LSU coach Les Miles lost 16 underclassmen to the NFL draft in the past two years, leaving the Tigers with two choices: reload or reverse draft.
"I keep approaching the NFL on an opportunity for us to draft back some of our players that they take," Miles joked before allowing the underclassman issue is genuine. "I would like to see some of those guys return. It is not necessarily optimal. But we will absolutely deal with those young guys that are capable. Look forward to leave in what will be three years."
A permanently stocked recruiting stable helps the Tigers stand a chance in the SEC a year after going 10-3 with a seasoned quarterback and established defensive stars. The thoroughbred in Baton Rouge entering 2014 is No. 1 national recruit Leonard Fournette, whose skills at running back draw comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Herschel Walker.
"He expects himself to be something very special," said Miles. "I think if you look at Michael Jordan, he could not have been coached to be Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan accepted the role of expecting him to be better than any. I think he has a quiet confidence there that will benefit him."
Miles believes in timeshares at running back. That approach was a factor in sophomore Jeremy Hill -- who left for the NFL and was drafted in the second round -- setting a school record for rushing yards last season despite barely clearing the 200-carry mark.
"I think we will always have an opportunity to play at that spot, the running backs that are fresh," miles said. "I think that's an advantage. If you look at Terrence Magee, we've gotten them tired. There have been times when he just busted a big run, took significant contact. Kenny Hilliard had just played. In fact, we will need those guys that have fresh legs. I think you can always kind of count on that from us."
The Tigers don't yet know who will be handing off to Fournette and that stable of running backs that includes Magee and Hilliard.
Zach Mettenberger was drafted by the Tennessee Titans and Anthony Jennings, Hayden Rettig, Brandon Harris and walk-on transfer Brandon Bergeron are jousting for position in 14 fall practices to be the No. 1 quarterback when the season opens Aug. 30 against Wisconsin in Houston at Reliant Stadium.
Miles named Harris along with Fournette and Malaci Dupre and C.J. Garnett as freshmen likely to "have great impact on our season." But Miles said Harris will compete with Jennings.
"It will be a very competitive event from the start to the finish," Miles said. "Cam Cameron, a guy who's made a career mentoring quarterbacks, is our offensive coordinator, will do the exactly right things with those guys. You'll see how well a freshman can execute at quarterback."
Harris is slight at 184 pounds but Miles focused on the positives. Jennings, a sophomore, played in nine games as a true freshman and went 1-0 as the Tigers' starter -- beating Iowa 21-14 in the Outback Bowl.
"The key piece is he really throws the ball well," Miles said. "I mean, he is a guy that has real strength. He's innately accurate. He's got great footwork. He can extend a play, get out of the pocket, move around. But probably the best thing about him is he anticipates that great play, too. He has the opportunity to see it and has the arm to get it there. There's some real advantages with him."