Last season: 10-3 (5-3)
All-time record: 753-396-47
SEC titles: 11
Opener: Wisconsin in Dallas on Aug. 30
COMING SUNDAY: Ole Miss
LSU senior left tackle La'el Collins is one of the rare Southeastern Conference players who is 6-foot-5 and tips the scales at 315 pounds.
He's the only one named La'el.
"My name means belonging to God," Collins said at SEC media days. "My mom got it from my grandmother before I was born, and it's kind of like a little tradition thing we have in our family. Everybody's name starts with an L, and they all mean something. It comes from the Bible."
Indeed it does.
His name is of Hebrew origin and is mentioned in the Old Testament, specifically Numbers 3:24, which reads "The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael."
Collins has started in 25 of LSU's 26 games the past two seasons, and he has been in for a whopping 1,690 offensive snaps the past three years. The Baton Rouge resident has 134.5 knockdown blocks in his career and was an All-SEC second-team selection last year.
He had a chance to join the early exodus out of LSU last winter and take his sizable frame to the NFL, but that wasn't for him.
"I've always wanted to be a part of this program, and my decision to stay was easy," Collins said. "Why would I want to give up this one percent of my life? This is everything that I've always wanted.
"I've got a great opportunity from my coaches to play football at LSU, and I wouldn't want to miss my last year."
Collins headlines LSU's six returning offensive starters, a list that includes sophomore right tackle Jerald Hawkins and 6-6, 342-pound junior guard Vadal Alexander. The line could go a long way in aiding a quarterback position that remains up for grabs between sophomore Anthony Jennings and early enrollee Brandon Harris.
Jennings led the Tigers to a last-minute win over Arkansas last November but struggled in the Outback Bowl win over Iowa. Harris had the better spring game of the two.
"Our veteran offensive line will certainly give those guys some time," said Les Miles, who is about to become the first head football coach to work a decade at LSU since Charlie McClendon coached from 1962 to '79. "La'el Collins and Jerald Hawkins will be two of the finest tackles in our league, and we'll be veteran at the guards and at the center. It should give the opportunity for that offense to continue up and down the field."
Terrence Magee, who rushed for 626 yards last season and averaged 7.3 yards per carry, is LSU's top returning rusher, but freshman Leonard Fournette could be the storyline of preseason camp. Fournette was the nation's top tailback in the 2014 class.
Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn are highly touted receivers who could ease the early departures of Odell Bckham and Jarvis Landry, but Fournette has done the best so far at captivating older players in summer workouts.
"He looks the part," Collins said. 'He looks like he's been here three years, and he looks like a guy who knows what goes on and like he played in games for us last year. He comes in and works hard, and he's humble."
Seven starters return defensively, headed by the end tandem of Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter and linebacker Kwon Alexander.
The Tigers open against Wisconsin in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas, before hosting Sam Houston State in Tiger Stadium, which now seats 102,000. LSU's big home game this season is against Alabama, with the trickiest stretch being early-October road games against Auburn and Florida.
Miles said he likes the Tigers in every game this season, and with Collins paving the way, why not?
"I've been going up against him since he was a freshman," senior linebacker D.J. Welter said. "He's a great guy, and he's definitely a leader on our team. Everybody listens to him when he speaks. He played a lot as a freshman, so he has a good deal of experience.
"I played against him in high school, so I definitely prefer being a teammate."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...