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Updated: August 12, 2003, 3:05 PM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- They were up and they were down.

LSU last year went from high to low and back again.

The Tigers beat Florida in Gainesville, 36-7, but lost starting quarterback Matt Mauck with a foot injury in the process. They looked as if they had lost to Kentucky, but Marcus Randall threw a 75-yard miracle to Devery Henderson for a 33-30 victory.

Then, when it looked as if the Southeastern Conference Western Division title was theirs, they let Arkansas' Matt Jones throw a game-winning 31-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds.

"We never really found an identity last year," coach Nick Saban said. "We never found our personality."

Saban is a firm believer that each team must find its identity and pursue it.

"Players formulate goals each year of what they want to accomplish," Saban said. "I was very pleased in the spring when they decided that this was the goal they wanted to try to accomplish, to be a champion on and off the field, as a person, as a student, as a football player, as a team."

The Tigers have some holes to fill this year, but with another banner year recruiting, Saban should have no trouble moving players forward.

Mauck is healthy again. In fact, he said after spring practice the injury may have actually been a blessing in disguise.

"The things I had to improve on, dropping back, staying in the pocket, throwing the ball downfield, the injury to my foot probably helped," Mauck said.

With Dominick Davis and LaBrandon Toefield gone, Joseph Addai and converted wide receiver Shyrone Carey will have to provide the power and speed at running back.

Mauck should find the targets he needs in Henderson, Michael Clayton and Skyler Green.

Clayton caught 57 passes for 749 yards and five touchdowns last season, and that was with double teams much of the time.

Add a seasoned offensive line -- four of the five starters return -- and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has plenty to be happy about.

"We've got a lot of guys that have played a lot of football," Fisher said. "It's hard if you have one or two good linemen and you put one or two new ones in every year, because communication is such a big factor. Today defenses are doing so much. So when you've got guys who have been to battle together, they can trust each other, they know what each other is going to do and they know how each other is going to react under pressure."

The defensive linemen also feature experience and talent. Chad Lavalais is one of the best defensive tackles in the SEC and he likes to get after the quarterback.

Defensive end Marcus Spears, who came to LSU as the No. 1 high school tight end in the country, has found a home at his new position.

"The older guys coming back, we are really pleased with the front guys so far: Chad Lavalais, Marquise Hill, Marcus Spears, and Melvin Oliver. Bryce Wyatt we have moved inside and is really having a strong camp," said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

The Tigers were hit hard at linebacker with the loss of Bradie James and Jeremy Lawrence.

"At linebacker of course there are some question marks, and we are still trying to fit some guys in," Muschamp said. "Lionel Turner is playing the Mike position right now. He can play Mike or Sam. Lionel is coming in good shape and has done some good things for us."

Three starters are also gone from the defensive backfield. Cornerback Corey Webster, an All-SEC selection last season when he led the league with seven interceptions, will have to provide leadership there.

Jessie Daniels and LaRon Landry have both looked good at safety. Jonathan Zenon, Nick Child and Daniel Francis all have the ability to play corner in the SEC, Muschamp said.

"Time will tell when, but they are all good football players," he said.

The Tigers are also looking for a new kicker and someone to replace Davis as a return man.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index