No. 1 LSU won the national championship on Monday night with the help of a thrilling passing attack.
That was built around Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow and Broyles Award winner Joe Brady. Burrow passed for an FBS-record 60 touchdowns in an offense that Brady — who was the passing game coordinator for the Saints before coming to LSU — greatly enhanced upon arrival in Baton Rouge.
But Burrow is headed to the 2020 NFL Draft, where he is mocked as the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the Cincinnati Bengals. Brady is now the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. Now that the quarterback and architect of college football's most potent offense are gone to the NFL, what will the Tigers do next?
That is the multi-faceted problem coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger must tackle heading into the 2020 season:
Who is LSU's best QB on the roster?
Redshirt junior Myles Brennan will have the first crack at the starting job during spring practice. Brennan has completed 42 of 70 career passes for 600 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in limited action. He was a four-star prospect in the class in 2017, but the native of Bay Saint Louis, Miss., couldn't win the job before Burrow arrived on campus.
Four-star dual-threat quarterback Peter Parrish — who played for the high school powerhouse at Central in Phenix City, Ala., could be in the mix as well. Four-star quarterback Max Johnson (Watkinsville, Ga.) arrives on campus this year.
As far as the names on the roster, it's on Brennan to take the starting job once and for all.
Would LSU consider the transfer portal again?
LSU will consider the transfer portal if Brennan struggles.
That is how the Tigers landed Burrow, who transferred after a three-year stint at Ohio State. There are some intriguing options in the portal now, but the most exciting option — Houston's D'Eriq King, who had 50 total touchdowns through 11 games in 2018 with the Cougars — will reportedly grad transfer to Miami in 2020.
Burrow, however, landed with LSU after spring practice — when the pecking order for most schools gets decided.
Will the passing attack even look the same?
Brady had a monumental impact on the passing attack, which struggled before his arrival: LSU ranked 60th in the FBS at 234.9 passing yards per game the previous year, even with Burrow under center as a first-year starter. He completed 219 of 379 passes (57.8 percent) for 2,894 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions that season.
A year later, LSU finished second in the FBS with 401.6 passing yards per game and 61 passing touchdowns, and Burrow completed what is arguably the greatest individual season in college football history.
The creative passing offense was unstoppable for the most part, and the Tigers closed the season out with a remarkable two-game run in the College Football Playoff. It's on Ensminger to keep that rolling, and a year in the booth with Brady means the Tigers will retain a lot of that scheme, instead of morphing back into a more traditional offense.
But it's going to be hard to replicate the greatest passing single season in college football history. It's comparable to the gold standard Auburn's Cam Newton created in 2010: Other quarterbacks will have success at LSU, but reaching Burrow's level seems unlikely at best.
Which receivers are back?
Of course, a large part of LSU's success in 2019 was an incredible group of receivers led by Biletnikoff Award winner Ja'Marr Chase (1,780 receiving yards, 20 touchdowns), Justin Jefferson (1,540 yards, 18 touchdowns) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (671 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Chase and Marshall are sophomores, so they are assured to return for at least one more season. But Jefferson, tight end Thaddeus Moss (570 yards, four touchdowns) and running back Clyde-Edwards Helaire (1,867 yards from scrimmage, 17 total touchdowns) have all declared for the 2020 NFL Draft.
With their departure, that leaves Racey McMath (285 yards, three touchdowns) as the only returning player, beside Chase and Marshall, with at least one touchdown catch (Derrick Dillon, a senior, had two in 2019). He was the Tigers' sixth-leading receiver in 2019. Rising sophomores Trey Palmer and Devonta Lee could step into the lineup, as could incoming freshman tight end Arik Gilbert and receiver Kayshon Boutte.
LSU should still have enough talent for the next quarterback to be successful. That much is clear. But it's on Orgeron and Ensminger to keep it that way.