The wait is finally over Tiger fans. After a two-month hiatus since LSU’s win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl, football is back.
LSU spring football practice starts this Friday. The sound of purple and gold helmets smashing together will once again ring throughout the LSU campus, as the fresh start of spring inspires hope of future autumn gridiron success.
Entering his tenth season as coach, Les Miles has many holes to fill on both sides of the ball. From quarterback to defensive tackle, expect plenty of fresh faces to jockey for playing time next fall.
The competition will be fierce, as many young Tigers battle for newly open positions following the departure of several offensive stars to the NFL draft. Replacing quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Jeremy Hill and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will be a tall order.
All eyes will be on the hotly contested quarterback battle between sophomore Anthony Jennings, redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig and early enrollee Brandon Harris. Harris is a 4-star dual threat quarterback from Parkway High in Bossier City, while Jennings is the only quarterback on LSU’s roster with collegiate experience after news broke of Stephen Rivers’ intentions to transfer.
Following Mettenberger’s season ending injuries, Jennings was thrust into action and did well for himself, leading the Tigers to wins over Arkansas and Iowa in the Outback Bowl last season.
Harris and Jennings are the presumed favorites to snag the position, but it appears to be Jennings’ spot to lose at first glance.
With the departure of Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., LSU’s prolific receiver duo, all three new quarterbacks will be cutting their teeth with inexperienced receivers. LSU’s top returning receiver, Travin Dural, only caught seven passes in 2013, but the Tigers are loaded with unproven wide receiver talent. Redshirt freshmen Avery Peterson, John Diarse and Kevin Spears and senior Quantavius Leslie all have the chance build chemistry with LSU’s young quarterbacks and establish themselves as go-to playmakers this spring.
Senior running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard presumably are keeping the position warm until highly touted running back prospect Leonard Fournette arrives on campus in August to claim his rightful place in the Tigers’ offense.
Bottom line: Question marks abound with all the new faces, but the competition, especially at quarterback, will be intriguing to watch.
The Tigers’ defensive line battle will be intense this spring. Backups Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture will be battling redshirt freshmen Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain to replace the departed Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson.
Expect the battle to replace senior safety Craig Loston to be equally as fierce. Corey Thompson, Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson and 5-star early enrollee Ed Paris will all contend for fall playing time this spring. Elsewhere in the secondary, sophomore cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White will try to ward off the likes of sophomores Dwayne Thomas and Kavahra Holmes as well as juniors Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins.
The Tigers have plenty of returning starters and contributors in their linebacking corps. Senior D.J. Welter returns along with juniors Lamar Louis and Kwon Alexander and sophomores Melvin Jones, Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith.
Bottom line: After a relative down year for the LSU defense in 2013, fans can expect the Tigers to return to dominance on this side of the ball.
Coach Bradley Dale Peveto returns to oversee the LSU special teams unit after stints at Northwestern State and Kentucky. Continuity reigns supreme as the Tigers return their deep snapper, punter and both kickers from last season. LSU’s main task on special teams will be to replace Beckham Jr. at return specialist.
Senior James Hairston will continue to handle kickoffs, while junior Jamie Keehn will try to develop more consistency this spring. Sophomore Colby Delahoussaye was nearly perfect with his field goals and extra points last season.
Peveto will have options to play at the primary kick and punt returner. Running back Terrence Magee and wide receivers Dural, Diarse or Peterson are all options. And do not count out incoming freshman receiver Trey Quinn. Most likely the returner position will be a revolving door until one player establishes himself.
Bottom line: Under Miles, the Tigers historically have had a strong return game and accurate kickers. This year will not be much different.