Is LSU football ready to contend, or does it need another year to build depth?

In about one week, LSU opens preseason football practice to get ready for a season that could quickly become memorable.
The Tigers are viewed as a potential College Football Playoff contender in head coach Brian Kelly’s second season. They were predicted in a narrow vote to finish second in the SEC West behind Alabama, and they should be a preseason top 10 team before playing Florida State in the marquee game of opening weekend.
There are valid reasons to believe LSU can take another step. It returned the majority of its offensive production, headlined by fifth-year quarterback Jayden Daniels. It retained almost every assistant while the rest of the conference made changes. It has stars along the defensive front, starting with linebacker Harold Perkins.
But in the midst of such optimism, there are lingering questions that could derail a promising team. We’ll examine the most critical, one-by-one, over the next week until LSU holds its first practice Aug. 3. The answers should determine what becomes of these Tigers.
First up: Does LSU have the depth to truly contend?
Throughout the offseason, Kelly has walked a line between saying LSU has a team ready to compete for championships and one that needs more time to reach the upper echelon of college football.
Both sentiments can be true. The front-line talent matches up with anyone. The Tigers also need at least one more recruiting class to rebuild.
It’s well-known Kelly inherited a roster with 39 healthy scholarship players at the 2022 Texas Bowl. The staff has since signed 70 scholarship players over the last two years — one 2023 signee, safety Michael Daugherty, left before ever practicing with the team — to bring in a mixture of freshmen and veterans that allowed LSU to have Year 1 success.
Thirty of those additions were transfers, with 15 signed in each of the last two cycles. Having a significant number of transfers in key roles again created red flags for Kelly. He wants to construct a program through traditional recruiting classes and sparingly use the transfer portal when LSU needs a couple players at positions of need.
But the Tigers are not there yet. Even with NCAA signing class limits lifted, it takes time to construct rosters full of four- and five-star recruits like Georgia and Alabama.
“Where we are in year two is that we have a football team that's coming,” Kelly said at SEC media days. “They're moving in the right direction. We still have some weaknesses that we're working on. We still have some roster development that needs to take place.”
LSU has to rely on the transfers, particularly on defense. It signed four cornerbacks, starting middle linebacker Omar Speights, potential starting edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo and three defensive linemen, among others. They need to immediately play at a high level, but LSU won’t know for sure if they can until games start.
With shaky depth, LSU is an injury or two away from being in a precarious spot at safety, linebacker and cornerback. If starters go down, like safeties Greg Brooks and Major Burns did at one point during spring practice, are enough underclassmen ready to contribute? LSU would rather not find out, preferring to let them develop.
At the same time, LSU has most of the offense back from a team that went 10-4 and won the SEC West. The unit expects to improve with another year together, and the defensive front has a chance to be one of the most disruptive in the country.
If the starters remain healthy, LSU should play meaningful games in November and have a chance to repeat as division champions. Its best players are capable of staying in the playoff race. But at this early stage in Kelly’s tenure, unproven depth could threaten to upend the season.

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