BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Every off-season, LSU football faces its share of adversity. Player departures and transfers, arrests and suspensions can make a team's future look bleak, but mid-July is a time for optimism. It's the time when every team believes they can win a championship.
"To put yourself in a position to play in a championship game, that's what it's all about," head coach Les Miles said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."
The media picked the Tigers to finish third in the West, citing LSU's lack of quarterback play. Last year's starter Anthony Jennings is currently suspended, but many believe that sophomore Brandon Harris will emerge as LSU's signal caller.
"I mean I see those guys go out and work hard," linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. "They really work hard and have improved. Those guys have become some great leaders, so I'm comfortable with either one."
Star tailback Leonard Fournette is poised for a monster season, and carries realistic Heisman Trophy expectations, but Fournette is more focused on team goals.
"I'm not really focused on the Heisman, that was last season's thing, and I was young," Fournette said. "I just want the national championship with my team. At the end of the day, that's what I want."
The most common question at SEC Media Days for Fournette was why red pants and why a red bow tie?
"The truth is it was on sale y'all," Fournette laughed. "It was on sale, and I didn't want to play a lot of money for a suit."
After winning just 8 games last fall, matching the lowest total of the Les Miles era, LSU will look to start strong in 2015 to get back into the championship mix. And the gauntlet starts early with a trip to Starkville in Week 2 before hosting Auburn, one of this year's favorites.
LSU is always known for a stingy defense and last year was no different with the Tigers ranking fifth nationally in points allowed per game. But after six years with John Chavis, LSU now has a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele.
"It's been great," Beckwith said. "He treats us like a professional and expects a lot out of us. It's been great working with him. He does a great job making sure we understand the plays and terminology. Makes sure we go out and execute. It's been great learning from him, a great man."
Miles added, "Very similar to the defenses we put on the field. Violent, attacking and physical. I think there will be some schematic differences we'll look forward to, and I think he gets along really well with the players. I think there's a nice bond there."
Beckwith will be a tackling machine in 2015. He's working on becoming more vocal to complement his on field production.
"Going out and being aggressive and dominant the whole game," Beckwith said. "Coming with it, playing lights out every Saturday."
Both Miles and Beckwith downplayed the Chavis to Texas A&M move, saying there's no added fuel to the fire, but come LSU's regular season finale will be a huge storyline to follow. The Tigers kick off the 2015 campaign hosting McNeese St. on Sept. 5.