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The success of the passing game will hinge on whether senior Jordan Jefferson has improved as much as Miles claims. LSU ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in passing last season with 155.6 yards per game, but Jefferson also is an effective runner.

Miles said Jefferson has looked good in fall camp, adding, “He did very well at the back end of last season and we expect him to continue that way.”

Defensively, LSU has been near the top of the SEC since John Chavis took over as coordinator in 2009. This season, the Tigers’ defensive backfield could be among the nation’s best, featuring Mathieu and 2010 team interception leader Morris Claiborne, along with senior Brandon Taylor and sophomores Eric Reid and Tharold Simon, who as freshmen had interceptions in LSU’s Cotton Bowl win.

The defensive line has one of its best end rushers back from injury in Sam Montgomery, and Chavis said freshman tackle Anthony Johnson is already good enough to see meaningful playing time.

At linebacker, Ryan Baker anchors an experienced group joined by converted safety Karnell Hatcher.

The Tigers’ SEC schedule, which includes a road game against rival Alabama, will be tough, and that comes after LSU opens the season with a neutral-site game in Dallas against 2010 BCS runner-up Oregon on Sept. 3.

For now, though, the Tigers hardly seem worried about their capacity to handle it.

“Our goal is to win the national championship,” Jefferson said. “That’s what everybody’s mindset is on this team and we’re not striving for anything less.”