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 BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -Charles Scott never realized rushing for nearly 1,200 yards in a season could leave him so unfulfilled.
That is, not until LSU followed up a 2007 national title with a five-loss 2008 that dropped the Tigers out of the Bowl Championship Series picture entirely.
So when it came time for Scott to choose between beckoning NFL riches and another round of Saturday nights in Death Valley, the Tigers' broad-shouldered power runner figured he might not be able to forgive himself if he didn't stay in Baton Rouge for one last year.
``Just going out on a note of 8-5 - I couldn't have that on my heart,'' Scott said.
Scott was one of several talented veterans who could have jumped ship if they believed LSU would continue sinking in 2009.
efenses in the SEC during his 14 seasons in the same post at Tennessee.
``There were some lessons learned from a year ago,'' coach Les Miles said. ``We're more ambitious and prepared. I think our team will continue to develop.''
If Scott keeps improving, LSU may have a Heisman Trophy contender in its backfield.
Conveniently for him, and not so coincidentally, offensive lineman Ciron Black decided to return for his senior season as well. They announced their decision to come back together - the Tigers' star running back and the lineman who blocked so well for him a year ago.
Also back is senior Brandon LaFell, whose 929 yards receiving led the squad last season.
``I like the leadership on this team,'' Miles said. ``So many times the mark of a quality team is the leadership.''
If LSU lacked leadership in one key area last season, it was at quarterback. Matt Flynn had graduated and heir apparent Ryan Perrilloux had been dismissed. That left Miles to choose between three quarterbacks with no meaningful game experience: sophomore Andrew Hatch, redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Jefferson, a true freshman.
a wild contest that the Razorbacks won 31-30. Jefferson threw for two TDs, was not intercepted and scrambled for 50 yards.
His next start came in LSU's 38-3 demolition of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Jefferson again avoided turnovers, passed for a score and efficiently led the Tigers on six scoring drives.
``I feel very confident with the guys out there and I feel I'm grasping the defense better than I did last year,'' Jefferson said. ``I'm just able to do a lot of things this year, now that I have a little experience.''
Defensively, LSU must replace five starters, including defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois and defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman. Rahim Alem, who led LSU with eight sacks, could very well emerge as a defensive star at one of the end spots.
Chavis has brought in a blitz-heavy scheme that showcases the versatility of his players. He talks of ``cross-training'' some players at multiple positions.
Chad Jones showed perhaps the most versatility on the squad by pitching for LSU's national championship baseball team last spring. This fall, he'll play primarily at free safety, but said he also may line up at strong safety, cornerback and maybe even linebacker.
One thing is for sure: the defense has to be better than the unit that allowed 50-plus points twice in losses to Florida and Georgia, and more than 30 points in losses to Mississippi and Arkansas.
LSU's schedule includes road games against Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss and a home date with Tim Tebow and Florida. Poor defense likely will spell doom in those games.
``This has become a great defensive league,'' Chavis said. ``If you don't play great defense ... you're going to have a tough time winning key games in the SEC. I don't think there's any question of that.''
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