Spring Football Primer: Five storylines to watch as LSU returns to the practice field

  1. Slinger’s Scheme

The promotion of Steve Ensminger to offensive coordinator was the biggest development of the offseason, and the 15 spring practices will be the first opportunity to learn what he plans on doing with the LSU offense.

Ensminger laid out some blueprints for his new attack in his introductory press conference, describing a more up-tempo offense that makes use of four-receiver sets and run-pass options. All of the buzzwords people have criticized LSU for lacking in the past, essentially.

That’s enough to begin developing a crude vision of what it’ll look like in your mind’s eye, but spring practices — typically more open in terms of media viewing than fall camp and in-season — and eventually the spring game will provide the first real glimpse of what’s to come.

  1. QB Battle

Danny Etling isn’t walking back through that door.

Who wins the starting quarterback job is almost a storyline in tandem with Ensminger’s new offense as the coach has stated publicly that he plans to adjust what LSU does to the specific skillset of its quarterback.

Myles Brennan will take the first reps this spring and is the odds-on favorite because of his skills as a passer, but dual-threat options Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan will certainly get looks, too. It’s also possible Brennan wins the job while LSU institutes a package for one of the running quarterbacks.

Whatever the outcome, look for LSU to keep the competition open heading into the summer. The Tigers have only three scholarship quarterbacks after not signing one in February, and naming Brennan the starter could cause one if not both of Narcisse and McMillan to explore a transfer.

  1. How Transfers Fit

Speaking of transfers, LSU will count on two highly-touted ones from Texas Tech to step in and play central roles starting this spring.

Jonathan Giles was one of the nation’s most productive receivers during his sophomore season as a Red Raider, hauling in 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016. He’ll be tasked with leading a young-but-talented group of pass catchers in what figures to be a more wide open offense.

Breiden Fehoko meanwhile has already been named a starter on LSU’s defensive line as the Tigers look to replace three seniors up front. He certainly brings a wealth of experience to a young defensive front after starting all 25 games during his two seasons in Lubbock.

Ed Orgeron often raved about how dominant both Giles and Fehoko were in practice during their NCAA-mandated year off. Now it’s time to find out if the hype was real.

  1. Holes to Fill

The quarterback competition received top billing for obvious reason, but it’s far from the only position group in flux heading into this spring. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other battles that should start to take shape.

RB | There won’t be a Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice, or even a Darrel Williams leading the LSU backfield this season, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Tigers feature one of their returners or go straight to a tailback-by-committee approach this spring. Senior Nick Brossette, sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire and mid-year enrollee Tae Provens should all vie for carries.

OL | LSU lost center Will Clapp and right tackle Toby Weathersby to the NFL Draft, but new offensive line coach James Cregg appears to have all the makings of a strong, deep unit at his disposal. LSU returns three starters in Saahdiq Charles, Garret Brumfield and Ed Ingram, which creates continuity. LSU also has talented options to replace Weathersby in sophomore Austin Deculus and elite JUCO signee Badara Traore, which should be a fascinating competition. The key will be replacing Clapp at center, where LSU has sophomore Lloyd Cushenberry III and mid-year enrollee Cole Smith.

FRONT 7 | Devin White and Rashard Lawrence are LSU’s only returning starters in the front seven, though outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson and inside linebacker Tyler Taylor both started multiple games as true freshmen. Fehoko and nose tackle Ed Alexander also offer experienced options in the trenches, but it’ll be interesting to see how Dave Aranda utilizes them in addition to a myriad of versatile newcomers to construct a defense. Spring could provide some clues about new formations and personnel groupings for the fall.

  1. The Cornerback Question

This is a bit weird to type considering the past 15-20 years of history at ‘DBU,’ but LSU is perilously thin at cornerback heading into the spring.

The Tigers have their shutdown guy in Greedy Williams, who’ll certainly garner Preseason All-American hype after intercepting six passes last season, but who plays alongside him is anyone’s guess at this point.

Kristian Fulton would be a talented option as a No. 2 corner, but as of February his status remained “up in the air,” according to Orgeron. The former five-star signee out of Archbishop Rummel sat out all of last season.

That leaves sophomores Kary Vincent Jr. and Jontre Kirklin as the only other cornerbacks on the roster for the spring. Four-star signee Kelvin Joseph is going to play corner once he gets on campus, but he won’t enroll until this summer.

Cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond said during a recent radio interview with ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge that wide receiver Mannie Netherly will be making the move to cornerback this spring. It’ll be interesting to see if LSU tries out any other receivers or safeties there in practice to find more depth.

About James Moran 1377 Articles
James Moran was Editor of Tiger Rag from August 2018 to October 2019. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.

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