According to the gospel spoken on the message boards, the LSU Spring football game was supposed to be magic in a bottle—the night a little genie would show up and make all the Tigers’ problems go away.
I mean, why wouldn’t it? The game was to be the first chance for the Tigers to showcase a new-look, unstoppable offense under first-year coordinator Matt Canada – a unit which will take the SEC by storm, while making Tigers fans forget the words “Cam” and “Les” forever.
It didn’t quite go the way that the message board fanatics expected.
The spring game wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t particularly good, either.
The Tigers’ offense showcased new formations, yes. But the team still had the same affinity for inept passing and struggles with moving the football.
The rains came, the teams went indoors and supposedly the teams scored more once out of view of the public eye.
That would make me feel better except then I remembered that none of the games during the season will be played without fans, so it leads me to ask the following 5 questions about the 2017 team.
Who’s going to be the quarterback?
This is a serious question after watching the spring game. Ideally, Danny Etling would be the guy, because he’s the most experienced. But he was horrible in the live action that we saw, completing just 4 of 11 passes for 53 yards and a pick. To make matters worse, Etling will be returning from back surgery when the season starts, which means he’s going to be missing a lot of much-needed reps over the summer, which could help him solidify his position. The problem is that I don’t know who can beat him out for the job, because everyone else on the roster literally has zero experience. But goodness, Etling did very little to help himself in the spring game. Dear Lindsay Scott, please mature and get better fast.
Is the offensive line going to be better when healthy?
The LSU offensive line was set up to fail in the Spring Game, because the team was without several key players who will contribute in the fall. But goodness, it was ugly to watch at times – especially in pass blocking. The Tigers’ quarterbacks were running for their lives throughout the game, and the running holes weren’t exactly gaping, either. With health, that group has to be better or the offense will collapse from within.
Are those young defensive backs truly that good?
LSU’s defensive backs are young after losing Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams and Rickey Jefferson to the NFL. But the unit didn’t exactly look depleted this spring, thanks to contributions from Donte Jackson, Ed Paris, Kevin Toliver and many others. Hell, in the spring game, true freshmen Grant Delpit and JaCoby Stevens looked sharp, as well. If that’s not fool’s gold, it will be awfully fun to see what Dave Aranda does with those guys in their careers.
Will a punter emerge?
I believe I’m the only reporter who has talked about my concerns regarding LSU’s punting game. When you’re offensively challenged like the Tigers have been for the past decade, being able to punt the ball effectively is literally what can change the outcome of a close game. The last time LSU beat Alabama, the Tigers scored 9 points. They won because punter Brad Wing was unbelievable in that game, continually pinning the Crimson Tide back into their own territory. Last year, LSU’s punters were a mess, and in the spring game, they weren’t much better, owning just a 37-yard per kick average—and that was without a rush. The coaching staff believes Josh Growden is the answer, but I’m not convinced based off everything I saw last season. Someone has to step up and make strides in that area, because what we’ve seen so far isn’t pretty.
Who will share carries with Guice?
Derrius Guice will be amazing in 2017, assuming he stays healthy. But in the SEC, the defenses are too big and physical, so teams are always well served to create a stable of guys who can handle the football. For LSU, that rotation is uncertain, because a lot of guys will head into summer camp with a shot to earn playing time. Darrel Williams slimmed down in the offseason, but still looks like a short-yardage back at best to me. Lanard Fournette played well, but so did Nick Brossette, who saw some time last fall. It’s an interesting gumbo, and it may be one of the more intriguing depth chart battles the team has as we approach the season.
Photo: DIG File.