Five Questions for Spring Football
Five important issues concerning the LSU Tigers as they head into spring practice, which opens on Thursday
by Matt Reynolds
Tiger Rag Assistant Editor
(At left) Many think Jordan Jefferson will be the starting quarterback in the the 2009 season opener at Washington. But LSU coach Les Miles says the position remains wide open. (Photo by Beth Bonner Deville)
It has been less than three months since the 2008 LSU football season ended. But it’s already time to crank up the gridiron gossip once again.
The Tigers are set to open spring drills Thursday afternoon at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility. Coach Les Miles will be looking to fill major gaps along the offensive and defensive lines - and as always - there will be plenty of hoopla surrounding the quarterback position.
Here, Tiger Rag examines five intriguing story lines heading into spring practice:
1. Who will emerge to become LSU’s fullback?
The real question here may be how the Tigers will ever find a replacement that can equal what Quinn Johnson was able to do. No only does Les Miles and his staff have no idea who is going to be their fullback going into spring drills, they most likely don’t have anyone that will be able to step in and be as effective as Johnson, who has now probably solidified himself as a second to third round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Miles says that he is looking at players on both sides of the ball that might be able to convert to fullback, including an unnamed offensive lineman. It’s also a good possibility Keiland Williams, Charles Scott and Stevan Ridley all line up at fullback at some point. Miles mentioned that redshirt freshman Tyler Edwards is a player that could possibly come over from the tight end spot to play fullback.
2. How will John Chavis’ defensive philosophy change the LSU defense?
The LSU defense has not been characterized by its phenomenal linebacker play in recent years, but followers of new Tiger defensive coordinator John Chavis’ hope “The Chief” is about to turn that around. Known for producing NFL caliber linebackers, Chavis brings with him the “Sam” linebacker position from Tennessee. The “Sam” linebacker is usually a smaller, faster player that is possibly a current safety that is put into a strong side linebacker role. Miles did not specify any current player that he expects to be in that role, but did mention it probably will not be Chad Jones, saying Jones will probably play more free safety this season. Senior Harry Coleman would seem like a possible candidate for the position.
3. What’s the defensive line going to look like?
This could be the biggest question mark going into the spring, as Tyson Jackson, Kirston Pittman, Tremaine Johnson and Marlon Favorite have all moved on. All-SEC pick Rahim Alem is an obvious choice at one of the end positions, but it’s all speculation after that. Lazarius “Pep” Levingston is a player that can play either the end or the tackle spot and junior college commitment Akiem Hicks could be another player that is versatile enough to do both. Charles Alexander will be back after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. But how effective can the tackle be after being hobbled by injuries his entire career? Drake Nevis and Al Woods are both tackles Miles hopes will finally break out of their shell in ‘09, as neither player was remotely a factor on the defense last season. Look for red-shirt freshman Chase Clement and Lavar Edwards both to get in the mix at end during the spring workouts.
4. Who will be the Tigers’ No. 2 wide receiver?
Since we probably all agree that all-SEC receiver Brandon LaFell will be lining up as the starting receiver on one side of the ball when the season begins, the question is who will replace Demetrius Byrd as the other starter at wide out. First of all, many LSU fans may be getting ahead of themselves if they think that second is going to be Rueben Randall. It’s highly unlikely that the uber-recruit will be able to come in and start right away, being that he is currently still in high school and will not get to Baton Rouge until this summer. It’s more likely that junior Terrance Toliver or Chris Mitchell will rise to the challenge this spring and have a firm grasp on the spot when fall camp begins later in the year. Sophomores Tim Molton and DeAngelo Peterson are two wide outs that Miles said he is excited to see this spring.
5. Will Jordan Jefferson be the man?
Even though Jordan Jefferson clearly showed the right tools in the Chick-fil-A bowl to be the Tigers starting signal caller for the ‘09 season, Miles is still reluctant to peg him as LSU’s first option at quarterback. Sophomore Jarrett Lee will be back after a dreadful freshman campaign and super-recruit Russell Shepard, along with incoming freshman Chris Garrett will be competing for their shot.
Miles mentioned that the progress Jefferson made in his freshman season was significant and that his leadership ability is something that continues to impress the LSU coaching staff. “He really came a long way,” Miles said of Jefferson on Tuesday. “He’s a very bright learner. And he’s a guy, when he steps on the field, he likes to compete. Those are some real strengths he has.”