offense has appeared limited at times with erratic, streaky results. Highly-touted recruit Jamarcus Russell, Alabama's Mr. Football (squats 475 lbs!), is well-rounded but probably not an option this year unless two of the above are injured. Any choice to rotate has to be instilled in preseason (and not be a result of sub-par performance) in order to work. This is not likely, but we will keep you posted on any QB developments. No solid QB was LSU's Achilles heel in last year's late losses.

The offense committed 35 fumbles, still losing 18 of those. Along with 56 penalty yards per game (cutting over 15% off of LSU's 350 yards-per-game total offense) and only 153 passing yards-per-game, the offense has specific areas in which to concentrate so the "team" can improve. 75th in the nation in scoring and 86th in total offense should motivate all 11 men to gel in what they can achieve together.


OG Stephen Peterman


Returning Starters in bold
QB Matt Mauck-Jr Marcus Randall-Jr
FB Brandon Hurley-So Kevin Steltz-So
TB Joseph Addai-So Shyrone Carey-Jr
WR Devery Henderson-Sr Skyler Green-So
WR Michael Clayton-Jr Bennie Brazel-So
TE Eric Edwards-Sr Demetri Robinson-Jr
OT Andrew Whitworth-So Pharis Hodges-Fr
OG Stephen Peterman-Sr Terrill McGill-Fr
C Ben Wilkerson-Jr Doug Planchard-Fr
OG Rudy Niswanger-So Peter Dyakowski-Fr
OT Rodney Reed-Sr Nate Livings-Fr
K Andre Boagni-So Ryan Gaudet-Fr



written by Collin Mickle

Departed standout-LB and defensive leader Bradie James will cause many to wonder if this years unit can overcome losing such an impact player. The cupboard is far from empty for the Tigers, however. The defense has an experienced returning nucleus, starting with the defensive line.

LSU is in the enviable and rare situation of having its best depth and greatest experience at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Like their counterparts on offense, the defensive line returns all but one starter from 2002. The best returning starter, senior DT Chad Lavalais, is a pocket-collapsing rusher in the middle who received second-team All-SEC recognition in 2002. Next to Lavalais, senior Kyle Williams' primary role will be to occupy blockers while Chad wreaked havoc, or vice-versa depending who gets the double-team.

Outside, the starting defensive ends are an experienced pair of juniors, Marcus Spears and Marquise Hill. Neither is flashy - combined, the pair had just nine sacks - but both are competent, capable players who are strong in run-stop support and quick enough to provide consistent pressure without over-running their lanes. The real pass-rushing threat is reserve DE Melvin Oliver, a sophomore who finished with a team-best six sacks, despite being listed as a third teamer.

The defensive backfield returns three key contributors, including senior cornerback Corey Webster, who was named first-team all-conference despite starting only five games as the team's third cornerback. Webster did make the most of his opportunities, finishing with 17 pass break-ups and an SEC-leading 7 INTs (that include a school record-tying three picks in the Tigers' blowout of Florida.) Webster will give LSU the ability to shut down any opponents leading WR.

Seniors Jack Hunt at FS and cornerback Randall Gay are the other returning starters. The newcomer to the lineup is strong safety Travis Moses. Moses, a senior, has played sparingly in the first three years of his career.

After depending on Bradie James defensively for three seasons, LSU will have to find itself a new defensive rock. No player can be expected to replace James' individual and team-oriented abilities, but senior Jason LeDoux will try. LeDoux spent two years as James' backup after transferring from Texas A&M. Unproven redshirt freshman Ryan Willis is the top candidate to step into Jeremy Lawrence's shoes on the strong side. Unproven LBs are a big question mark as of now. The only returning starter at linebacker is on the weak side, where Lionel Turner is back. Turner, a junior, is the team's top returning tackler.


CB Corey Webster


Returning Starters in bold
DE Marcus Spears-Jr Melvin Oliver-So
DT Kyle Williams-So Torran Williams-Sr
DT Chad Lavalais-Sr Brandon Washington-So
DE Marquise Hill-Jr Bryce Wyatt-Sr
SLB Eric Alexander-Sr Dave Peterson-Sr
MLB Lionel Turner-Jr Jason Ledoux-Sr
WLB Cameron Vaughn-So Dorsett Buckles-Jr
CB Randall Gay-Sr Keron Gordon-Fr
CB Corey Webster-Sr Ronnie Prude-Jr
SS Adrian Mayes-Sr Jeff Cook-Fr
FS Jack Hunt-Sr Travis Daniels-Jr
P Donnie Jones-Sr Ross Cockrell-Sr




PK John Corbello finished his LSU career as the Tigers' second-leading scorer among kickers. His replacement, redshirt freshman Andre Boagni, did not see action last season. Senior punter Donnie Jones finished second in the conference in punting average, but was not one of three punters honored as all-conference selections.

Shyrone Carey, who backed up Domanick Davis, will likely get both return jobs. The diminutive Carey (5-6, 185) has blazing speed and will be a big play ever-waiting to happen.

The Tigers' coverage units were the best in the SEC last season. LSU allowed just 5.6 yards per punt return, with 18 punts downed inside the 20. Coverage was equally stifling on kickoff returns. The Tigers limited opponents to just 16.8 yards per kickoff return, with a long of just 41 yards.


Saban spoke highly of the progress showcased at QB. Mauck had a terrific spring and will keep the starting job. We will, however, see plenty of Marcus Randall mixed into the equation. It is the typical Oak Tree vs. the Tumbleweed QB rotation we have seen in college football over the past decade… RB Jospeh Addai had a star performance in the spring game, averaging 13 yards per carry. Even if you took out his 42 yard TD run, he averaged over 6 yards per rush on 8 carries. He and Shyrone Carey will team for a magnificent "thunder and lightning" (respectively) tandem in '03. True frosh RB Justin Vincent practiced with the Tigers this spring, and could see considerable playing time as the #3 back this fall. He did receive some experimental looks on defense as well...Devery Henderson emerged as the deep threat the Tigers' offense relies heavily upon, catching 7 passes for 146 yards in the spring game. His partner, Michael Clayton, also hauled in 7 skins for 131 yards. Together, they averaged 19 yards per catch… The Tigers may (quietly) have the best TE combo in the nation with Eric Edwards and Demetri Robinson. Teams will have their hands full against these two. Both are as dangerous blocking as they are receiving.

DT Kyle Williams was the alpha D-lineman during the spring contest, racking up 5 tackles and a sack… SLB Eric Alexander has blossomed into the linebacker coaches hoped they were going to get when they made him switch positions. He was a constant around ball carriers all spring and should be the starter at SLB… CB Keron Gordon is making a strong case for playing time. In the mean time he'll have to keep ahead of his competition at backup in Ronnie Prude. The defensive secondary, as a whole, will be pretty deep, as a different DB seemed to step up and lead the group every practice…